Buy American! (Even if it costs more?)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Maybe we'd had too much box wine. After all, the half empty box was starting to remind me more and more of Sponge Bob Square Pants. I reached over and let the little guy tinkle in my plastic cup one more time.

"How can you call yourself a patriot if you don't buy American?!" My friend Lenny was starting to turn as red in the face as the California burgundy we were drinking.

We'd been talking money and politics most of the evening, and eventually the two topics collided when I made the statement that I buy based on price - with a nod to quality (particularly as it impacts durability and maintenance costs) - and not based on where a product comes from.

Man, what a mistake. It's true what they say: "You can't put the wine back in the box after it's been poured."

As I tried to explain to Lenny between his vino-fueled outbursts, it's not just that I'm a cheapskate (after all, that's a matter of public record). I believe that competition in the marketplace - a key element of which is pricing - needs to prevail. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all about trade restrictions, etc. that effect price and take some of the freedom out of free trade. Although last I knew, they worked both ways here and abroad, limiting both what the U.S. can export as well as what it can and can't import.

My point was that there is nothing wrong with letting price dictate your buying decisions over "Made in America." Add to that multinational conglomerates, foreign ownership of U.S. companies, and manufacturing operations spread out around the globe (like in the auto industry), and determining whether a product is truly "American Made" is next to impossible. And since the people of the world consume more goods and services from the U.S. than from any other single country, isn't it only fair that we reciprocate by consuming some of theirs, especially if they cost less?

But that's just one cheapskate's opinion, and I'd like hear yours. How do you feel about buying American-made products, even if they're more expensive? If, like Lenny, you've vowed to buy American-made, is there any price point at which you'd reconsider?

Thanks for reading, and Stay Cheap!

posted by Jeff Yeager at 7:56 AM


Blogger John said...

Esteemed UC,

We can spare ourselves much of the hand-wringing over whether or not to buy American if we remember the more fundamental principle--Buy Used. If personal pride deters implementation of this strategy, think of it instead as Buy Antique or Buy Collectible; I don't really care.

In areas where this principle would lead to unwise purchases (in this case, as in so many others, chocolate candy springs to mind), one must allow experience and knowledge to trump strict adherence to self-imposed guidelines.

When I want a reasonably palatable sugar high, almost any Hershey's product will do. But when courting a sweetie or selecting a hostess gift (in which one might hope to share), use some of the money you saved on your winter wardrobe at the Salvation Army Store to spring for fresh, individually-wrapped confections from Europeans who don't give a Euro about fat content, preservatives, or the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Principle must dance lightly, hand-in-hand with practicality. But you already knew that.

Best regards,


October 18, 2007 8:49 AM  
Blogger Jeff Yeager said...

AC -
I sense that you are wise and cheap beyond your years, and I thank you for sharing both with us.

Now, I don't mind buying used (well, outdated) chocolate, or any other expired food products for that matter. As my poooor wife says, "Jeff, if you are what you eat, you should be reduced for quick sale."

Stay Cheap!
-Jeff Yeager

October 18, 2007 9:12 AM  
Blogger John said...

If you are open to outdated food items, I must wonder, first, whether you might be my elderly parents' long-lost offspring and, second, whether you would care to purchase some salad dressing and other highly-desirable comestibles (mostly from this century) currently in my possession.

You will exult in the bargain price per pound. Vacuum seals are intact, or that item is free! Chocolate goods are already spoken for.

October 18, 2007 12:45 PM  
Blogger Jeff Yeager said...

John -

Well, now that you mention it, my parents have always denied any connection. Perhaps I am your long lost BROTHER! (So, gime' that salad dressing bro.)

Stay Cheap!
-Jeff Yeager

October 18, 2007 2:43 PM  
Blogger Kelley. Twizzle. Whatever. said...

Jeff? I didn't read that right. Right? Tell me you are not suggesting giving "outdated" chocolate as a romantic gift?!? There's cheap and then, well, there's crazy...

and that doesn't really say Kelley.

October 22, 2007 10:46 AM  
Blogger Jeff Yeager said...

Kelley -

What difference does an expiration date make in affairs of the heart? I should know: I've been married for 24 years. Or, as my wife says, "Nearly three and half wonderful years." Not all at once, mind you.

- Stay Cheap!
Jeff Yeager

PS - Is that the correct spelling of your name? That second "e" stikes me as extravagant.

October 22, 2007 11:06 AM  
Blogger Kelley. Twizzle. Whatever. said...

the extra "e" was for free, so I grabbed it. :)

October 23, 2007 7:57 AM  
Blogger Jeff Yeager said...

Kelley -

Not to make a big deal about it, but it just seems like that second "e" is a luxury we can ill-afford. Perhaps if you went the e.e. cummings route and at least traded in the other letters, but ...

Stay Cheap!
-Jeff Yeager

October 24, 2007 6:45 AM  
Blogger KarenL said...

Have you folks ever tried Harbor Sweets? I'll have to admit that I am a serious shopper just beginning the search for my inner miser, but you can't compromise on some things, including chocolate. Harbor Sweets are made in the US, are very wonderful, and I would save my husband's empty beer bottles for a year or two if that was the only way I could get some Sweet Sloops!

February 8, 2008 5:32 PM  
Blogger stan said...

to add to the dilemma - if the only principle is to buy cheap, then what do we do when our purchases contribute to poverty? to the big boys getting bigger at the expense of third world farmers?
i'm not trying to beat anyone up here and i am a capitalist/not socialist. but i like the idea of buying fair trade, buying direct from third world vendors, microloans, etc.

i would rather buy less and buy smart than buy cheap. (and first comment on buying used is a winner too)

February 11, 2008 12:18 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

I too seek a balance between economy and ethics. We focus our food shopping on the farmers market and other local venders when we can though the price is arguably higher than if I drove around bargain hunting cheaper produce imported from half way round the world. I buy far less in general than the average american, thus I am in the position to make choices that feel better to me when I can. That is the point for us of frugality and financial responsibility- the ability to make choices in line with our values.

June 4, 2008 8:22 PM  
Blogger Bradley said...

I recently bought a reel type lawn mower to avoid buying gas, oil, get some extra exercise etc. I bought off of Amazon from The American Lawn Mower Company. What do you think was on the box when I got it?... Made in China.

June 17, 2008 10:58 AM  
Blogger Ellen von thrifty said...

I buy American ny buying Goodwill Levis and shopping at stores like Suzies Deals where nothing is over $5.99 and have found GAP made in USA jeans and Abercrombie and Fitch made in USA also. I also use linen dinner napkins bought for a song at tag sales and have always stored leftovers in a bowl covered with a plastic boxes or bags here.

June 19, 2008 9:06 PM  
Blogger Pamela R. said...

Hello Jeff. There is that nagging little detail: Labor is cheaper in other countries because prices are lower in those countries. The people to whom the multinationals pay low wages also do not pay U.S. prices for rent, food, energy, etc. It's a bonanza for U.S companies that pay the low, developing-world wages but charge the U.S. prices. In the end you have a big chunk of people in the U.S. stuck with those high prices and no job. A lot of people here in the U.S. are stuck actually having to go for the Walmart low-priced products just because they cannot afford anything else. Does this make sense? Man, I'd buy American...if I could afford to. There's something wrong with that, I'm pretty sure.

December 13, 2008 5:43 PM  
Blogger Lucwarmie said...

I buy my products and services if its cheaper when I visit in-laws in the DR. When I am home I buy whatever is cheap, good quality and close. I rather spend time with my children or working earning money, creating jobs, then looking around for deals. My time is worth more then that. There is bigger fish to fry!

July 17, 2009 7:50 PM  

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