Saving money doesn’t have to be dull. It’s possible to be too frugal, to deny yourself too much. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can enjoy the good life — eating out, spending time with friends, indulging yourself — while exercising thrift. The key is balance.
One way to practice financial prudence while living the good life is to buy quality products, products that are a pleasure to use, products that will last a lifetime. Over the past two years, I’ve compiled a list of companies that sell wonderful products. All of these companies provide quality goods via mail order. All of them have web sites from which you may order their products. Not all of them provide a means for requesting a print catalog. (I’ve provided a link to each company’s catalog request page, if one exists.)
I don’t receive any sort of compensation for touting these company’s products. (Though I’d take it if I could.)
- David Morgan (Seattle, 1962) is an an outfit from which one can buy products produced by several of the companies (Filson, Akubra, etc.) listed elsewhere in this entry. (Good website, catalog available.)
- Filson (Seattle, 1897, “Might as well have the best”) for outdoor clothing, hats, bags, and accessories. I own two Filson hats, a Filson vest, a Filson jacket, and a Filson bag. Each piece was moderately spendy, but well worth it. Filson makes high quality products. (Great website, catalog available.)
- The J. Peterman Company (Kentucky) for expensive, oddball pieces of clothing. But still stuff I want. Who wouldn’t want Italian genius pants? (Good website, catalog available.)
- Woolrich (Pennsylvania, 1830, “The original outdoor clothing company”) for outdoor clothing. I am not familiar with this company, but look forward to browsing their catalog. (Good webiste, catalog available.)
- L.L. Bean (Maine, 1912) for clothing. I’ve always been aware of L.L. Bean, but have rarely purchased anything from them. (Good website, catalogs available.)
- Kevin’s (Georgia, 1979, “Fine outdoor gear and apparel”) for outdoor clothing and hunting supplies. This catalog came yesterday. It contains several things I want (but do not need): canvas trousers, a pocketwatch, etc. (Good website, catalog available.)
- Patagonia (California, 1965, “Committed to the core”) for active outdoor clothing and gear. I bought one piece of Patagonia gear at the last REI clearance sale. It has served me well. (Good website, catalog available.)
- Mountain Equipment Co-op (Canada, 1971) for outdoor clothing and gear in Canada. (Good website, catalog available.)
- Devold (Norway, 1853, “Quality outdoor clothing”) for, well, quality outdoor clothing. I’ve only glanced at Devold’s web site, and cannot tell what to think of their offerings. (Fair website, no catalog.)
- Barbour (England, 1894) for outdoor clothing. After browsing the catalog, I don’t think this company’s stuff is for me. Looks very expensive. (Fair website, catalog available though it lists no prices.)
- Holland & Holland (London, 1835) for upscale outdoorswear. Looks similar to Barbour. Again, not my type. (Fair website, no catalog.)
- Le Chameau (France, 1927) for hunting clothes and riding gear. See last two comments. (Fair website, no catalog.)
- French Creek Sheep and Wool Company (Pennsylvania, 1970) for woolen coats and sweaters. These are a bit too wooly for me. (Poor website, catalog available in theory.)
- Pendleton Woolen Mills (Portland, 1909, “Good for life”) for shirts and blankets. I own one Pendleton hat; I wear it all the time. I’ve owned Pendleton shirts, and have always been impressed. (Great website, catalog available.)
- Timberland (Boston, no specific date, “Make it better”) for boots. My only exposure to Timberland is through the pair of work boots I bought last fall. They’ve served me well during the past year, and I’d be happy to purchase Timberland again. (Decent website, catalog available)
- Hartmann (Tennessee, 1877) for luggage. They even have some cases that George Bailey might have liked. (Good website, catalog available.)
- Duluth Pack (Duluth, 1882) for bags, packs, and camping gear. The web site has some keen-looking stuff. (Good website, catalog available.)
- Tilley Endurables (Toronto, 1984) for hats and travel clothing. I intend to order at least one Tilley hat before the end of the year. I admire their products. (Good website, catalog available.)
- Akubra Hats (Australia, 1874) for hats. Many of these look too, well, Aussie for me, but I’m willing to spend more time at the site. Lord knows I love hats. (Poor website, no catalog.)
- Geier Glove (Seattle, 1927) for gloves. These gloves look durable and stylish. (Good website, no catalog.)
- Hardy (England, 1879, “Tackling the world”) for fishing supplies. I’m not a fisherman, but some of this stuff still looks appealing. (Fair website, no catalog.)
- Frost River (Duluth, “Reliable softgoods”) for all sorts of outdoor supplies. This would probably be a good place to stock up on camping equipment. (Good website, catalog available.)
- Bosca (Ohio, “Accessories in leather”) for leather goods. All of Bosca’s stuff looks tempting. (Fair website, no catalog.)
- Breitling (Switzerland, 1884, “Instruments for professionals”) for watches. I’m not sure these are the sorts of watches I want. I’d love a pocketwatch! (Terrible website, no catalog.)
- Gandolfini (England, 1885) for large-format cameras. In my dream world (the world where I have unlimited funds), I’d shoot only large format. (Poor website, no catalog.)
- Apple Computer (California, 1976) for high-quality geek products. (Excellent website, including on-line store.)
- Stickley (New York, 1900, “Collector quality furniture since 1900″) for furniture. I’m currently shopping for a new chair for my library. I’ve considered a Stickley piece. (Decent website with fun extras (including a video tour), catalogs available for a price.)
Paper Products, Etc.
- Waterman (Paris, 1883) for pens. I’ve never purchased and expensive pen of any sort. (I’d probably lose one if I did.) I don’t know if the extra cost purchases extra quality. (Weak website, no catalog.)
- My father-in-law recommends Fountain Pen Hospital (New York, 1946, “The showcase of fine writing instruments”) for “many brands of high end fountain pens and other writing instruments. You will no longer think that Waterman pens are expensive after visiting this site.” (Good website, catalog available.)
- Moleskine notebooks are fantastic, but there is no one centralized source for infromation on them. (This site is good.) Last April I bought ~20 moleskines for 50% off at a going-out-of-business sale. I was in heaven.
- Smythson of Bond Street (London, 1887) for paper products, including bespoke stationery and featherweight paper. Expensive, but appealing. (Good website, catalog available.)
- Dempsey & Carroll (New York, 1878) is another stationeer. I’m tempted to try them. (Decent website, no catalog.)
- Library of America (New York, 1979, “America’s best and most significant writing in durable and authoritative editions”) for classic American books. I own several LoA volumes, and have been impressed by each. (Great website, catalog available, subscription available.)
- Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, 1976) is an outstanding publisher of graphic novels and comic-strip reprints, including The Complete Peanuts. (Great website, catalog available.)
- The Criterion Collection for feature-laden, authoritative film transfers to DVD. If you must ever choose between a Criterion version of a film and a non-Criterion version, choose the former. My Criterion edition of Rushmore is a treasure. (Decent website, no catalog.)
- History Shots (Boston, 2004?) creates wonderful timelines and charts. They currently have ten prints available. I own Race to the Moon and History of U.S. Political Parties. I covet the others, including the most recent: The Genealogy of Pop and Rock Music. (Fantastic website, which incorporates an on-line catalog.)
- Bob’s Red Mill (Portland, “Whole grain foods for every meal of the day”) for inexpensive, quality cereals, flours, and more. I just visited the actual Bob’s Red Mill store last weekend &mash; it is barely five miles from my home — and bought a case of my favorite cereal. (Great website, no catalog.)
- Glory Bee Foods (Eugene, 1979) for natural foods and crafts. Excellent honey. (Good website, catalog available.)
- Penzeys Spices (Wisconsin) for herbs, spices, and other kitchen goodness. (Fair website, catalog available.)
It might seem outrageous to pay $200 for a Filson bag when you can pick up a cheap generic bag for $10 at a thrift store. But that $190 packs a lot of wallop. My Filson bag is one of my most prized possessions. The key is to not devote yourself to these luxury goods. Don’t buy these all the time. (And don’t go into debt to buy them.) These are treats. These are things with which to reward yourself. But if you buy one or two nice items a year, it doesn’t take long to build a collection that will last a lifetime.
If you want the best of both worlds — quality goods at frugal prices — use eBay to locate used items from these companies. For example, you might search for vintage Woolrich.
If you know of other sources of quality goods, please let me know. I’d especially love to find a source for globes.
- Birkenstock (US) (Germany, 1897) for quality footwear. I’ve worn these every summer for over 15 years. (Fair website, no catalog.)
- Crane & Co. (Massachusetts, 1801) for stationary, paper goods, and desk accessories. This stuff looks awesome. (Good website, no catalog.)