Why We Wear Cheap Socks

A few years back, Angie and I started seeing a lot of posts about how frugal living isn’t the same as cheap living, and I even wrote about the concept on a few occasions. Frugal living (to us, anyway) is about living on less than you earn, using your resources wisely, and not purchasing things that are unnecessary. Cheap living, on the other hand, tends to conjure up images of subpar goods, less than ideal living conditions, and things that are constantly in need of repair. You can be frugal and still have quality things. In fact, a lot of fellow minimalists will tell you that making a quality purchase that may cost more in the beginning far outweighs buying cheap things that will need to be replaced more often. Not only is it better for your wallet, it’s better for the environment as well.

Except when it isn’t.

Folks, I honestly don’t think that anything is made to last these days – be it “quality” or otherwise – so we may just be better off going cheap. For example:

In 2015, we purchased a quality brand name sofa from a local furniture store. Around that same time, my mom bought one from Big Lots. Ours cost 4 times what hers did. We use ours daily to sit and read or watch TV but hers has been slept on, jumped on by toddlers, walked across by a teenager, and lounged on for hours on end by kids and grand-kids alike. Our cushions are as dead as the pet goldfish I had when I was 10. Her cushions are just now starting to sink a little when you sit down. But, hold on…I have an even better one for you. Our good friend has a sofa that has been moved to 4 different apartments in as many years. It has been slept on, jumped on, and is used for hours of gaming every single day and yet, it is still comfy. Did I mention that it was used when she bought it??

And then there are the socks…

About the same time that we were buying our quality sofa, we decided to switch to wool socks. We read that they were the best socks for hiking since they wick moisture better than other socks. We bought a few pairs at Dick’s Sporting Goods and they lasted for about 2 years, which I consider to be a good life for a sock that gets used all the time. When we went back for more, we found they no longer carried that brand, nor could we find it anywhere. So we bought a pair of SmartWool brand socks and a couple of pairs of Columbia. After a year, the SmartWool is starting to get a little ragged. Want to know where the Columbia socks are now? In our rag bin. They make excellent dusters. The Columbia socks did not even last a few months before they started getting holey (yet, they cost $15 a pair!).

If I had to guesstimate, I’d say we spent about $160 on brand name wool socks over 3 years time. You might be thinking, that’s not so bad, but I’ll beg to differ. A sock is designed to protect your feet from moisture, keep you warm, and stop your shoe from rubbing a hole in your foot. In an unintentional (and unscientific) quality test, we found that cheap socks do this job just as well, if not better, than expensive ones.

Our “everlasting” cheap socks – mismatched on purpose.

I purchased these socks BEFORE Angie and I met in 2011. In fact, I was still living in TN when I bought them (at Big Lots). I moved away in 2006, so they are at least 14 years old. They cost $5 for 6 pair back then. When we “upgraded” our wardrobe to wool socks, we moved these to my mom’s house so we could use them in the yard. We still wear them every week, at least twice a week, and they still have no holes in them!

We have applied our same unscientific method to dishcloths, bath towels, walking shoes, manual can openers and even underwear and found the results to be consistent. Cheap lasts just as long, or longer, than more expensive “quality” items. The $20 can opener we got as a gift lasted about 3 months before we had to replace it with one from the Dollar Tree (that one has been used daily for 4 years now). The $18/pair Ex-Officio undies that we thought we needed to have for travel are unraveling just the same as the $2/pair undies from Walmart. And the $10/3-pack of eco-friendly dishcloths we ordered online – well, they are in the rag bin with the Columbia socks, while the $4/6-pack from Target are still washing dishes every night.

So why do we wear cheap socks? Because there’s no financial benefit to buying more expensive ones. When the so-called quality socks wear out faster than the cheap ones, there’s no environmental benefit either. Being frugal is always good but being cheap might not be such a bad thing either. Just think, if we had back the money we wasted thinking we were buying quality items, oh the savings we could have banked!

Have you ever purchased something expensive only to find it did not last very long at all? What items to you routinely cheap out on?

#5TF: Spending & Saving

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 5 – July 22 – July 28, 2017

Over the weekend we found ourselves making several minor purchases that added up to a significant little chunk of change. For minimalists who hate shopping anyway, coming home with several bags and one giant box, was enough to create a panic, even though every item was purchased with intent (well, except for the travel spork, and I just wanted that).

We’ve walked/hiked 328.4 miles so far this year (not counting general walking about the house, yard, stores, etc.) and our shoes were clearly beginning to show the effects of that travel. The inside of my left shoe was so bad that it was starting to wear holes in my socks…my wool summer socks! And those things are supposed to be nearly indestructible. So first up on our list of purchases was new walking/hiking shoes.

The next purchase was new camping gear – specifically a small tent and tent light. We sold our large 8-person tent on OfferUp a few months back and have been debating on getting another ever since. With a rafting trip planned for next month, we thought it might be a good time to look for something compact and easy to set up. Believe it or not, we bought a kid’s tent. It was actually 12 inches longer and 6 inches wider than the smallest 2 person adult tent and a full $20 cheaper.

And finally, a larger freezer. Our biggest downsizing regret ever was selling our chest freezer when we left Florida. We’ve missed it terribly. The little one we bought on Craigslist last summer has been great but it is too small for any real attempt at storing food for winter. For now, we have two freezers, though I think the little one may be re-homed soon. My mom seems particularly interested in adopting it.

Big enough for food, yet small enough to fit in the Peanut…it’s our new freezer.

Spending money for stuff (even necessary stuff) is often very difficult for us. We usually talk ourselves out of most things or debate about them for so long that we forget why we thought we needed them in the first place. But there are times when you have to spend money to save money later on. This was one of those times…and I think all in all, we did alright.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was (definitely not shopping!). Instead, the highlight of my week was Wednesday…the whole day was about as close to perfect as it could possibly get. We had breakfast in the park, picked blackberries, took a walk at Bicentennial Mall State Park, picnicked outside the Nashville Farmer’s Market, and went to our first Nashville Sounds baseball game (on free hat night!). We even managed to make running errands fun that day…and we picked up a great CSA basket full of peaches, cantaloupe, and corn. I don’t think I could have asked for a better day.

Enjoying the “cheap seats” at the Nashville Sounds game…in our new shoes.

I am grateful for whatever it was that sparked my mom’s sudden interest in her own health this week. She didn’t say why or how she plans to do it, but she has finally decided to quit smoking. Though I have never smoked, I know how hard it is to quit and I know not every day is going to be a good one but I’m here to help in whatever way I can. Just making the decision seemed to lift a great weight off of her and she was much more active this week. She played outside with the little one on Tuesday and even helped us in the yard yesterday.

I need to let go of my obsession with minimizing our shoe collection. As much as we’d love to wear flip-flops or go barefoot every day, that’s not always appropriate (or allowed), so shoes are a must have item. The average woman in America owns 27 pair of shoes, the average man, just 12. We each have 7 pair (including our new ones, flip-flops, water shoes, bowling shoes and winter boots) and I still think that’s too many. As I put the new shoes in the closet on Sunday, I stood there staring at the rest of them, questioning their necessity until I nearly had a headache. That’s not minimalism. It’s just silly. There are no arbitrary limits to what one can own as a minimalist. The point of minimalism is that everything you own has a purpose. Every single shoe in our closet does so I give myself permission to leave them alone…for now.

We made progress on saving money…despite our little shopping spree. We managed to stay in budget on groceries and household goods, spending less than $150 total for the month, and we added $425 to our savings and investment accounts. Our CSA basket and garden are really helping on that front. Speaking of which, we put away 4 quarts of blackberries, another 1/2 dozen ears of corn, and 2 gallons of snack peppers. Angie also canned 2 more jars of pickled jalapenos and I made 2 more quarts of spaghetti sauce (though we ate most of it already). And we continued our technology time-out, leaving the phones behind for several enjoyable hours of hiking and picnicking this week.

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The funniest thing that happened this week happened at the Sounds game. Angie has such a small head that the free baseball cap didn’t fit her, even on the smallest setting. She looked kind of forlorn sitting there in our grass seats with that giant cap on her head, so she set it aside. Though I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it happen, I promised to fix the hat when we got home. (I would literally have sewn a brand new hat if I’d had to, just to keep her from making that sad “my head is too small” face.) As it turned out though, in the 3rd inning, a random guy stopped by our blanket with a wad of money in his hand and said these magic words, “I’ll give you $10 for your hat.” Sold! I guess it pays to have a small head after all.