In fashion, they call it high-low: the idea of mixing beautiful, expensive stuff with cheap items in enticing combinations. For example, you might sport a Rolex watch together with a Joseph A. Bank suit; both look good, but one is very expensive and one not very much.
Today, I want to talk about how this concept should apply to life in general, and not just to your sartorial choices. It’s one of the ways I pursue luxury for less, spending kings’ ransoms on some things while going full cheapo on others. That way, you can buy beauty, comfort, and quality where it matters, and avoid paying the price for it where it doesn’t.
But I don’t like to talk in the abstract, so take a look at these examples.
Go High-Low in Your Clothes and Accessories
So this is the classic, the beautiful shoes covering up socks full of holes. Unless the socks are uncomfortable, why does it matter? No one’s going to see them, but they will see the shoes. Same goes for underwear; unless you’re on a special date, who cares?
As a general rule, spend your money on accessories and shoes, since they are what people tend to notice and what will stand out when you go cheap. Shirts and pants will take a beating no matter what, so focus on affordable quality there, since you’ll have to replace them often. I buy my jeans at Old Navy and lots of shirts at Ross, but my shoes at Cole Haan (or better).
Apply High-Low to Your House and Car
Your car will always depreciate, so don’t overspend on it. By all means, don’t ride around in a rust bucket if you don’t want to, but don’t stretch your budget to buy a Maserati, either. It’s simply not worth paying so much for a depreciating asset, or to spend a lot on a lease. (Some nice cars at better prices include VW, Alfa-Romeo, and Acura).
Your house, on the other hand, can appreciate (or at least the land it sits on). Also, it’s far more important to your quality of life since it’s where you’ll spend most of your time, and can even be a huge factor in things like the school your kids attend. That’s why I think it’s wise to prioritize your dollars for spending on the best house you can afford (or, more accurately, the best location), since it will have such a tremendous impact on nearly every facet of your life.
In fact, to get the most from your money, but the worst house on the best block, and remodel it. It’ll be cheaper than buying turnkey, and you’ll wind up with a shining house that you love, on high-value land.
Go High-Low With Your Furniture and Fixtures
Here’s my rule of thumb with this one: if it moves or is in a prominent place, go high. If not, go low.
High Furniture and Fixtures
By that I mean that if it’s something like a bureau, spend more to get quality. A cheap bureau will fall apart quickly since you’ll need to open and close it every day. It’ll look terrible and depressing, with the hinges and drawers all out of place. Trust me, I know from experience.
Another example of “high” is a desk. Try to work on a cheap, light desk full of particle board. Wobbly, right? I learned the hard way to spend the money on a good, sturdy, and heavy work desk. A cheap one shakes as I type, and affects my productivity.
Also, for a nice, classy look in your house, have better furniture in the areas that visitors see and congregate in. No one will be impressed with a couch that’s all torn up, but you’ll look elegant with one that feels high-quality.
Low Furniture and Fixtures
On the other end, go low with things like bedroom ceiling lamps. After all, once you install them, they won’t spontaneously break. I have a bunch of IKEA ceiling lamps, and they look quite nice! But, they were like $20 each.
I also like to go low with TV consoles and bedside tables. They don’t really move around too much, so there’s truly no issue with buying IKEA. It looks nice, and won’t break unless you slam it with something.
Apply High-Low to Disposables
Toothpaste, cold medicine, pain relievers; stuff like that. All that actually matters is the active ingredients, which are pretty much the same across brands. No-name acetaminophen is the same as Tylenol, so why pay more?
For stuff like that, go as cheap as possible – we buy at Costco and Dollar Tree.
On the other hand, buy decent toilet paper and paper towels. Scratchy toilet paper can be painful and nasty (to say the least) (Big Roll, anyone?), while cheapo paper towels can break and become unusable when they get just a little wet. So, spend a little more on these things to save yourself (and your guests) a lot of needless grief.
Summing It Up
The fashion world came up with a great idea with high-low. I’d suggest you apply it to all areas of your life, going high where it matters, and low where it doesn’t. It’ll free up a lot of your money for saving and investing, and take you yet another step in the direction of living it up for less!
Do you apply high-low to your life?