This story starts with my husband Kevin and me getting locked out on our own deck.

We’d only just moved into our new home—so recently, in fact, that we hadn’t given out spare keys to family or neighbors. The sliding glass door had come up as an issue during our home inspection, and the seller was supposed to have fixed it. But after an ominous click, we realized we could neither get back in nor get down to the ground. We were stuck—in the beautiful weather we’d come outside to enjoy, but still, stuck. Oh, and our baby was taking a nap inside.

Eventually, after a locksmith paid us a visit (and we paid him), we got back in. (Mercifully, the baby slept through all but the last fifteen or so minutes of the whole ordeal.) We rarely used the deck after that, unless one of us was still inside. Recently, the door stopped opening altogether. We finally decided: it’s time to replace it. 

We contacted a few places for quotes, and the first vendor scheduled a Zoom call to give us the rundown. It was clear that theirs was a high-quality product, and Kevin and I found ourselves nodding along—Yes, of course we want to invest in our home; wow, look at how well that window blocks heat! But the price—revealed at the end, of course—was far higher than we’d budgeted for. For the rest of the day, we felt conflicted. Shouldn’t we be investing in a product that lasts a lifetime? 

But then, in a moment of clarity, I told Kevin, “Wait a minute. Our door does not open right now. Literally any functioning door would be a huge improvement.”

Sometimes, we get so focused on quality that we don’t consider that the middle-of-the-road or budget options may be the most prudent. And while it’s often better in the long run to pay more for a higher quality product, sometimes it makes more sense to save money with a cheaper—albeit inferior—option. 

But how do we decide when to save and when to splurge? 

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