Are you upgrading your lifestyle, or simply trying to only buy quality items?

The problem I always have is this conflict between the struggle to NOT upgrade my lifestyle and to stick to being minimalist, which means buying much less but in higher quality.

Upgrading your lifestyle: is when you COULD live/make do with the cheaper option, but you choose the more expensive one.

Example: You decide to eat out in restaurants twice a month, rather than once a month.

Trying to buy quality items: is where you make a decision to buy less, but to spend more money so that you don’t have to keep replacing them.

Example: You decide to buy a very expensive, higher quality laptop rather than the quarter or half priced competitior.

Read: Why do we buy quality over quantity (The Everyday Minimalist)

The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive.


So while I’d been quite happy staying at Motel 6, Econolodge and other similarly-priced motels, I am realizing it is not worth being cheap over something like that.

Even staying one night in those hotels yields a few observations:

  1. You are more likely to be in the thick of the wrong element
  2. You will probably hear prostitutes on occasion
  3. There’s a lot more noise
  4. They’re in bad locations (by the highway and/or train tracks)
  5. They’re probably VERY drafty in winter

I am now at the point where I need to start staying at the Holiday Inn or Days Inn level when I travel, just one above Motel 6 or Econolodge.

I’m not going to start staying at the Hilton or the Marriott (still don’t feel like it’s worth it), let alone the W Hotel or the Four Seasons, but I have made a conscious decision to upgrade my lifestyle when I travel.

It’s going to cost me more, but the payoff I think, is worth it.


I used to buy jeans in the $20 – $50 range (mostly on sale), and the only pair I found that fit my flat butt well were originally $100 but marked down to $50 on sale. I wore them to death until I realized I needed to replace them.

I went all over town, to all the stores trying on jeans like a maniac in my price range until I threw in the towel and realized they didn’t exist. At least, not in this season.

So I waited another season.

And another.

Finally, I realized I’d never find them because most people seem to try to minimize or show off their butt, but not to enhance (their lack of) it. 😛

Enter: Citizens of Humanity Amber Mid-rise Bootcut.

I went into a store on a whim, tried on a pair suggested by an associate and realized I couldn’t leave without them. They were THE jeans I’d been looking for, but the price tag was 4 times my original budget ($200, if you must know).

I reasoned a few things:

  1. I only own and wear one pair of jeans — I don’t need or want variety
  2. I am picky about my jeans — dark rinse, straight-legged or bootcut, mid-rise
  3. I don’t like the fit of too-cheap jeans — too stretchy, too tight, weird decorations
  4. I also don’t like how too-cheap jeans don’t last.. and LOOK too-cheap.
  5. My old pair was almost due for the rag pile
  6. I spent 3 seasons looking for cheaper jeans

So I bit the bullet and bought them.

$200 later, and 2 years down the road, I am still wearing them carefully, making sure not to let them drag on the ground and get that dreaded ragged hem look and I couldn’t be happier (except now I’ve lost more weight and I need to wear a belt with them).

COST PER WEAR: $200 divided by 1 year* = $0.55

*I’ve had them for 2 years but I am assuming that half the time I WASN’T in jeans

That, is an example for me, of buying higher quality items that will last. It’s just a shame I didn’t wait another 2 more seasons because H&M came out with a Premium Denim line that I really like, and their jeans are right in my price range of $50.




  1. I can’t stand the cheapest option any more
  2. I feel like I’m financially able to upgrade without feeling the pinch

Things I’d upgrade my lifestyle for, depending on the price difference:

  • Healthcare: I own a $25 toothbrush when I get a TON of free toothbrushes all the time — worth it!
  • Staying in Inns, not Motels (see example above)
  • Considering an apartment with an ensuite washer/dryer and dishwasher
  • Driving a slightly better car — still secondhand, but perhaps not quite as rusty

Things I would not upgrade my lifestyle for:

  • Eating out in restaurants more often — as a consultant, you’re sick of it
  • Taking cabs if I have an option to use public transportation — $2.50 a ticket versus $25 cab fare
  • Going to spas and having facials more often — they feel great but ultimately are not my thing
  • Staying in high-end hotels when mid-range ones will do just fine


  1. I consider how many times and how long I will use it for
  2. I ask myself objectively if it will be the only item I’ll use
  3. I consider the final price including taxes versus the cost-per-use
  4. I ask if it’s worth it — a $2000 swimsuit is not as compelling as a $2000 winter jacket

Things I’d buy quality items for:

  • Food: I buy organic when it makes a difference (bananas & avocados = no difference)
  • Electronics: Laptops, hard drives and anything with a disk in it
  • Shoes: Walking in cheap shoes and getting blisters/pinched toes is not worth it
  • Pens: Have you ever had a cheap pen explode all over your hands? Yeahhhhh.
  • Purses: A beautiful purse can last a lifetime and you won’t hanker after buying a million substitutes
  • Cookware: Cheap cookware is not worth it, it will crack and need replacing
  • Tools: Have you ever had a high quality screwdriver snap on you? Me neither.

Things I would not buy high quality items for:

  • Medicine that has a brand name: Frankly, cheap aspirin works the same as pricey ones, I match the ingredient labels though!
  • Jewellery over $100 — Forever 21 has pretty options and my ceiling seems to be $100
  • Suits — only because I don’t wear suits to work, only to interviews; if I wore suits daily, I’d spend more
  • Low use/Basic use items — Dish racks for instance, do not need to be high quality 🙂
  • Dishes, Cups, Plates — $1 ones work just fine for me

So what would you upgrade your lifestyle for?


About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.