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5 Items That Prove Cheap Can Be Very Expensive
Money Management

5 Items That Prove Cheap Can Be Very Expensive

Is every bargain a good deal? Think about that trip, car, phone or place you moved to because it was cheap only to end up drained emotionally, mentally and financially. 

Unfortunately, this will probably happen several times in people’s lives since with the fact that no one will ever really have enough money to afford anything they desire, the allure of making a saving can come in the way of good reasoning. 

Prioritising the “good feel” of snatching up a ‘bargain’ over a rational evaluation of the value to be derived from a purchase will cost you more over time, especially if you repeatedly have to purchase a service or product.   

And this is not exactly a new thing really. You have probably heard multiple times that ‘cheap is expensive’ and most people trying to stick to a budget may particularly take this as a personal attack on what they would otherwise call diligent spending. 

Read Also: Tips for Living on a Tight Budget, Like a Pro

To be clear, cheap is not always expensive. In fact there are a thousand ways cheap can be just that - diligent spending. However, cheap can become very expensive if the rule of getting the best price is used without exception.

Read Also: 13 Tips to Live Cheaply But Not Look Cheap

In this article, we explore five things that will show how taking the cheap route can end up being very costly. 

1. Cheap Children Items 

Raising children is hard enough and costs a pretty penny, even as they get older. As such, it is not a surprise that many parents may find themselves trying as much as possible to spend the least amount possible on items that they consider non-essential such as toys or even clothing that they know the little ones will outgrow in a matter of months. 

“Why pay Ksh200 more if this thing will not even be in use next year?” And for many parents this reasoning may be applauded as rational and smart money management. But as you will see below, this may not always be the case. 

The first route to being expensive that cheap children items can take is in the accumulation of multiple low-quality toys. If you are in the habit of getting your children many cheap toys, you may be staring at a huge pile of now unused or faulty toys and you add the cost up, you may find you were better off purchasing fewer, but higher quality toys that even the next child you have can use. 

The best approach to this is to use the 20-toy system that categorises toys into independent play toys, interactive play toys (with parents or others, “set toys” such as legos, outdoor play toys and child’s favourites. If you purchase these in high quality, you may never need to stockpile cheap toys that keep eating into your pocket. 

What’s the worst case scenario with cheap toys? If you keep up with the habit of stocking up cheap or second-hand toys, you may be putting your child in danger. Used or low quality toys, especially those meant for independent play, may have moving parts that may come off during play and injure the child or worse, block their airways potentially leading to suffocation. 

The second route is related to safety which is alluded to above in toys but may also be applied to clothes and other items such as strollers, cots, room heaters etc. that are meant for the comfort of the child. 

Going cheapo on these items could mean you are willing to risk seriously injuring your child which could come with humongous treatment costs. It may not be worth the Ksh1000 saving you made by foregoing the child safe space heater . 

2. Ridiculously Low-Priced Electronics Or Appliances

When picking out electronics, there are seemingly endless options to fit every budget imaginable. Where there’s a Ksh150 phone charger, there is also another going for Ksh3,000, you could get your 42 inch smart tv for Ksh25,000 or part with Ksh60,000 for a near-similar TV from a different brand.

From kitchen appliances to entertainment devices, power banks, mobile phones, laptops to heaters and mobile accessories, the price differences in the market are just incredible. And if your only consideration is the price, you may find yourself with a serious case of buyer’s remorse. 

So, if you have been saving for a big purchase such as a TV set and when you get to the market and find one at about 70% the target price you had, should you thank your gods for coming through? We can think of at least 10 reasons to be sceptical. Let us list a few;

  1. It is very possible that the item is a counterfeit
  2. Are you sure it is not faulty in some not-so-apparent way? (Maybe it has been on display for months, gathering dust just for you!)
  3. What if it is simply a low-quality item that will not last long
  4. Could the lower price mean no warranty, or considerably shorter warranty time than the other alternatives?
  5. If it is a lesser known brand, could it mean that there is no local customer support if you need to have it repaired?
  6. If there is no return policy, do you want to risk it?

If you are already spending in the tens of thousands or more, you want to be very sure that the savings you are making are not going to be undone a few weeks or month later when the poor quality item malfunctions and there is no warranty, you cannot return it to the store and there is no local customer support. The cost of replacing it will definitely be much, much higher than the few thousands you ‘saved’.  

For example, consider the common option of buying cheap replacement chargers for relatively expensive phones. Generic chargers are notorious for destroying a phone's battery or irreparably damaging phones due to voltage overload. If this happens, you really have a huge price to pay as compared to the marginal cost of buying an original replacement charger. 

3. Very Cheap Healthcare Products & Services 

That healthcare is expensive is a sad reality in Kenya. It is a generally accepted fact that in the upwards of 80% of the population is one medical emergency away from bankruptcy. 

Apart from the most basic of procedures and over-the-counter medicine, everything else costs a significant amount. Without medical cover and an emergency fund most, if not all, will struggle to get good quality medical care. 

As such, it is unsurprising that many eagerly jump at the mention of an opportunity to pay less for a consultation, diagnosis and treatment. This opens the floodgates for misdiagnosis, exploitation, counterfeiting and a whole range of costly decisions including paying for seemingly 'good' deals on the wrong medication, 'miracle' products and services that have led to permanent damage and fatalities. 

Two ways to help yourself evade the trap of ‘cheap’ medical care are proposed;

  1. Get medical insurance - There is the basic NHIF which is mandatory for all formally employed Kenyans and will soon be made compulsory for all adults. With the challenges this fund may have including limits on procedures and medicines, if you can afford it is important to get private medical insurance that further minimises the possibility of you needing to go to cheap, often unsafe options. Today, there are fairly affordable mobile-based health insurance options that could take care of the most common medical expenses starting from as low as a few hundred shillings a month. 
  1. Build a robust emergency fund - This will come in handy if you need to cover off-pocket costs that your insurance doesn’t cover plus if you lose your income, you could still afford to pay for quality healthcare for a while before you get another job or before your business restabilises. 

4. Oddly Cheap Clothing Articles 

You have probably already bought your fair share of clothing articles. So you have a rough idea of how much a pair of formal shoes, sneakers, tops, shirts, suits, handbags etc. go for. If you are specially an active shopper, you can quickly do a mental calculation on how much a certain look should cost you even before going to the store. 

But then there is always the trap of ‘snatching up a bargain’ where you may allow yourself to get tricked by a really low price that you forget to properly inspect an item. For example, if you have been along Moi Avenue or Tom  Mboya Street on weekday evenings, you may have seen ‘good-as-new’ shoes going for as low as Ksh200 that you can’t just resist. Traders here make a killing selling repaired, dyed shoes to unsuspecting buyers who may only wear these items a few times before they are forced to hand them over to mali mali.

Sticking with shoe example, it is a generally accepted fact that you are better off buying a much pricier (we are talking even 10 times more) shoe that will serve you for years than accumulating several low-quality shoes that eventually become more expensive - that is without even the advantage of looking ‘cool’, ‘classy’ or ‘sophisticated’ which is often what the end goal of dressing well is. 

Odd pricing transcends the hawker-filled streets of downtown Nairobi, to uptown stalls, online shops to high-end malls with name brands. Resist the temptation to pick the cheapest item on the shelf - chances are you are actually choosing the most expensive option in the long run. 

What’s the solution? Planned spending. Learn more in detail>> How To Figure If Something is Worth Spending On

5. Buying a Cheap Mattress Over A Quality, Affordable Mattress 

A mattress is one of the more expensive purchases where quality is reflected by the price tag, just like jewellery. As such, you get what you pay for in quality.

Moreover, like jewellery, many manufacturers produce different grades of mattresses at target market prices from about Ksh3,000 to the upwards of Ksh100,000. 

Buying a mattress without proper planning can quickly become a costly experience for both your health and wallet, considering that a quality mattress can last up to ten years if properly maintained. 

In fact, according to the health experts at, upper and lower back pain and poor sleep quality are some of the key negative impacts of using a low-quality mattress.

  • How? Because a low-quality mattress doesn't support the spine for even alignment of your body, it quickly results in a host of new body aches and pains each day. In the long run, you wind up spending more time and money on medication and doctors to alleviate pain and treat any joint or spinal injury. 
  • Additionally, the lack of good quality sleep does more to hamper your productivity by negatively affecting your cognitive and creative ability.  

To avoid these costly consequences, keep in mind that a good quality mattress is a mattress of medium-density or high-density. Other features include generous mattress depth, durability, hypoallergenic or natural materials, a top layer of memory foam, spinal support and breathable open-cell foam technology. 

How much are you willing to pay (or save) for a good quality sleep? 


Making money is hard. And when a considerable amount of time and effort has been spent making money, it can be really hard to give away in a matter of seconds. That is why it is incredibly important that you get the highest possible value for the money you spend - which means not really going for the cheapest option, but the best balance between quality and price. 

After all, “The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price has faded from memory - Aldo Gucci”

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Gathoni is a skilled content developer with over 5 years of experience in content development as a graphic design and copywriter, in different industry sectors. Her passion to nurture positive, stronger, communication impact continues. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

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