Do you get what you pay for? Yes, in many cases and for many product categories, this is in fact true. One can save money in the long term when buying a product of high quality which is likely to last longer. This can help you avoid spending more when you buy a much cheaper product of questionable quality, and then have to replace it every year.

Do you ‘always’ get what you pay for? No, a higher price doesn’t guarantee that you will get higher value in return.

Consumers all around the world make the flawed decision about a product’s worth by assuming that a higher price will always get them higher quality too. And here’s what’s wrong with this assumption.

“If it’s expensive, it must be good”… is not always the case

Price is what we pay, and value is what we get in return. In an ideal world price should be equal to value, but it isn’t so in the real world. Price is not just based on value, but on a variety of factors like costs, demand, customer segment, market perception, competition and other variables. In such a scenario, how can we assume that paying more will always get us better value?

Kevin, a UAE resident, has a great everyday example of how expensive isn’t necessarily better:

“At a local Starbucks outlet, an average-size cappuccino (Grande) costs AED 17, which is 70 percent higher in price than the cappuccino served at my neighborhood café at just AED 10, which I like just as much if not more!”

[Related: Get smart with these saving tips]

Justifying an expensive purchase: Confusing brand consciousness with quality

We live in a world where we are constantly led to believe that paying thousands for a brand-name will guarantee top-notch quality. But the huge premium that we pay to acquire such a product, doesn’t necessarily mean that its quality is much better than another product available for a fifth of that price.

Zeina, a 20-something expat living in the UAE, admits that she’s not immune to the rampant brand consciousness visible among consumers these days:

“My love for high-end designer handbags usually ends up with me justifying my purchase to friends and family. I always go with the ‘high quality’ and ‘passing it on to the next generation’ range of justifications. But truth be told, I’m just plain brand-conscious. My mother’s trusty (and inexpensive) handbag has lasted her a decade and has withstood regular wear and tear. So I guess quality cannot be judged by price alone.”

But being frugal doesn’t always get you the most value-for-money

When we say that expensive isn’t always better, we don’t advocate that price should be your only basis for judgment. As a customer, you must try to find the right balance or the ‘sweet spot’ between price and quality.

And in certain cases, the cheaper option can actually cost you more. For example, when buying a used car, if you’re just looking for the cheapest deal, you may not realize it then, but the future cost of repairs and maintenance could mean that you end up paying more in the long term. Similarly buying an electronic appliance of dubious quality may not serve you well. Just imagine if you bought this appliance for AED 1,000 cheaper than the market average, and it breaks down after a week. And now you can’t take it back to the store because it didn’t come with a warranty. Too bad!

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To summarize, don’t just jump to the conclusion that a more expensive product is better than it’s marginally or even significantly cheaper counterpart. And definitely don’t believe everything you see and hear in advertisements. Use your own judgement and filter the marketing noise to assess the features of the product.

Product reviews are a great way to get a fair idea of whether a product is good value for money or not. Just as you wouldn’t book a hotel overseas without reading customer reviews, it also pays to check with existing or previous users, what they think about a certain product or service. These days, you can easily access customer reviews on a brand’s social media pages or you could just ask a friend or colleague for their review.

Even if you decide to buy a particular product, avoid an impulsive purchase, as you could get the same product and same value at a lower price, be it during a sale, through another vendor, or from another location. Always do your research before loosening the purse strings!