3 reasons to pay more for your stuff

gray tshirt with should detail by replicca

when i was young, my mom taught me that nothing should be purchased at full price. that, when you walk into a store, you beeline for the sale rack in the back of the store. nothing is worth retail price. hey – it was the 90s! the more you had, the better you were.

but here we are in the second decade of the 21st century and it’s time to rethink the value of stuff. sometimes stuff costs more because it’s worth more: the person who created it is skilled, the design is innovative, the materials are longer lasting… last week, we talked about the true cost of handmade: yes, it costs more but the true cost is so much less.

gray rolled sleeve tshirt by replicca

not convinced? here are three reasons you should pay more for the next thing you buy:

1. support an individual.

when you pay for something – say $30 for a t-shirt instead of $10 – you are paying a real person, who lives in a community very much like yours, for their time and skill. you’re opting out of the system of poverty that allows corporations to pay so much less than a living wage (whether in america or abroad). you’re choosing to pay someone what you’d like to get paid for the same work.

2. support an economy.

you know that global recession we’ve just started coming out of? i am convinced that part of the problem is our unwillingness to recognize the true value of the stuff we consume. when we inflate the value of executing the management of a company and put little to no value on the products it produces, most of us lose out. and when people like you and i lose out, we don’t have the money to consume much of anything – creating recession.

by choosing to pay more for better products, we help support job creation throughout the economy.

3. support yourself.

ugh. the need to consume is so draining! when you pay more for better products, you’re less likely consume quite so many in the never ending cycle of “i need this.” you’ll feel free be more conscious of each buying decision you make. when you cut out the $1-here or $5-there purchases you can purchase quality, design, and uniqueness. you can complement your life with stuff that reflects your value[s] instead of filling your life with stuff that has none.

i was recently introduced to the story of stuff, an internet video phenomenon, that describes the exhausting cycle of working to buy and buying to feel good about yourself. annie leonard, the writer behind the story of stuff, says she’s not looking to get rid of stuff. she says, “i want us to have more reverence for our stuff.

seems like a good reason to pay more to me.

to get started paying for real value and give buying handmade a try, you can use the menu at the top to browse around and find goodies of all sorts. if you’d prefer to go straight to the source, i recommend starting at etsy and supermarket! good luck and best wishes for finding great stuff.

50 thoughts on “3 reasons to pay more for your stuff

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. When I buy a cheap shirt for example, I think I’m getting this great deal. However, I tend to throw it out within a year. When I buy a handmade one I tend to keep it for years. And like you said I take better care of it, because its special and unique to me.

  2. Many years back, I read a book called “The Tightwad Gazette.” Not sure if it was i, II or III that I learned the WOW factor from, but I have adapted it to my uses.

    The author, Amy Daczcyn pointsout that what we are looking for is a Cost Per WOW (CPW), or a factor of how much we love something.

    I have added to her base another CPW – Cost Per Wear. I teach both to my style students.

    I have a black felt hat I bought for $1 at goodwill 12 years ago and have worn at least once per week since. Not only do I love the hat (Cost Per WOW), but I have worn it a gadzillion times (Cost Per Wear).

    That said, I have items that I only get wow from. There are some artisan pieces that I can only wear a few times per year, but everytime, I feel great about them.

    I think Handmade often adds wow factor, and sometimes even adds wear (better construction than mass-produced). Those are MY reasons for purchasing.


    Thank you for a thought-provoking morning.

  3. This is so true! Ever since I made the commitment to curb my spending on “stuff” and buy handmade treasures instead, it has been so rewarding. It is just so refreshing knowing where my hard earned money is going and getting something made with love and care. The quantity of what I am buying is less- but the quality is so much more (in so many ways). Great post!!

  4. as always, another thought-provoking post, tara! i agree wholeheartedly. buying with a conscience and with purpose brings a whole new light to the act of purchasing. and when was the last time your big box store purchase was sent to you, lovingly wrapped in tissue with a hand-written note of thanks? :) i need to get myself out of the instant gratification mindset, too. i do support a lot of handmade artists, but i think i can do better!
    thanks for the impetus, as always.

  5. your mom sounds like MY mom! to this day she is ALWAYS looking for a bargain! i’ve had to re-think the way i shop and the way i buy for my boutique. having handmade goods just makes “cents”! when you shop in a local store that supports local artists you are supporting a community! great post!

  6. I think this applies to those of us who make things, too–it’s easy to get caught up in attempting to decrease the cost of production on your own handmade goods, and neglect investing in the high-quality supplies that make us remember why we do it ourselves to start with. We could all have the attitude that each thing we create should be treasured and hand-me-downable.

  7. Well summarized!

    In this same vein, I watched The New Age of Walmart last night on CNBC, and part of the show focused on their employees and how they don’t earn a living wage. Prior to this idea, the CEO talked about how the employees and staff are like a big family to him…then, when cornered on why execs don’t want employees to unionize for fair wages & benefits, boy did he do a clever word dance around that! The sweet family suddenly became a cold, numbers-based business model that leaves little room for change. It was so uncomfortable for him to say it b/c he knows he’s screwing them over royally in order to keep prices rock-bottom low and rake in the margins. So sick that they’re willing to eat their own in order to win. Corporations don’t care on the macro level unless caring is the flavor of the day.

  8. This is a great post. It is so true that when we buy better quality things we are relieving ourselves of the burden to consume more.

    I don’t think, however, paying more for your stuff always means its better stuff. Starbucks is nearly twice as expensive than the little mom and pop coffee shop down the street from my house. And I look through Etsy shops – my own shop included- I notice many of the handmade clothing and accessories are less expensive than what you would pay at Urban Outfitters or Zara for something less well-made…

    Sometimes the better product can be cheaper because of all the external costs that are not factored into the retail price – when you buy something handmade you are usually not supporting a giant marketing campaign, for example. So we’re not always paying more for better products. Sometimes we’re just paying more for convenience, or because we’ve been effectively advertised too.

  9. I love this post – so enlightening. It’s only been in the last year that I discovered Etsy (I know, I must have been under a rock or something). And through some online classes I’ve been taking I’ve gotten to know a lot of people that sell on Etsy. I never realized how much I could stoke someone out by purchasing something there. For some reason (probably because of how I have shopped for most of my l life), I didn’t realize that each shop is really someone’s hopes and dreams – it might be allowing them to stay at home with their children, live the life they have always wanted to, and allow them to create more than they would doing any other kind of business or job. Now that I have realized that, I am making much more of a commitment to buy handmade. I know it will be a learning process and I will have to re-train myself in many ways, but it is really satisfying to know that each purchase is really valuable to the person you are purchasing from.

    Yesterday, I got a print in the mail that I purchased. It came all the way from Amsterdam and the artist put a hand-written thank you note in, as well as a free small collage picture, and it was wrapped in a very cute way. It made my day in a way that buying a print from Aaron Brothers never has.

    Thanks for explaining why this is so important, Tara!


  10. I too come from a ‘bargain hunter’ background- my mom is notorious for buying a lot of stuff on sale. The area that most bothered me about the ‘bargain hunter mentality’ has been in the area of gift giving. When it comes to gifts- I don’t want to get or give big expensive items, I just want the item to be special and nothing quite says ‘your special’ like handmade!
    Thanks for the re-reminder of why I want to invest back into my own community and support handmade!

    1. Absolutely agree with the comment “nothing says ‘your special’ like handmade” – I have recently started giving gifts I create, and one of my favourite recent gifts I received was a egg and cup carved out of wood by my boyfriend.

  11. thanks so much for the little write up! i feel like so often people don’t understand why items on etsy are priced as they are. if they understood that they are helping one individual earn a living, and the cost of that living isn’t cheap, perhaps they would take off their bargain hunting hat and really appreciate things for what they’re worth. go handmade!

  12. Well said!

    I was raised in a home with a tight income and we were always after a bargain – food, clothing, you name it! Now that I’m an adult, I still have to constantly remind myself that just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good deal.

    Time and time again I buy something cheap and find that it doesn’t work right, doesn’t last a long time, or I wind up throwing it away a year later because it’s gone out of fashion or I’ve decided that it actually looks cheap.

    I’m making a conscious effort these days to:

    – buy one amazing (yet expensive) top a month instead of 10 cheap t-shirts… it will look like a million bucks and be so much better quality.
    – save up for one really amazing piece of furniture for my house and forgo a few cheaper accessories.
    – buy good shoes! A pair that costs $200 really does last much much longer, and looks 1000 times better than the one that costs $40.

  13. I absolutely agree! Thank you for writing this. Recently I have been finding that all of my sale/inexpensive clothing items are only lasting a few months. The quality just isn’t there anymore. It really pays (and helps the economy) to spend more for quality.

  14. I am so glad you posted a story on this topic! As an artist and small business owner I have a real appreciation for quality items that are special or unique to me, and I love them so much more than things I’ve bought or received. It also might help that I’ve lived in a small apartment for about 7 years of my life, so between not having space and moving around a lot, I definitely don’t buy things as often as some, so when I do handmade and or local is the way to go.

  15. ‘the system of poverty’… so true. Again, lots of insightful comments. As a single mom, I have to say that it only makes sense for me to stay at home and work, and it happens to be that my skill is sewing… there isn’t a job that would cover my expenses and then the added expenses of childcare, ready-made food, etc… instead I’ve chosen to stay home and work and also do home learning… my kids eat organic whole food, spend the majority of their day in the fresh air or doing crafts, have a good rest at night… I get to spend this time with them before they are off and on their own as adults, I also have a good rest and eat well… there isn’t a job that I am qualified for that would provide me with all these benefits. It’s a handmade life from morning until night and I love it… my three year old asks who makes everything… toys, food, clothes… she likes to be given a name not a factory… she likes it even better if she’s met the person or can see their picture and hear a little something about them.

  16. there is a real live person who is really enlightened and excited about her work as opposed to a foreign worker in a horrible cramped shop producing by the millions…also I try to keep my prices fair as “art” can at times be financially out of reach …it is a balance ..

    thank you for your timely address of an ongoing issue..

  17. Thank you so much for bringing attention to this topic and using my pieces to illustrate your point! You have no idea how much that means to me, and, I’m sure, to everyone who works hard to make a living with their own two hands. Selling handmade work for a fair price depends on so many factors, and you’re exactly right — it depends on time, skill, materials used, etc.. not on advertising campaigns, costly corporate overheads, and other – often wasteful – expenditures.

    Thanks again and keep up the great blog!

  18. Nice post and not just in conjunction with ‘stuff’ – I develop websites for a living and have 15 years of experience yet I am constantly asked to complete with much lower prices from a list of vendors without the same experience, technical knowledge or customer support. Really? You think that high school kid next door to you is going to provide the same result?

    It’s all being driving by the need to get something cheap and I’ve learned through experience to let those folks walk away; I won’t compromise on my product and try to compete with a lessor one so product or service oriented…we have to stay true to the value we know we produce; it will win out in the end.

  19. Tara,

    Thanks so much for your article! I’ve had family in for the past week, and didn’t get to visit articles in Etsy until now, so I apologize for the late reply.

    I looked at the four tote bags I created yesterday (two completely from scratch), and I was feeling disappointed that I would be pricing them at only cost of materials, and not for any of my time or the use of the embroidery machine. I guess I figured that if I could get the cost of the fabric back that was enough- so I could buy more fabric even though I already have two rooms of fabric now.

    After reading your article, it’s given me the confidence to start pricing at “retail” to include some of my time in addition to costs. Part of underpricing is that we love what we do, and don’t realize how long it really takes us to create our masterpieces! We are worth it!

    Thanks again for your article,
    Janice of Krista B Designs

  20. Thank you very much for posting this! I think it is important for people to realize how they are supporting an individual person instead of a large corporation…and what a difference that makes. Have a nice evening!

  21. Brilliant article! Love it! Thanks for posting this, it’s empowering to read as we all need to realise our true value by supporting the true value of others! With love, kitty at zooshii x

  22. I would much rather pay a bit more for something that has been handcrafted, it does, after all, contain someone’s inspiration, thought, time and in alot of cases love :)

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  24. Sometimes, someone says something so eloquently that has been stuck in your head for months trying to get out. This is one of those times.

    I have never noticed the “must have stuff” so much until having my son. He wears the same few no name, no brand shirts and singlets, the 4 or 5 pairs of shorts I have made him, and a few really special – and it happens that they are all handmade! – shirts that we love, and his cloth nappies, every.single.day. Why? Cause he’s a baby. He doesn’t need Stuff! But I have a friend, well actually, I guess she’s not such a friend, who is forever telling me how awful I am for not buying my son new clothes, letting him out of the house in a singlet and a nappy, for not having outfits for him. Makes me shake my head.

    And I’m sorry, I just turned your blog into my whinge…

  25. I think its all in the mind and wishful thinking becaue you paid a lot more for an item. A lot of handmade things I’ve purchased have been junk. You don’t always necessarily get what you pay for just because it’s handmade.

    The problem is, things being made abroad because they work for peanuts, but the same amount of time goes into making a piece.

  26. Years ago a friend said to me, “Buy quality, cry once.” Those were some of the wisest words I’ve ever heard, and a terse way to say what your article took time to spell out. You buy the best you can afford to buy, with a tear in your eye as you give up a chunk of cash, but when it lasts a long time you will certainly be smiling.

    I truly love the “support…” ideas you presented, which I feel are lifestyle choices that can only make our world a better place.

  27. Thank you so much for putting this so succinctly. It gets so easy to get sucked into a sale that I think it’s important to have these reminders of why to buy handmade (or make it yourself!), even when that means budgeting a little more carefully and/or having a bit less.

  28. This is so great!!! Thanks so much for getting the word out. I work with some really talented fashion designers who manufacture in LA. Which costs a lot more than manufacturing in China. We have a lot of work to do to reprogram our friends who’ve been brainwashed by Walmart, Target, H&M, Forever21, etc… Cheap stuff comes at a high price, even though we may not feels its impact directly, we are affected indirectly. I was just swimsuit shopping at the mall, and yes, the US-made swimsuit was ~$200. The cheap one at H&M was made in Bangladesh. No thank you.

    People in Bangladesh need jobs, but the governance isn’t adequate, so I don’t trust H&M to be able to ensure those people were paid adequately. Being part of the DIY problem, (love that post too!) I wound up buying exactly the fabric I wanted and making one myself. Much lower CO2 footprint than shipping it from halfway across the planet, and I get exactly what I want. But for my new favorite sunglasses, you’re helping me justify spending a lot more than I can afford right now. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  29. Hi Tara,
    I just found your article (just 2 years later, no big deal! :) and it’s really interesting. I have a blog where I talk about handmade, and by coincidence I’ve written an article about the same subject some weeks ago. So, today I made a free translation of your article to French and Portuguese to share it in my blog (of course I quote you and I’ve put a link to your article), because I really find it good. I hope you won’t bother. Anyways, if you don’t want me to use it, just let me know and I’ll remove the post. Thanks for sharing good stuff with us! :)
    Kind regards,


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