Buy it for life: Choosing quality over price

Note: This is a substantial re-write of an article I first published more than twelve years ago. (Yikes, I’m old!) I’ve opted to keep some of the older comments if they had good suggestions.

Earlier this week, I wrote about my quest for quality pajamas. I recently paid $80 to purchase a pair from Filson, a company I trust for well-made goods. It’s my hope that these will be the last pair of pajamas that I ever purchase. My goal was to “buy it for life”.

This experience reminded me of two other companies that I love for their top-notch stuff.

  • The first is a company called Best Made, which aims to make and sell “the finest, most beautiful and useful products made by any company anywhere”. And they do. Best Made offers an esoteric collection of clothing and household items, all of which offer quality reminiscent of your grandmother’s era. The catch? The quality comes at a higher cost.
  • Or there’s the Portland-based Schoolhouse company (formerly Schoolhouse Electric), which makes and sells a variety of lighting, hardware, and furniture for the home. I’ve purchased a few things from Schoolhouse over the years, and I’ve been blown away by the quality. The items were expensive up front and I was hesitant to purchase them, but my reservations have vanished with time and usage. The blanket covering my feet at this very moment, for example, cost $250 (I think) but will last the rest of my life.

Here’s something I’ve learned over the past fifteen years: 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 (or at least a decade).

Today, let’s talk a little about choosing quality over price. Let’s talk about the “buy it for life” philosophy.

Buy It for Life

How to Find the Good Stuff

The first challenge is to figure out how to find the good stuff. When you’re ready to make a purchase, how can you know which items are quality and which are run of the mill?

Sometimes you’ll know which company offers a high-quality version of whatever it is you need to buy, either from personal experience or from paying attention to friends and family. Or, if you don’t know off the top of your head, you know whom to ask for more information. If I wanted to buy audio gear, for instance, I’d ask my brother. He’s an audiophile and could steer me in the right direction.

Most of the time, however, you’ll have to do some research.

When it comes time for me to make a major purchase, the first resource I turn to is Consumer Reports. I’ve been a CR subscriber on and off since I graduated from college in 1991. I trust their reviews, especially the comprehensive evaluations online. (The magazine doesn’t have room to go into depth.)

When Kim and I bought our country cottage, for instance, I used Consumer Reports to figure out which tools to purchase for the yard and garden. (I ended up choosing an EGO electric mower, along with the company’s string trimmer and hedge trimmer.)

For smaller items, I use Amazon to guide my decisions. Deciphering Amazon reviews is something of an art. I make sure to always read the one-star reviews in order to learn if there’s anything drastically wrong with a product. I’ve also devised my own rough guide to parsing Amazon reviews:

  • Five stars is equivalent to an A.
  • Four and a half stars is the same as a B.
  • Four stars is roughly a C. (From my experience, most Amazon items earn four stars.)
  • Three and a half stars is a D. I try not to purchase anything rated this low but sometimes there’s no alternative.
  • Three stars and below is the same as an F. I never purchase products rated three stars or below.

One final resource for finding quality products is the /r/BuyItForLife forum on Reddit. /r/BIFL allows users to share items they own that are durable, practical, proven, and built to last. Here’s the /r/BIFL compilation of kitchen essentials, for instance. You can find more lists like that in the /r/BIFL sidebar.

One GRS reader recently noted that choosing quality over price is a luxury reserved for the rich. People who are struggling to get by are often forced to take the cheapest option, even if it costs more in the long run. That’s an interesting observation.

Where to Buy It for Life

Over the past decade or so, I’ve compiled a mental list of companies that I feel sell wonderful products. Below is a list of a few of my favorites. (Most of these are clothing companies, for some reason. Maybe because I buy clothes more often than, say, furniture?)

  • Filson (Seattle, 1897, “Might as well have the best”) sells outdoor clothing, hats, bags, and accessories. I own two Filson hats, a Filson vest, a Filson jacket, Filson pajamas, and several Filson bags. Each piece was spendy but worth it. Filson makes high-quality products.
  • Patagonia (California, 1965, “Committed to the core”) makes active outdoor clothing and gear. I own a couple of Patagonia jackets and a couple of travel shirts. They’ve served me well. (Sale items.)
  • Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) (Seattle, 1938) is a outdoor gear co-op that’s very popular in the Pacific Northwest. I own tons of REI gear, including my favorite travel backpack. They’re one of my favorite companies. (Sale items.)
  • Pendleton Woolen Mills (Portland, 1909, “Good for life”) makes and sells shirts and blankets. Before the damn dog ate it, I owned one Pendleton hat that I wore frequently. I’ve owned Pendleton shirts, and have always been impressed. (Sale items.)
  • Stetson (complicated history) is best known for its hats and boots, but they offer offer other items as well. I own one Stetson oilcloth cap (no longer available) that I picked up in the Normandy region of France on a cold and windy afternoon. (Sale items.)
  • Timberland (Boston, “Make it better”) makes footwear, it’s true, but they offer a lot of other products too. In 2007, I bought a pair of Timberland hiking boots. I love them. I’m now nearing the end of my second pair. (Sale items.)
  • Icebreaker (New Zealand, 1995) makes merino wool clothing. Long-time readers know that I’m an Icebreaker fan. I own a couple of their jackets, a cap, some socks, and probably 20 different t-shirts. (For real!) Just yesterday, I bought a long-sleeve button-down shirt from Icebreak for an upcoming winter trip to Austria and Hungary. (Sale items.)
  • Birkenstock (Germany, 1897) makes quality footwear. In college, I started wearing the Milano sandals from Birkenstock. They’re my go-to summer shoe. I bought my last pair in Key West, Florida during our RV trip. I’ll need to get a new pair next year. (Sale items.)
  • Land’s End (Chicago, 1963) is a popular mail-order clothing supplier. When I was younger, I owned a lot of their stuff, but somehow forgot about them. I recently placed my first Land’s End order in a long time. (Sale items.)
  • Stickley (New York, 1900, “Collector quality furniture since 1900”) makes classic fine furniture. Much of the modern Get Rich Slowly has been written from a Stickley Morris recliner. During the depths of the Great Recession — just after I sold this blog — I purchased four Stickley pieces at deep discounts. I love them.
  • Tom Bihn (Seattle, 1972) makes awesome bags and backpacks specifically designed for people who travel or who are on the go. I own The Maker’s Bag and love it. Kim loves it too. In fact, I had to buy her one so that she would leave mine alone. (We also have their dog training bag.)
  • Apple (California, 1976) has grown from a company with a cult-like following to a respected manufacturer of quality computers. I converted in the early 2000s, and I don’t regret it. Their machines are expensive, but they’re very well made. (And you know what? They run Windows too!) Most of my life is spent in front of a Mac screen. Sad but true. (Sale items.)

This list isn’t intended to be comprehensive. These are the companies I know and have used in the past. I’m sure I’ve left out plenty of fine places. If there’s a firm you feel ought to be included in this list, let me know in the comments.

I had lunch with my cousin yesterday. When I told him I was writing this article, he shared his experience looking for quality clothing. He recently lost a lot of weight and had to replace his entire wardrobe.

“I can afford to buy things new,” Nick told me, “but I don’t like to pay that much. I’ve been shopping at thrift stores to find the same stuff for much less. And you know what? I really do think the famous name brands do tend to have better quality.” (Nick is like the anti-consumer, so this observation means something coming from him.)

See also: How to shop at thrift stores for quality clothing over at The Luxe Strategist.

The Good Stuff (According to GRS Readers)

As I was preparing this piece, it occurred to me that I ought to ask folks on Facebook and Twitter where they go to find the good stuff. When do they choose to “buy it for life”? I received a lot of responses!

Quality vs Price Question

Some people offered suggestions on how to buy it life. Here, from the GRS Facebook group, are three top tips:

Advice for buying quality goods

Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme had some good advice for determining whether any given item is considered quality by the people who own it: Check eBay to see if it’s retained its value.

Check eBay to see if things have retained value

I took the time to sift through the roughly one hundred replies I received on social media. While this was by no means a scientific survey, the responses were interesting.

First, it’s clear that people are willing to pay a premium for certain classes of products.

  • I was shocked by the number of people praising footwear. We all want comfortable, quality shoes, and when we find them, we remain loyal to the companies who provide them. I love my Timberlands, for instance, but others are willing to pay extra for Dr. Martens or Merrell. Keen was the most-recommended shoe company in my survey. Some smaller shoe companies like Trask and Samuel Hubbard received rave reviews. (A few folks mentioned socks, specifically Bombas and Darn Tough.)
  • Sleep is also important. Some people recommended pillows or sheets, but most focused on their mattress. Tempur-Pedic garnered the most mentions. (When we moved in together, Kim and I shopped for a high-quality mattress. I think we chose Tempur-Pedic also, but I’m not willing to strip the bedding to find out.)
  • People are also willing to pay more to ease life in the kitchen. Several people raved about their Vitamix blenders. Mostly, though, folks mentioned their knives. I own (and love) a chef’s knife from Shun, as do a couple of other readers. Others, like my ex-wife, prefer Henckel knives. Justin from Root of Good offered an awesome alternative. His family buys Kiwi knives from Thailand at $3 or $4 each. (They go for $9 on Amazon, which is still a great deal.) All knife lovers agree on one thing: The best way to make your life easier is to sharpen your blades!
  • Several women, including my girlfriend, told me they’re willing to pay a premium for high-quality cosmetics. But each person cited a different brand of cosmetics that they’re loyal to. Because I’m a boy and know nothing about this stuff, I’m not going to link to any one company. (But you can in the comments below.)
  • Lastly, outdoor gear proved popular in my poll. Many people like Arc’teryx (a brand I’ve never tried). Others praised Patagonia or REI or L.L. Bean.

Some readers zeroed in on very specific items.

Whitney Hansen, the Money Nerd, likes a particular “adventure blanket”. Long-time reader Tyler K says Benjamin Moore paints are so amazing that he’ll never buy paint from a hardware store again. Another reader recommended Casio G-Shock watches. Several people were fans of Hydro Flask. (Me too! I own three of their water bottles and think they’re amazing.) And a lot of people seem to think Otter Box phone cases are essential.

But can you guess the number-one company that GRS readers turn to for quality products? It’s the biggest tech company in the world: Apple. Apple didn’t used to be known for quality. (In fact, their quality was crap twenty years ago.) Now, though, things have changed. Apple quality has won converts like me — and you.

Apple makes good products

Finally, several people mentioned that they do their best to buy products with lifetime warranties. Then, if they break or something goes wrong, they can get a replacement. (Leah Ingram maintains a list of companies with lifetime warranties.) By purchasing items with a lifetime warranty, you’re making certain that “buy it for life” is literal, not figurative!

Quality Is Part of a Rich Life

One follower on Twitter took me to task for tackling this topic. He believes that talking about spending more to purchase quality items is tantamount to encouraging consumerism. Like I said the other day, I do sometimes worry that this sort of thing crosses the line to lifestyle inflation.

Most of the time, however, I think choosing quality is a smart financial decision.

Meanwhile, Liz from Frugalwoods has written in the past that the “buy it for life” philosophy can be problematic. If you’re buying the best of everything, that’s an issue. You should only buy the best when thing your buying is an important part of your lifestyle. (Why spend a ton on something you rarely use?) And what about changing fashion and priorities?

I believe that buying well-made things, things that “spark joy” when used, is part of living a Rich Life. Most of us don’t aim to be ascetics. We’re not frugal for the sake of frugality. We’ve scrimped and saved and worked hard to build wealth precisely so that we can spend money on products that make our lives easier and/or more enjoyable. There’s nothing wrong with that.

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There are 71 comments to "Buy it for life: Choosing quality over price".

  1. Melissa A. says 26 September 2006 at 06:44

    I am a big supporter of quality products. Sure, you sometimes pay more, but you save money in the long run by not having to buy a new item every year. Cheap equals disposable in my book. I love MEC. We’re lucky to have a store in Halifax. I bought a purse and a bookbag there. The prices are good and I know it will last a long time. I also don’t skimp when it comes to shoes. Anything that is going to get a lot of use is worth spending the extra money on.

  2. Jason B. says 26 September 2006 at 06:59

    Excellent list – thank you! I have recently begun to change over to buying quality. It means I buy less (because I can’t afford as many items) and also that I think about each purchase more, because I know I’ll be living with it for a long time.

    I like the Library of America. I joined their subscription service and set my frequency of new books to every 90 days. This puts the cost at about 10 bucks a month, and I am gradually building up a library of quality books. (Plus, every 90 days lets me keep read each one before the new one comes in.)

    I’d also like to throw in an endorsement for Moleskine notebooks. They’re more expensive than standard school supply notebooks (about $10 for the pocket size, $15 for the larger size), but they’re more durable, look better, and have better quality paper. If you are a list-maker, note-taker, or journal -keeper (I am all three), you’ll rapidly find your Moleskines becoming indispensable companions.

  3. Susan says 26 September 2006 at 07:06

    My mother’s side of the family is very New England, making LL Bean a staple for us–not so much for clothes as for everything else, though, for me. Their tote bags are basically indestructible, and their backpacks are the best around. I would presume their clothes probably fall into the same categories.

    Their guarantee is famous–until the item has worn out and you’re still satisfied with it, you can return it. I wouldn’t know how well they honor it, because I’ve never had to return anything.

    • Joe says 25 October 2018 at 08:33

      The LL Bean backpacks are awesome. That’s worth paying extra for. The cheap big box store backpacks only last one year. My son used the LL Bean backpacks for 3 years already and it’s still in good shape.

      • J.D. says 25 October 2018 at 09:42

        See, you DO agree with this philosophy, Joe! 🙂

      • Liz Hull says 08 February 2019 at 20:08

        I bought my girls backpacks from LLBean. 4 5 grades later they are still going strong! I use mine for travel and recently had fellow travelers laughing saying my bag was bigger than I was, lol. I fit a 3 day work trip in my deluxe LLB backpack!

  4. Melissa A. says 26 September 2006 at 08:04

    I love Birks! I bought my first pair this summer, and they were not on sale, but well worth it. I wish we had L.L. Bean in Canada. I am too cheap to pay for shipping and customs 😉

  5. ellie says 26 September 2006 at 08:32

    Count me among the Birks devotees.

    There is a catalog through Birkenstock Express (find it here Their website has a bargains page (find it here — just a quick glance at my shoe size reveals a pair regularly priced at $170 marked down to $77. As an added bonus, Birkenstock Express is a local (for me, anyway) company with stores in Portland, Corvallis, and Eugene.

    • Liz Hull says 08 February 2019 at 20:11

      Love my Birks! I have a pair I wear all summer for the past 4 summers.

  6. Beck says 26 September 2006 at 09:15

    Careful with Birks – I love them and wear them all the time, but they’re expensive and I go through a pair in about a year. (My current pair, bought about a year ago, has very rusty buckles and the soles are coming apart from the main body of the sandle).

  7. Fazal Majid says 26 September 2006 at 13:25

    What, no mention of Crane’s ( for stationery? What a travesty!

  8. Diatryma says 26 September 2006 at 13:40

    I got a Waterman Phileas fountain pen through Fountain Pen Hospital. I’m not a hardcore pen junkie, but I like fountain pens.
    Ye gods. The pen is AMAZING. I get little thrills of joy every time I use it, because it’s smooth and lovely and makes my handwriting better.

    Then again, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t lose My Pens. I still have one that’s nearly eight years old, though the cap has disintegrated.

    Other pricey luxuries that are nevertheless worth it: for perfume people, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Thinky perfume people, at least. They’re very involved scents.

    • Ariana L White says 26 October 2018 at 14:55

      I second Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab! Wonderful stuff. Also a fan of Tokyomilk. Neither company is very expensive compared to designer perfumes and their stuff smells fantastic. It’s one of those quality of life things…

  9. Zack says 26 September 2006 at 13:45

    This article reminded me of a similar ‘Cheap Vs. Frugal’ comparison awhile back at

    I generally err on the cheap side until I get burned or see recommendations like the above. One of my personal must-haves is very simple: good Orange Juice. I don’t need super-premium $5 a cup Odwalla…but Tropicana is so much better than the generic milk-gallon store brand that I don’t mind paying extra. Plus, whenever I get the cheap stuff it inevitably sits in the fridge until it gets stale and I just throw it out. And that’s not saving me any in the long term…

    Link to the cheap vs. frugal is…

  10. HC says 26 September 2006 at 14:18

    I second the love for Crane’s. One day I am going to buy nothing but their navy initial correspondance cards.

    And every once in awhile, I’ll spend the extra $3 and get an artisanal, high-cacao, chocolate bar. Soooo gooood.

  11. Michael M says 26 September 2006 at 16:53

    If it’s good, buy two (or three).

    I got a pair of nice solid rockports in 1998 or so. They have a solid leather upper and a rubber sole, with a removeable insole.

    I first wore them to church and formal school events, then to school, then everywhere, and then for camping and hiking. They always cleaned up well, and held up great. They’ve gotten wet and been dried out so many times…

    Now, 8 years later the upper is still in great condition, but the bottom is nearly worn through. Rockport still has what is supposed to be the same model, but the leather isn’t as good and it doesn’t seem as sturdy.

    The replacement shoes I bought this spring (not Rockports) had the sole separate from the uppers in less than a month, and I didn’t even take them hiking.

    When you find something well made, buy two if you can. When that thing finally wears out, you may not be able to find a suitable replacement.

  12. Xavier says 26 September 2006 at 21:53

    Don’t forget that manufacturers like the ones listed here often offer lifetime warranties on their wares. REAL lifetime warranites, not like the pseudo lifetime warranties you see on infomercials. I used to buy all of my backpacks and luggage from Eddie Bauer. When the bag would start to wear out or any part of it broke I would bring it back to the store and they would happily give me a new one.
    I agree- buy value, not cheap stuff.

  13. AC says 15 November 2006 at 14:26

    If you’re tired of your Birks, try Mephistos – my family all wore Birks forever, but my mum finally got a pair of Mephistos and we haven’t looked back. Also European, they are slightly more expensive (around $150 CAD I believe), but they offer much-improved arch support, many styles and colors, and they seem to wear better. I also like that they don’t make my feet look as wide as in my Birks! Try the ‘Helen’ style for a classic, elegant summer sandal – I love mine in the brown pebbled leather.

  14. Max Amsterdam says 06 December 2006 at 04:46

    Wonderful to stumble onto your site after secretly shopping for filson + clothing + second hand. It is great to come accross a kindred spirit who has exactly the same take on consumerism as I do; if you are going to splurge, make sure it’s on stuff that’s good and that will last! And Filson is way ahead in the indestructibility game so buying it second hand is usually a safe bet. (here I go spilling the beans and creating competition… oh well!)

  15. Peter says 17 December 2006 at 19:27

    I agree with AC, mephisto shoes are quite expensive(an average pair of men’s dress shoes is about $250 US), but its quality is superb. personally i only wear mephisto and ECCO, to me ECCO is just as comfortable as mephisto, and they are comparatively more stylish than the classic styles carried by mephisto. I have had a pair of birks and they didn’t adjust to my feet quite well, perhaps i recommend trying on all 3 brands and decide yourself.

    For fountain pens, i think the author meant that you wouldn’t find “waterman” pens expensive after comparing with names like montblanc and ST dupont(the obvious), along with rest of the exotic names like Omas, Aurora, Visconti, Montagrappa, Pelikan, Nekki, etc. the limited edition/special edition ones have appreciation potential, therefore their prices are at least in the high hundres to even several hundred thousand(eg, montblanc 2002 release: year of the golden dragon 8, only 8 pieces were produced). For myself, i have a montblanc 149 with the matching desktop set(inkwell, pen holder) from the 80s, still a smooth writer. When i’m on the move, i use the stylish Smythson sterling silver fountain pen (by Yard-o-led) that i picked up from England last year, couldn’t have been happier.

    • FrugalStrong says 28 October 2018 at 16:46

      My husband is a commercial airline pilot and Eccos are the footwear of choice for nearly all the pilots. And then do a lot of walking!

  16. J.D. says 05 March 2007 at 07:45

    Though I have not experienced them first hand, I’m intrigued by Mercer and Sons‘ shirts. Certainly something to keep on my wish list.

  17. Anne says 22 March 2007 at 18:34

    Personally, I don’t think Waterman’s quality lives up to the price. I recommend Pelikan and Montegrappa. Yeah, they’re pricey, but take care of them and you’ll love them forever. Don’t buy one of Montblanc’s resin pens if you think there’s a chance you’ll ever drop it–they crack or even shatter if dropped on a hard surface.

    For personal stationery, I love Pineider.

  18. FG says 22 March 2007 at 21:45

    Try for some of the best pen prices around. No affiliation, but a frequent (too frequent, for a frugal-aspirant!) and happy customer.

    Pelikans and Moleskines are sweet, and like the value of laser printers over inkjet ones, I think fountain pens are a better deal over the long run than disposable (ballpoint) pens.

    Crane’s is just a treat. 😀

  19. Krzysztof says 29 May 2012 at 12:45

    A little late to the party here but I would highly recommend Cutco knives, made in the US and guaranteed for life. (they now sharpen them for free in your home instead of having you pay $8 for shipping)

  20. Matt says 01 October 2012 at 15:40

    Filson is great. No mention of Duluth? As for footwear, no mention of Chippewa, Red-wing, or Thorogood, and Wesco for boots!? – I wouldn’t touch that cheap timberland crap, max life of a year under working conditions! The 4 above names are all made in USA and they even offer custom sizing to your exact specifications (Wesco has a 5 page instruction page on how to measure your foot in 3 dimensions so they can make a perfect boot for your foot.)

    • Sandi Kay says 25 October 2018 at 21:12

      Redwing has a lot of Chinese-made boots these days. Synthetic uppers, less cushioning, clearly more cheaply made than in yesteryear. It’s sad to see them trading on their reputation of years gone by. 🙁

  21. Carol in Mpls says 24 October 2018 at 11:55

    Some of my favorites include:
    * Riccar vacuums — my 2nd, and last vacuum cleaner (made in USA); metal plates on the bottom, good suction, can use for both hardwood & carpet; specialty tools included
    * Munro shoes for women — their prices have gone up, but the quality is very good, and they have every single size possible, I think (also made in USA)
    * OXO kitchen tools — I have arthritis in my hands, and their tools are nicely ergonomic, fairly priced, and really help with some specific tasks I have some difficulty with
    * Think! sandals — made in Europe, the soles are perfectly shaped for my high arch/high instep feet

    • FrugalStrong says 28 October 2018 at 16:44

      I have a Riccar vacuum and love it. I went into the vacuum cleaner store to buy a Dyson and came out with that due to the salesman’s recommendation. He said they see a lot of issues with Dyson.

  22. Darren W. says 24 October 2018 at 12:09

    I have to strenuously disagree about Apple. Their products are designed to be disposable. Not buy-it-for-life but keep-buying-it-every-year-for-life. They intentionally block third-party repairs ( and actively lobby against right-to-repair laws (

    • Taras R says 26 October 2018 at 07:06

      I strenuously second your disagree)

  23. S.G. says 24 October 2018 at 14:35

    I see what you did there, goosing your comment total by pulling in old comments. And even then, none of them mine. I swear like 10% of your comments from 2006 should be from me. 😛

    A plug for Land’s End: Most of my regular clothes are from Land’s End because they have a women’s tall that is for legitimately tall women. I was just on their website about an hour ago looking at their clearance section for my daughter.

    • dh says 24 October 2018 at 20:54

      S.G., do we ever get to know *exactly* how tall you are??

      • dh says 24 October 2018 at 20:56

        Sorry, that’s a Tinder question lmao.

      • S.G. says 25 October 2018 at 06:09

        6’0″ in bare feet. The mister is 6’8″.

        • dh says 25 October 2018 at 07:18

          Dang, your kids hit the genetic lottery!

        • dh says 25 October 2018 at 07:46

          And I’ll stop asking Tinder questions now that I know the mister is 6’8″. A thousand pardons, m’lady:

  24. Cofrog says 24 October 2018 at 14:52

    Maui Jim sunglasses are wonderful and so is their warranty. Pricey, but a pair will last you forever and the quality is top notch.

    I would second OXO kitchen tools. Not the cheapest (or the most expensive) but really do a great job. America’s Test Kitchen is always raving about them in their equipment tests.

    On the other hand, I will buy some cheap clothes from Target or Old Navy. As a women, sometimes I want to buy a trendy piece. I’ve learned, trendy pieces should always be cheap. That way when you get tired of them or want something new, you don’t feel bad b/c you didn’t pay much. That being said- this is only for a few items in my closet.

  25. Sequentiakady says 24 October 2018 at 15:22

    To join my paper and pen friends here … just as when you buy a phone, tablet, or computer, you get what you pay for when you go analog.

    Forget those el-cheapo ballpoint pens!

    Unibal Signo 207 gel pens. They just write wonderfully, and the blx colors’ ink is fraud resistant.

    Zebra Sarasa. They also write wonderfully smooth, and there’s a line with fast drying ink for lefties!

    Starter Fountain Pen — Platinum Preppy F nib or Monami Olika F nib. (Great value for about $5.)

    “I’m going to commit to this fountain pen thing” Fountain Pen — Lamy Safari “Kein Design schreibt besser” (no design writes better) indeed.

    FP Ink — Noodler’s Bulletproof if you want security. Platinum blue-black as a daily driver. (Always find something with some degree of water resistance in FP ink … it doesn’t matter how pretty the color is if it’s just going to run off of the page with the slightest splash of water and/or a really hard sneeze.)

    If you Bullet Journal, I like the following notebooks:
    Apica “Paris” or Kokuyo Campus with the dot line — they are just the right size to fit in most bags and not super heavy. Paper is high quality.

    If you want a notepad:
    Rhodia dot pad. Yes, Rhodia is the “rolls royce” of paper and you’ll find yourself just “petting” the page. But, most important of all, the frelling perforations actually WORK! The paper tears where it is supposed to. Period.

    You can find all of these things (and more!) at — a company whose service I’ve found to be tip-top. (Free shipping on orders over $25)

    • Melissa says 25 October 2018 at 06:11

      I LOVE Uniball Signo 207s! I am using one right now as I jot down my to-do list at work. I wish the micro (.5mm) came in more colors. Whenever I see a multipack in stores, I always grab one.

    • dh says 25 October 2018 at 09:56

      And then there’s the amazing Pigma Micron, the pen used (at least to some degree) for literally just about 100% of all comics still being hand drawn. It’s the best archival ink on the market, because it’s India ink.

      I’d say fully 80% of the comics you see in the funny papers are using the Pigma Micron in some capacity — whether that’s for lettering, lining out the panel borders, or even drawing the entire damn comic. Same goes for super-hero type comics that you see on the spin racks, almost all drawn at least partially with Pigma Microns.

      • dh says 25 October 2018 at 10:07

        P.S For a great example of the line quality that the Pigma Micron creates, see any cartoon by Gary Larson, who almost exclusively used Pigma Microns to draw The Far Side. Well, okay, if we’re being super technical, he used something called a Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph, which was the Pigma Micron of his day. But both pens produce the same style of line with the same quality archival ink.

        Gary Larson drawing The Far Side:

  26. Lynn M says 24 October 2018 at 15:25

    About the birks – don’t forget that those that contain cork, do need to be resealed regularly. I usually do it once a month. Also, you can have a foot bed replacement for around $75 (from footwear express) – just like new for less cost.

    • Steve says 25 October 2018 at 15:18

      Once a *month*?!

      That reminds me of K&N air filters for cars. In theory they last forever. In practice, you have to clean and re-oil them on about the same schedule as you would have replaced disposable filters, using a kit that costs about the same as disposable filters.

  27. KL says 24 October 2018 at 18:02

    Reima, a Finnish children’s clothing company, makes outdoor gear that lasts multiple children.

    I remember finding a tiny beginning of a tear on my second boy’s winter overall (a heavy use item given how they crawl and play) and being mildly frustrated until I looked at the name tag and realized he was the fifth 4-y-old wearing the same overall!

  28. VinTek says 24 October 2018 at 20:20

    This is really weird. Some of the comments on this post are over 12 YEARS OLD! What gives?

    • dh says 24 October 2018 at 20:33

      Oh man, you’re busted for not reading the full article!! 😉 JD explains it at the end.

    • J.D. says 25 October 2018 at 06:11

      Yeah, I’m going to have to find a way to flag that more effectively in the future. I explained it at the end of the article, but obviously that’s not very…well, obvious.

      This is an extensive re-write of an article from 2006. After I published Monday’s piece, I remembered this one existed. I looked at it and decided I’d spend a few hours (six, in the end) revising it and updating it for 2018. When I did, I decided to keep about half of the old comments because they were substantive.

      I’ll look for a better solution in the future. 🙂

      • Steve says 25 October 2018 at 15:16

        Maybe you could flag it at the beginning instead of the end? Once I read the note I was instilled with deja-vu; in fact I’m almost surprised I didn’t comment back in 2006.

        • Steve says 25 October 2018 at 18:32

          Oh, you only kept the *good* comments. That explains it! 😛

  29. dh says 24 October 2018 at 20:41

    I’ll mention a few shoe options for anyone who wants great support:

    1) Chaco Sandals. These have a better reputation than even Birkenstocks (among hard-core travelers).

    2) Brooks sneakers. Best arch support on the market, especially their Addiction Walkers, which are the most widely used shoes in the service industry (UPS, FedEx, etc).

    SAS dress shoes. This company makes dress shoes that you can wear to a wedding or funeral, yet they feel like the Brooks sneakers mentioned above. Seriously, you could exercise in them — do your daily walk in them, maybe even jog in them!

    • dh says 24 October 2018 at 20:43

      3) SAS*

    • S.G. says 25 October 2018 at 06:11

      Brooks also go to size 16 in their Beast line. Not that I need to know that about shoe companies…

      • dh says 25 October 2018 at 07:36

        Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what Henry Philip “Hank” McCoy wears.

  30. Kathy says 25 October 2018 at 05:12

    I…agree? But I would like to point out that, depending on your location, you can get all of these things and more at the local thrift store. Especially furniture. The stuff built in the 40-60s are solid as a brick (or much more easily fixable) and so much cheaper than a regular store.

  31. Kate says 25 October 2018 at 07:32

    I’m a big fan of quality for products I use all the time. I like to cook so quality pots and pans are important to me in addition to knives that other have mentioned.

    I’ve had the same Americraft waterless cookware set for about 10 years now. They look and cook like brand new. Americraft is made in WI (I think) and they have a lifetime warranty as well that transfers to descendants (there may be some limits, but I couldn’t quote those). They were expensive but so very worth it for me.

    Cast iron skillets have passed generation to generation in my family too. I currently use my grandmother’s and my sister has my great-grandmother’s.

  32. Joe says 25 October 2018 at 08:32

    I don’t agree with this buying philosophy at all. A girl told me about “buy it for life” 20 years ago and I didn’t like it then. My response was – come on, you’ll get tired of it before long. How many things do you really use for life?
    The brand name premium is too high. You can guy medium quality stuff for a lot cheaper. Keen sandals are nice, but I just got Atika for $20. The quality is almost as high as Keen and they’re more comfortable.
    It’s the same for almost everything you can buy. If you spend a little time to research, you can find okay quality stuff for much cheaper.
    I don’t mind paying for nice cookware, though. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

  33. Amy says 25 October 2018 at 10:18

    There’s some subtlety to this argument that might require consideration – nothing will last for life if you don’t dedicate time and effort to take care of it and, in the case of clothes, you may well get bored of wearing it or outgrow it in some way before it reaches the end of its life.

    I don’t have a lot of time to spend thrifting, but some of the clothes and purchases I’ve loved the most have been second hand, name brand items. (This sentiment applies to furniture too, second hand tools I haven’t delved into.) That seems to hit to the sweet spot of quality, price and risk of not using it as much as I thought I would for whatever reason for me. However these finds don’t happen very often as I don’t spend the time it really would require to build my wardrobe or life that way.

  34. Lisa Z says 25 October 2018 at 11:45

    About 5 years ago I splurged on a pair of $99 Uggs slippers. That was a lot for me to spend, but they were beautiful and I gave them to myself as a Christmas gift. Well, they still look beautiful and are in near-perfect condition, making them a great investment. I might have bought five pairs of $20 each slippers in that time, and each pair would have barely lasted a year. Now I have my eye on Ugg boots, since they’re no longer trendy I feel like I could wear them happily and I know they’ll last forever and keep my feet so warm.

  35. ron manuel says 26 October 2018 at 11:26

    If you like Consumer Reports, you’ll really like It’s now owned by the New York Times, and reviews extensively far more items than Consumer Reports.

    Two companies I haven’t seen mentioned:

    Tivo–best DVRs with the best user interface

    Sonos–I switched from receiver/amplifier/traditional speakers a few years ago to these great speakers that receive music by your home wifi a number of years ago.

    • Melissa S Wiley says 26 October 2018 at 13:11

      Wirecutter is my bible when I need to buy something. I’ve checked with them for things as simple as a lunchbox, up to buy humidifiers and air purifiers. They recently posted Gifts for Kids by age range, and I basically bought my nieces’ and nephews’ xmas gifts from their recommendations.

  36. Matt says 26 October 2018 at 14:29

    I was surprised to not see tools mentioned either in the article or comments. That’s the prime application of this philosophy.

    Would grabbing your Ryobi/Rigid/Masterforce power drill work just fine? Sure. For how long? How reliably?
    What about running to Harbor Freight/Autozone to grab a new socket wrench because you snapped the head off your previous cheap one?

    Tools, to me, is a definite upfront splurge especially considering the much higher upfront cost than other most “buy it for life” items. It’s harder now-a-days where everything is less steel-based to cut costs, but the security in knowing that a tool will perform its function 5+ years down the line just as it did on day 1, is well…priceless.

  37. Ariana L White says 26 October 2018 at 15:03

    I want to recommend Marmot bags for design and durability because they offer a lifelong warranty with repair. The backpack I carry to work is designed to convert to a tote, is big enough for a laptop and lunch but actually manages to look small and stylish. I doubt I’ll ever stop carrying it for the rest of my career. The raincoat I have from the same company is great as well.

  38. Pat Ford says 26 October 2018 at 18:14

    In regard to shoes:
    I was a homecare personal support worker for 26 years and saw many seniors and disabled people with foot issues. There is a wide variety of foot shapes in the population. Go to a store that sells the better brands, get professionally fitted, and develop a short list of two to four brands that match your feet. Make these your first choice when shopping and take good care of what you buy. This is one of the very best things you can do for yourself. For myself this approach has minimized problems from work strain, arthritis and osteoporosis.

  39. Leah Ingram says 26 October 2018 at 19:29

    Thanks so much for mentioning my lifetime warranties article and linking to it. I really enjoyed reading this blog post!

  40. Gerhard says 27 October 2018 at 01:14

    I see Apple recommended a lot for laptops, but if you really want to BIFL, learn how to build your own desktop computer. Not only is it way cheaper than any Apple computer, it is also much faster, and easy to upgrade over the years (and it’s fun of course ;)).

    If you buy quality parts, some, such as the case, screen, keyboard and mouse, easily last over 10 years even if heavily used (I am a programmer). If your computer gets a bit slow, you only need to replace a couple of components to get it up to date again.

    My computer is 6 years old now, and so far I have only paid 40 euros to double my RAM to 16GB.

  41. Mid America Mom says 27 October 2018 at 14:59

    Hi! Surprise no mention of the TOTAL COST of replacement! Maybe in this era of online shopping — which I find only works for certain things for me– it is less of a consideration? Our 14yr old asked me to buy earbuds yesterday.. AGAIN… I swear every 3 months the kids (14 and 12) want new headphones or earbuds as one side will no longer work or some wires get exposed. I use the headphones occasionally so I let them pick and never complain about cost (but they are price conscious). I told them that I am getting tired of 1. spending gas in the vehicle to go to the xyz store to purchase new ones. 2. spending my time in the car and store to find and buy the earbuds. 3. shelling out $10 or more each time. So as a learning moment – “I am willing to pay more so we do not have to keep going through this. You need to look up better quality ones and we can get it.” “OK Mom” 🙂

  42. Clariza says 01 November 2018 at 14:44

    Jansport Backpacks! One I use for work for 5+ years doesn’t even have a stretched stich on it despite carrying 15 pounds of laptop, transcripts, documents, writing pads. Another I “stole” from my brother and taken to 5 countries and washed several times still looks new. They offer a lifetime guarantee but I wonder if they ever get returns.

    I second the “buy more than one” of things (1) you know you will need for years to come and (2) you’ve found a company that makes a great quality one.

    Also love LL Bean bags and Merrill shoes. Eddie Bauer has great quality clothing you can get for a steal at their outlet stores. I love getting something high quality during a great sale!

  43. Jennifer Harper says 19 March 2019 at 19:50

    Thank you for the list, and yes Binkerstocks are totally worth it, I’ve had mine for years maybe more than 5 and they still look good. One thing I think everyone should invest in is a good winter coat.

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