When we decide to buy something, most people are usually on the lookout for getting ‘value for money’.
There are some things we’re happy to splash out on, of course, while others we’ll opt for the cheapest, but that varies from person to person, and who is right?
What do we splash the cash on?
According to YouGov Omnibus data released last year, mattresses and sausages were the items people were most likely to splash the cash on.
A poll gave Brits on a list of 25 products and asked whether they would buy the cheapest, a mid-price one, or the top-of-the-range item.
The results revealed that most people favoured the mid-range option in almost all cases – except mattresses and pork sausages.
And one of the only things where people bought the cheapest possible product was when it came to baked beans.
Why do we spend more on some things and less on others?
Discussing the issue on Yahoo’s podcast Britain is a Nation Of…, money expert Simon Read said often it’s the long-term purchases that people are willing to spend more money on.
“The long-term things like a mattress, you hope you’re going to have it for several years so you don’t mind spending a lot of money on it,” he said.
“But on some of the short-term things, particularly with fashion, if you like fashionable clothes for instance, why not just go to Primark, buy the cheaper things there because you know after this season you’re not going to be wearing them.
“So there’s a lot of different things to think about. With shoes I always spend as much money as I can afford because I want them to last, I want them to do the job. If you buy cheap shoes they are going to fall apart.”
Listen to the full episode of Britain is a Nation of… below
Good value is personal
We may all agree that certain things are worth spending more on, but how much more?
Take a mattress – with prices at John Lewis ranging from £49 to £18,000 – how do you decide what’s good value?
“Good value is down to personal taste largely,” said Read. “It’s a mixture of what you can actually afford. So I think we’ve all agreed we want to get the best mattress we can, but I think spending £18,00 on a mattress is probably far beyond what you need to spend.”
Friends’ recommendations are useful, as is trying products, but it’s often down to personal preference, says Read.
“Something like a mattress you are going to have for years. It will be a huge false economy if you spend years of sleepless nights. But we all have different backs, we have different postures, so you have to test for yourself.”
“I think with so many different kinds of products it’s your comfort level. Going back to the beans, I’d rather buy four cans of beans for 50p because I know the taste isn’t that much difference. But other things like coffee, for instance, I have to have nice coffee.”
Good value isn’t always the cheapest
It’s not quite as simple as looking for the cheapest price tag, says Read. Other things often come into play.
“The good value doesn’t mean the budget price,” he says, giving convenience as one example.
“For instance, we know that the little local supermarket stores that we have in the neighbourhood charge more than the big ones but we’re paying for that convenience so actually the value’s pretty good.
“Even though I might be paying more for the can of beans it’s decent value because I haven’t had to trek miles away to get it.
“It’s those kind of things we have to think about – how much reward, how happy am I going to be with this.
“It’s not just the price.”