A running theme on this site is how absurd some of my searches get when it comes to the cost of the single items I often find to be “the best”. A lot of people don’t see the point in spending $300 on a backpack, or $200 on a pair of pants, or even $30 for one pair of socks.
A lot of people, in defense of this, also trot out the narrative that you should buy something once and spend a lot of money on it because of XYZ and that in the long run, you often end up spending less money on it. The thinking being: if the cheap version costs you $10, but you have to spend that $10 often, but the ‘better’ version will last you a year or longer, but cost $100 — you might be money ahead with the better version. That’s a great way to break it down in simple mathematical terms, and indeed, assuming you can afford to live that way, it’s a great way to think about things.
It is not, however, how I tend to think about this. For me the cost of the better item, as a comparison to the cost of the “lesser” item, has no bearing on whether or not I go for the more expensive item.
I search for, and try to buy, the best of each item I use extensively because I don’t like to be annoyed by the things I use often. This is the deciding factor for me, but not all the factors. It’s a bit of a balancing act, deciding if and when to expand the budget on something to get an item which is better. Often, I’ll forgo buying something I want or need, and wait until I can buy the best of that item.
There’s one thing none of us can get back, and that’s time, as cliché as that is. Time is not recoverable, and the time spent being annoyed by something is doubly wasteful as you both lose time and happiness.
So I search for the best, and so should you.
The best is different to everyone. The Wirecutter/Sweethome aim to provide recommendations for the best thing for most people. I provide recommendations based on what I view to be the best in the field flat out, but it’s still within whatever budget I have available to me. (Could you imagine the shit I would test with a budget from The New York Times — I don’t know if my fingers could write that many reviews in a year.)
Anyways, I don’t buy the best because I am convinced my life needs it to be happy. Instead I buy the best so that I have that item and don’t have to think about it again. I could only own the GR1 for the rest of my life, same with the Filson Briefcase, and never think about them again — they would always be great and I would never need or likely have reason to look for another bag.
It’s worth the money, and effort put into it because I no longer have to think about that category once I find the best. And even more so, because I know that category so well by the end of it, figuring out if a new thing in that category is better or not, is increasingly easier.
Shitty socks are fucking annoying. Spend $30 on a pair, and your socks will go from being annoying to being something you love, because $30 merino wool socks are magic. This is the basis for why I buy, explore, find, and test the things I do. Removing every small annoyance I have, one at a time, such that I remove more and more annoyances from my life.
The best is certainly subjective, but it’s always worth finding. And I’ll always pursue it without shame.