A different kind of budget

I was thinking about budgets today. I’ve never used them. Instead, I stick to a general rule about finding the cheapest way of doing something without compromising too much on quality.

Suppose the typical cost of air travel between NYC and London is $800. If you find an alternative flight for $650 but this flight takes an hour longer to get there, you would be wise to take the cheaper option (assuming you can’t make $150 or more during an hour on the ground). The saving of $150 is worth taking because the quality of your trip is not sufficiently reduced. If, however, the cheaper deal were to result in three connecting flights, an overnight stay or passage on a pirate ship, the sacrifice of quality would negate the saving of $150.

From this emerges a different kind of budget: one that focuses on quality rather than money. Where a conventional budget asks you to consider how much money you are willing to sacrifice on a given exploit, my kind of budget asks how much quality you’re prepared to sacrifice in order to get the most cost-effective version available (the cheapest option available within your quality budget).

For another example, my tailored suit cost £600. I could have had one made from a more expensive fabric for £1000, or I could have bought a non-tailored one for as little as £75.

I didn’t choose the £600 suit because it satisfied a pre-determined ≤£600 budget. I chose it because the advantage of buying a better quality cloth was negligible. The one I had chosen was aesthetically pleasing, highly durable and better fabric than that of anyone else in my office. It was the best I could reasonably expect to need, so anything better (the £1000 option) would be waste. Moreover, any off-the-peg option, no matter how financially cheap, would fall outside of my quality budget. In my opinion, I had found the best ratio of cost to quality.

So, in a way, I do use budgets after all. I just spend ‘quality’ rather than ‘money’. A budget of this nature would allow you to consistently find the cheapest option (defaulting to our original ‘general rule’) without compromising your personal expectations of quality.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at www.wringham.co.uk/about.

2 Responses to “A different kind of budget”

  1. […] The high cost is partly due the expensive time of year for transatlantic flights, but an August trip allows us to enjoy the Edinburgh Festival Fringe so we’re reluctant to change our dates. (Such a cut-back would compromise the quality of the trip, resulting in the illusion of economy). […]

  2. […] 2. Frugality need not exclude expensive purchases. You can afford the finest essentials if you stop buying poor quality things that need to be replaced all the time (highstreet clothes and sweatshop shoes) and things that serve only to distract and rot the mind (computer games, convenience food). The purpose of spending more money on a bespoke suit or the finest beers known to science is that the quality is better and you’ll get more out of them. Remember your quality budget. […]

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