What does ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ mean?

There are all sorts of wise and worldly sayings about money, and buy cheap, buy twice is just one of them. But what does it mean, and does it apply to everything? What does buy cheap, buy twice mean? In a nutshell, it means that if you buy something cheap, […]

There are all sorts of wise and worldly sayings about money, and buy cheap, buy twice is just one of them. But what does it mean, and does it apply to everything?

What does buy cheap, buy twice mean?

In a nutshell, it means that if you buy something cheap, it’s likely to be poor quality and it’ll break, wear out or not be fit for purpose. As a result, you’ll need to buy a replacement, costing you more money in the long run.

Who first said buy cheap, buy twice?

There are no agreed origins for the phrase, but it’s often attributed to John Ruskin who was a nineteenth-century painter, poet, art and social critic.

The original statement it’s meant to have come from is “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done.”

Whether or not buy cheap, buy twice really does come from Ruskin’s statement, the gist is pretty much the same.

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How true is buy cheap, buy twice?

That depends on who you ask. Some people swear it’s true and will say that your best bet is to stay well away from bargain buys. Others are quite happy to champion anything that’s as cheap as chips.

The original statement attributed to Ruskin does make sense in its intention. If you want quality, you should expect to pay for it.

Of course, like most things, there’s more to it than that. And the sensible answer is that it really depends on what it is you’re buying.  

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Does buy cheap, buy twice apply to everything? 

Personally, I don’t think it does. Ultimately, it comes down to what it is you’re buying, what you can afford and what you consider good value. 

For example, I have three pairs of leather boots in the same colour (yes, I’m that person). I bought them almost 15 years ago and have never bought another pair (in that style, anyway). Each pair cost around £100. This was the top of my budget at the time, but I’ve worn them every autumn and winter since then. On a cost per year ratio, my leather boots cost me £20.

Compare that to buying a cheaper pair at around £50 but needing to replace them every year. Over 15 years that tots up to £750, more than twice as much as three pairs of my pricier boots. In this context, buy cheap, buy twice rings true. 

On the flip side, there is such a thing as cheap and cheerful. That’s especially true of the trend for fast fashion. In this case, there’s no need to worry about having to buy twice because what you buy won’t be on trend for long enough. 

The list of comparisons could go on. And for every example that supports buy cheap, buy twice, there’ll be one to counter it. 

Whether you think the adage is true, false or you’re somewhere in between, spare a thought for why cheap products are cheap in the first place. In many cases, it probably means that someone at the start of the production chain isn’t getting such a good deal. 

For more food for thought when it comes to getting a good deal, check out this hack to get nearly a fiver off your Ocado shop. We’ve also got an article on how to make the most of buying and selling on Gumtree

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