Is Cheaper Always Better?

Posted on: May 19, 2014

I would hazard a guess that most preppers are not independently wealthy.  I’d even go so far as to say a whole lot of preppers are just about flat broke, living paycheck to paycheck, and having a difficult time fitting preps into the budget.  Thus, you find over 100,000 hits on Google for “dollar store preps.”  But is that really the way you should go when prepping on a budget?

Sure, you can find things like bandages, canned food, and tools at the dollar store.  However, the quality of an awful lot of the products sold is pretty shoddy.  If you buy a set of wrenches at a dollar store, don’t be surprised if they bend into a pretzel shape the first time you encounter a stubborn nut.  Flashlights probably won’t last more than a couple of days of regular use, new batteries or not.

Look, I’m all about trying to save money but if I feel I might have to truly rely on a product or item to keep me alive or safe, I’m going to spend a little bit more for higher quality.

And even if the quality of that dollar store find is passable, you might actually get a better deal elsewhere.  Adhesive bandages are a great example.  You could buy a box of 20 assorted bandages for a buck…or go to Walgreens or Walmart and spend four bucks for 100+ bandages.

I know, I know, the argument goes something like well, dollar store stuff is better that nothing!  Y’know, I’d argue that point.  Quite often, people become complacent and buy into that thought process.  The problem is doing so gives a false sense of security.  They buy the cheap stuff, figuring that at some point later they’ll be able to afford to upgrade.  The reality is that someday never comes and they may end up facing a disaster with shoddy gear and batteries that passed their real life span years ago.

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.  Dollar store finds are rarely ever truly great deals, at least not in terms of disaster supplies.

Now, right about this point, some readers may accuse me of being a snob or elitist because I dislike shopping at places like dollar stores.  Look, I’m all for buying generic or store brands if the quality is comparable to the brand name.  It makes zero sense to me to spend so much as a nickel on something I’m confident is going to break the first time I use it.  How in the world is that saving you any money?

This does not mean every “deal” out there is a bad idea.  Far from it, actually.  If you’re diligent about haunting rummage sales and hitting the clearance section of stores, you can find some great stuff at discounted prices.  I know a guy who scours Craigslist twice every single day.  Because of that, he falls into some absolutely incredible deals, like a 3500 watt generator that was like new for about $100.  No, deals like that don’t appear every single day but if you never look, you’ll never see them when they do crop up.

Same thing with rummage sales.  You’ll never find the deals if you don’t leave your house.  And you won’t find a great buy at every single stop, either.  You might hit as many as 20 rummage sales and come up empty…and then you get to the 21st one.  There, you find an almost new camp stove for ten bucks and a couple of cast iron skillets for five bucks each.  Or maybe the kids are cleaning out Dad’s old house and have absolutely no idea just what those knives are really worth, they just want to get rid of them.  Deals like those are out there and happen all the time.

The takeaway here is this–don’t fall into the better than nothing trap. If you find yourself stranded on the side of the road due to a vehicle breakdown, you really don’t want to be standing there with a dollar store flashlight, trying to figure out why the damn thing won’t turn on anymore.

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