One of the best money management tools I know is this Rule of Thumb: Match quality with need. In other words, don’t buy quality beyond the need.
Sometimes the cheapest option is the best choice. Other times, you’ll regret having gone cheap when you have to replace that item well before your need for it goes away. In that case, you’d be better off going for a higher-priced option that promises to last longer than the cheaper alternative and its replacement.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? You’d think so, but I must admit that when it comes to this quality vs. need issue, I am not perfect. It can be a real challenge.
Case in point: When my grandson was born, I bought the cheapest umbrella stroller Target had to offer. My reasoning was that I would use it only occasionally. I didn’t need a big fancy model.
Photo credit: Stopthegears Flickr Photostream
I can tell you that was a big mistake. What a piece of junk! I’d been kicking myself and fighting with this horrible excuse of a stroller for way too long. Completely disgusted, I tossed it in the trash and set out to find the best inexpensive stroller.
Every Friday Eli and I are off for the day to explore and play. We need a reliable stroller. So he and I came up with our list of must-haves: Storage under the seat, a 5-point harness, cup holder, big wheels, folds easily, is relatively lightweight and has a retractable canopy.
Strollers run the gamut from $15 to $650. I can promise you that we do not need $650 of quality in a stroller. My goal was to buy the best inexpensive stroller that would match our list of needs.
I began my research online. Armed with the list, I started with the cheapest options and rejected them one by one when a particular cheap model couldn’t deliver on the must-haves. As I moved up in price, it didn’t take long to find strollers that had all of the things we need. I easily narrowed down the field of thousands to the three strollers that appeared to match—not exceed—our needs.
We visited stores so we could actually meet our top three candidates. I talked to parents, read tons of reviews. In the end, I made the decision to buy the cheapest of the three, based on reviews and personal recommendations. Quality wise, all three were so close, I couldn’t see much difference.
The stroller that won the first ever official “Everyday Cheapskate Best Inexpensive” seal of approval is The First Years Ignite Stroller.
We’ve had Ignite for a few weeks now, and both of us are very happy with our new wheels!
We took Ignite for its maiden voyage to Knott’s Berry Farm and right off the bat we noticed five other Ignites just like ours in the stroller parking area at Knott’s “Camp Snoopy.” That sealed the deal and prompted a simple comment from the front seat. “That’s cool.”
Everything about this stroller is perfect. It maneuvers well on its 8 big wheels and it is lightweight enough that I can easily open it, close it and lift it into the truck bed in a matter of seconds. The seat back is sturdy and, according to my passenger, “Really comfortable!”
The handles are taller than most and the 5-point harness hooks up easily. There is plenty of room to stow stuff under the seat and I have a cup holder and zippered console. This stroller is solid with a seat that is 2-inches wider than its nearest competitor.
I have no doubt that Ignite will last carry us very well through our weekly adventures and right through the day that Eli outgrows it.
That’s all the quality we need.
UPDATE: Our awesome stroller has been put through its paces. It knows Knott’s Berry Farm from start to finish and the Santa Ana Zoo from top to bottom. It’s made the rounds of Seal Beach Pier and Aquarium of the Pacific more than a few dozen times.
If it had an odometer I’m certain this stroller would be turning over some pretty impressive mileage.
It’s been stored in the bed of the truck through storm and sunshine, wind and rain. And still, stroller’s brakes work well, the fabric is intact and all collapsible parts open and close flawlessly. It’s a bit faded from the sun, but other than that I think it might have several more years of service to offer. But we may never know for sure.
That sweet little boy who’s now outgrown its seating capacity just started kindergarten. That means Friday’s off for Mr. Stroller.