Are You a Quality Person or a Quantity Person?

Dear E & V,

Quantity is for chumps.

As you grow up, you’ll probably notice that I wear the same pair of shoes for about 5 years before I throw them out. I would rather spend $100 on a pair of shoes that will last me five years than a pair of $30 shoes that will last me a year.

Buying quality will save you a lot of money in your life.

Unfortunately — and this may be purely my perception — it seems making a thoughtful quality purchase is being thrown out in favor of blind “buy buy buy” consumerism.

I want to say that this blind desire for more and more things is something that our society has only recently embraced — something that started out with cheap plastic Chinese-made household goods and toys being sold in certain departments of your WalMarts and Toys R’ Uses and only recently exploding into the entire stores of cheap plastic junk like your 5-And-Belows and HomeGoods.

Nobody wants to make anything anymore, or analyze whether the purchase is necessary and really enhances their lives, or invest in a product that they won’t throw out in three years.

Consider this eye-opening fact in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind:

One of the most glaring differences between the ancient foragers and their agricultural and industrial descendants [i.e. us] is that foragers had very few artifacts to begin with, and these played a comparatively modest role in their lives. Over the course of his or her life, a typical member of a modern affluent society will own several million artifacts – from cars and houses to disposable [diapers] and milk cartons. There’s hardly an activity, a belief, oreven an emotion that is not mediated by objects of our own devising. Our eating habits are mediated by a mind-boggling collection of such items, from spoons and glasses to genetic engineering labs and gigantic ocean-going ships. In play, we use a plethora of toys, from plastic cards to 100,000-seater stadiums. Our romantic and sexual relations are accoutred by rings, beds, nice clothes, sexy underwear,condoms, fashionable restaurants, cheap motels, airport lounges, wedding halls and catering companies.

It’s easy to blame the cheap plastic crap for our cluttered homes and financial waste. However we also waste a lot of money, time, and space on:

  • things that we never use
  • cheap things that don’t last (and that you have to buy over and over again),
  • things that are simply convenient
  • things that are status symbols

Honestly it’s silly  — and pretty much anyone you meet is guilty of this thoughtless consumerism to some extent. We’re throwing money away, and for what? Because it makes us look cool? Because it saves us 30 extra seconds? Because we don’t want to pay a little extra for quality? Because that shitty plastic flamingo makes your yard look “unique”?

Does that really make any sense to you? Are you going to look back on your life and say “Man, that egg slicer really made my life better. It would have been hell without it. Money well spent!”?


“I’m so glad I bought that BMW. It made my life so much better and happier. I’m a much better person because I had that”?

Maybe you will say that — only you will know what makes your life worth living. But I can tell you what I would regret NOT spending money on:

Experiences that make me a better person, that turn my life into a work of art, that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. On my health and wellness.

For me, I have no regrets about spending money on having the best steak in my life in Argentina. On skydiving in Hawaii. On learning how to install electrical outlets. On an electrician to fix my installation mistakes. On teaching myself how to create ornaments with a wood burner. On taking a class on infant first aid and CPR. On purchasing higher quality yet slightly more expensive tomatoes from a local farmer instead of the grocery store.

Imagine what you could do with all that money thrown away on short-lived things if you spent it on experiences to better yourself and your health instead.

How much more exciting would you be, would other people find you?

How many fewer regrets would you have at the end of your life?

How much better of an employee, a manager, a parent, a spouse would you be?

How much more calm would you be when you realize you can handle much more of the obstacles and opportunities that life throws at you because you have the experiences to handle them?

Ask yourself those questions the next time you’re thinking about spending money on anything. The choice is yours — how will you design your life to make it worth living?




Ken View All →

I am a Father, Husband, Cowboy Philosopher, Volunteer Firefighter, and Professional Dilettante. I am nothing and I am everything. But when it comes to our relationship: I only wish you wonder and happiness.

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