How to Determine Whether an Alternative is Good Enough

by David Ning · 6 comments

I often find myself wanting to pay less for a purchase. Be it a gadget, clothes or my wedding, I always spend time looking for a bargain after I figured out the average costs. Most of the time, I end up looking for alternatives because so many products have set pricing. My theory is that while it’s not exactly the same thing, it’s usually good enough for every day (my) use.

When I bought my camera, I looked for a lower end model because the newest one was just too expensive. And when I bought my laptop, I bought the 15 inch model even though the 17 inch looked more attractive.

Sometimes though, I would deviate from this behavior. My bed for example, is the one that I found the most comfortable. My office chair is the same way, and so was my car, although I must admit that I quickly eliminated every vehicle that wasn’t affordable from the get go.

How I Determine Whether an Alternative Will Suffice

It has always been a subconscious decision to see whether I wanted an alternative or not, but now that I think about it, there’s seems to be a pattern to this whole process. In order for an alternative to suffice, it must pass the following tests:

  • Replaceable Test – I must feel that the alternative makes me just as happy (or be just as functional) after a week of purchase. For example, I would be just as happy with a cheaper TV model in seven days (or two months for that matter), even though the more expensive TV looks much better in a side-by-side comparison at the store. On the other hand, sleeping in a less comfortable bed would not pass the same test.
  • No Regrets – If I keep thinking about the original product, then the alternative is not good enough. An example for me would be golf clubs. I would be thinking about the ones I originally wanted every time I go play.
  • Durability – The alternative must last just as long. For example, I usually don’t skim on quality of the product just to save a few bucks. If it breaks a year when the original last two, I won’t buy the alternative.
  • Longevity – The longer and the more often I use the product, the more I’m prone to paying more for it. It’s also interesting to note that the dollar amount has little effect on this. For example, I tend to spend more than I otherwise would for a car because I drive every day and the vehicle last for years. Going out to eat on the other hand is an activity that lasts one, maybe two hours. If I go out, I wouldn’t spend much.

A Little More About Alternatives

You may notice that none of the usual “comparison” points are listed. It’s not there because whether the product is the same or not isn’t my primary concern. When I make a purchase, it’s filling a need. Sometimes, it’s the need to get from point A to point B (hence, my first car). Other times, it’s the need to plug the hole of desire for a new gadget in my life (perhaps a new iPhone would do). I almost never try to compare the alternative to the original product, because what’s more important is whether the alternative will fit my original need.

The Answer is Really a Personal Choice

Many of you may not agree with the choices I made in the examples, and that’s okay. What’s important to me is very different than what’s important to you, your neighbor or your colleague. It’s perfectly normal.

Buying is a very personal choice, so don’t let others get to you when you buy an alternative, and ignore the naysayer when they say that you overpaid for the original.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

FinanciallySmart July 30, 2009 at 5:33 am

A lot of persons see alternative products has one that are not durable and so should be avoided. I agree with you that it will make no sense purchasing an alternative which will not last as long as the original. Satisfying one needs should be done with concise consideration and not brand loyalties.

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Sandy July 30, 2009 at 9:06 am

My hubby always says I’m “brand loyal” since I always go back to the same brand once I find one that’s good. Sometimes, I don’t mind paying more if it means having the comfort that the product will turn out the way I expect it.

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Jodi July 30, 2009 at 11:03 am

It’s funny how people always think there’s a right answer when everything boils down to personal choice. Good post.

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Wilson Pon July 30, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Thank goodness, I’m not the one who craving for branded stuffs, Ning. In this case, it helps me to save a lot of money each month.

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DDFD @ DivorcedDadFrugalDad August 3, 2009 at 12:37 am

Nice post. Glad to hear that I am not the only one who thinks before making a purchase.

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Ralph August 4, 2009 at 6:16 pm

Great post. When I was younger and have less bills to pay, I use to think “well, if there is a commercial for it, it must be better.” When the age of responsibility came, I changed my tune to “It’s cheaper, its good enough.”

But now I have realized that you have to judge each purchase by the value you are getting and the priorities that you have.

With clothing, I used to not mind purchasing irregular shirts, sweaters, and jeans because they were cheaper. Now, I know that some of the higher end name brands to fit me better. That realization forces me to decided on which priority I hold higher. Comfort or savings? Either way, no regrets.

Great insight.

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