They say that if you buy cheap you buy twice, and a lot of the time this is a good maxim to live by. Of course, shopping around for the best price is not only fine but something to encourage. Looking at different good-quality brands to find which ones give the best price is also fine. But aside from a few very basic and disposable items, buying on price alone and just getting the cheapest product you find is not a good approach if you want real value.
But there are exceptions to this rule. There are a few products where you will get exactly the same no matter how much or how little you spend. In these cases, you really don’t need to worry about buying the cheapest item you can find. In fact, you should avoid doing anything else.
This isn’t a case of there being no difference so much as one where you probably won’t particularly care about the difference. Big-brand kitchen towel adverts make tout features such as micro pockets to push for superior absorption. But have you ever really used kitchen towel and thought “this just isn’t absorbent enough?” Have you ever felt put-out at having to use three sheets instead of two when the price is still cost-effective? Probably not. For most people, picking up the cheapest kitchen towel is unlikely to feel like a real compromise.
There’s a slight caveat here. Buy the cheapest over-the-counter medicines you can find from a reliable vendor. Buying from uncertain sources such as online sellers can be a minefield, but as long as you are buying from a shop that you can trust to give you the real thing then you will be fine. The thing about medicines is that as long as you are getting the same dose of the same substance, there is no difference in the effect it will have. A 500mg dose of paracetamol, for example, is going to be exactly the same and have the same pain-killing effect no matter what brand has packaged it. Branded medicines are particularly tricky because they give themselves brand names that sound like an actual medicine – such as Buscopan or Nurofen – but which are actually made up. This is to make you think they contain some unique active ingredient, when in fact their contents are the same as those sold by many budget brands.
People often fall into this trap just after buying a new gadget or two. When you’ve just picked up a nice new HDTV and Blu-Ray Player which promise to give you the best picture you’ve ever had, you may feel reluctant to mess it up by buying a £1 bargain bin HDMI cable. It seems like that would surely carry a poor signal to the TV and hold everything back. Many people decide it’s better to spend £10, £20 or even £50-60 on getting a good cable. This is a big mistake, as even this £150 money-grabber will produce exactly the same picture as that £1 budget lead. With digital signals, as long as a picture reaches the TV (something even the worst cable will manage) signal strength makes absolutely no difference to the quality of the picture.