Do you ever wish you could give your younger self advice?
I’ve read a lot of these types of articles. There is always stuff you wish you knew earlier, but I guess that’s what growing up (and old) is all about. Learning. Experience life. Getting better at some things and stop doing other things.
But if there is one thing I wish I could go back and learn much earlier is always to buy the best quality you can. Of whatever. Buy it once. You will spend more, but you won’t have to spend that money again. And this will add up in the long run.
And when I say, go back in time and give myself advice, I mean like yesterday. Because this is one that I still can’t get into my old, bald head. I’ll still shop around and find the cheapest variation of something. And then get a better one when that breaks. And then again.
It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about a potato peeler or a house and everything in between. Buy the absolute best you can afford every time. Some things, like a car or home, probably won’t be one time purchases. But you can delay having to do it more often by getting quality the first time. I’m not recommending going into a debt you can’t work out of, but hopefully, something that stretches your budget today will be easier to digest in a few years.
But yes, I still own the first potato peeler I ever bought.
This doesn’t always mean to buy the most expensive because that doesn’t necessarily equate to quality. There are have been all manner of vegetable peelers on the market with fancy handles and blades, but the best kind is the old-fashioned metal ones with the v-shaped, swiveling blade. It will never break or wear out.
I rode a motorcycle for about twenty years. And when I finally decided I needed four wheels, I gave my old bike away. Along with multiple sets of every kind of bag and contraption that went on it. Because I bought the cheapest version of each thing. When that broke, I got one a little better. Finally, I would decide that the wear and tear required better quality and eventually bought the best quality. All the money spent trying to be cheap was a complete waste.
Camera gear was the same way. When I first started, cameras usually came as a kit, hence the term ‘kit lens.’ This usually meant a crappy lens. Now, I’ve written before about not blaming your equipment, and as a beginner, you can go a long way with a kit lens. But, if you stick with it long enough, you will want better. So, go ahead and buy the best you can afford from the start. If you buy wisely, you may never need to replace them.
With camera gear, I would give slightly different advice, though. You need a camera, and you need lenses. If you can’t afford the very best of both, the intuitive choice would be to buy the best camera you can and start with cheaper lenses. I would advise the opposite, but only if you will stick with the same brand camera. A starter camera will do 90% of everything you will ever want, so buy a less expensive body and invest in good glass.
When we were much younger, my wife took me shopping for a new bedroom suit. She had an old cheap one she had bought when she was younger still. My hand-me-downs never even made it into our first house. Now, there are few things I love better than furniture shopping. Maybe root canal, but it’s a close second.
But the result of that long and arduous task where why wife kept pretending to care what I thought, was a nice set of solid oak furniture. It cost a lot of money at a time when we didn’t have much. But forty years later, we are still sleeping in that same bed. (Not the same mattress, we still didn’t learn the lesson there). Our daughter will almost undoubtedly inherit that bedroom suit because we will never need to buy another.
I can’t even begin to tell you how often I have landed on both sides of this issue over the years. And I still haven’t learned. Sometimes, that’s okay. Sometimes you get the cheap version, then decide you don’t need whatever it is at any price, so you save money. But more often than not, you end up replacing it again and again. I’m still amazed at how often I take this baby step approach to buying and end up with three or four or a dozen of something in various terms of quality.
As many of you know, I bought a guitar about six months ago. First, I did some research. The price range on guitars runs from pretty cheap to astronomical. At this point, I didn’t want the best as I needed to make sure this hobby would stick. But I didn’t get the cheapest either. I got an entry-level model of a very respected brand, and it has served me well. It could be the only guitar I ever own.
But it won’t be. The store I bought the guitar from offers free strings for life for this particular brand. That’s easily $100 a year, plus I don’t have to go through the tedious process of changing strings. But they aren’t fools. This gets me back in their store every three months. To look at the shiny new toys. And after I tried one a few steps up, I knew that I would be buying another guitar at some point.
I have targeted myself at the one year mark, so I still have time to decide. But the one thing I did decide was the next one would be the last one I owned. So, the second time back in the store, the guy asked me which guitar I wanted to try. They have a few hundred; all hung on the wall from most expensive at the top left to least expensive at the bottom right. I knew from talking to him that he played a similar guitar style that I was interested in learning. So, I said the words you should never say to someone in sales. “If money were no object, which one would you buy?”
To his credit, he chose one just a little left of center, so there were certainly more expensive options. He handed it to me and said in all seriousness, “This one will last you the rest of your life.” As I pointed out to him, the rest of my life was considerably less than the rest of his life, but I digress. The point is, sometime next year, I will walk back to that shop and buy the best guitar I can afford.
And I’ll never have to buy another one.