I’ve often had friends tell me that their approach to buying is to find something they like and then find the cheapest place that sells it. Whilst this might initially seem quite sensible, I believe it represents a false economy. Cheaper might save you money initially, but you’ll usually find that what you’re buying is cheaper for a reason. Namely, it’s worse quality. Accordingly, I’ve always advocated an element of caution when making comparisons, as a myriad of potential issues may catch you by surprise at a later date. Don’t make the assumption that cheaper is better; buy quality!
As a businessman, I spend a lot of time making decisions. For each decision I make, there are a lot of contributing factors, one of which is usually cost (whether of time or money). Despite this, costs are never my top priority when signing an agreement or making a purchase; quality is.
We’ve all got constraints on our ability to fund the lifestyle we might want, so often try to cut corners to obtain a much needed good or service. For example, a friend needed some new printer paper and got the cheapest on offer. The paper crumpled in the printer, jamming it and cracking an ink cartridge in the process. In addition to needing to replace the ink cartridge (£35), he spent an afternoon sponging printer ink out of his carpet. For just a few pounds more, he could have purchased a box of premium printer paper, saving the expense of replacing the cartridge.
Make sure that the price you’re being quoted really is ‘like-for-like’.
Another friend was in the market for a virtual assistant. Although I’ve toyed with the idea previously, I haven’t pulled the trigger on an engagement. My friend looked at a number of quotes for VAs around the world, ultimately deciding to get the cheapest hired help he could; a young man in the Phillippines.
Unfortunately, the ‘help’ kept losing messages and couldn’t speak or write sufficient English to be of any use. My friend ended up spending hours re-drafting documents and deciphering voicemails before deciding to replace the man with a UK-based alternative. Just because two products are services are named the same thing, ‘Experienced Virtual Assistant’, it doesn’t mean they’re interchangeable. If my friend had bought the quality service up front, they would have saved time and hassle.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a written estimate which breaks down cost.
I was once quoted for interior building works on a property, deciding to go for the cheapest quote. I was looking to have a wall re-plastered, painted and have new shelving put up. When the workmen left, I noticed that they hadn’t repainted the wall or cleared their debris; when I questioned this, I was told I had only been charged for shelves to be erected; not painting work or clear-up work. If I had asked for a written estimate up front, I would have seen this omission. If I had instead focused on the quality and content of the service provided, I would have saved myself from having to have extra work done later.
Make sure you’re aware of any additional fees before accepting and always read the small print of any terms and conditions – no matter how small!
In another situation, a business colleague was moving their web and email services from one provider to another. They received a verbal quote which they agreed to and once the work was completed were amazed to find that the final bill was nearly three times the verbal quote. When questioned, the supplier said;
“I quoted you for the cost of moving X and Y services, but you also have to pay a monthly fee for running the services and a consulting fee for my time. Didn’t you read the contract?”
If my colleague has read the contract and taken the time to understand it, they would likely never have engaged the supplied; instead, they were hit with an enormous bill which they were unable to avoid paying. My colleague now takes steps to find and buy quality.
Conclusion: Always buy quality
Saving money is fine on some things, but don’t skimp on the important stuff. Make sure you understand exactly what you’re buying, find reviews and references and take steps to ensure that you get what you’re expecting. As a rule of thumb, if you always buy quality, you’re less likely to get nasty surprises down the road. As the saying goes; if you pay peanuts, you\’ll get monkeys!