Too Poor to Afford Cheap Things

Karl Bimshas
4 min readSep 7, 2022
The leadership newsletter from Karl Bimshas

Many years ago, while visiting my Dad, we somehow got to talking about furniture, and I shared my dismay over the quality of mine. Like others, I had accumulated several self-assembly bookshelves and dressers and had recently learned a long treasured mission-style table had been wrapped in veneer, and a faux leather couch, lumpy and ripped, seemed to have been haphazardly constructed with staples and glue.

My Dad nodded knowingly and said his father used to always say to him, “We’re too poor to afford cheap stuff.” He reminded me that his family could not afford to keep replacing things that wore out or broke when he was a kid.

It was a casual exchange, but it had rattled in my head for several days when it occurred to me that the sentiment remains through the years. We live in a disposable society driven by a consumer economy, which likely warps our thinking.

We often confuse the appearance of authenticity with genuine authenticity. A maple finish is not always maple wood; it is often lacquered paper. We seem content with artificial flavors and pirated goods. We forget or no longer care that “all that glitters is not gold,” which can cause us to value things disproportionately higher than they are worth.

Those with money to spare often fail to invest in craftsmanship and ongoing care. We buy immediacy, seeking a quick fix and instant gratification. When a hue fades or falls out of favor, we abandon it for something new, brighter, and shinier.

Those with the attitude that they are “too poor to afford cheap things” are patient. They build and save their resources, investing in the best quality they can afford. Then they care for, protect and maintain it. They value it higher, so they treat it better. They also invest in repairing it if it dulls, breaks, or fails to perform.

Imagine how your world would improve if you adopted a similar attitude in your life, regardless of your income. Think of the implications of this as a business owner, or the leader of an organization, someone making hiring decisions, or feeding a family. As an effective leader, do you invest in the best people and care for, protect, and maintain your relationships? If someone breaks or fails to perform to your expectations, do you support repairing them, or do you discard them and abandon their dignity?

Imagine putting your ego aside and being humble enough to patiently invest in the people, places, products, mission, or ideals you say you value.

The market is addicted to the newest, fastest, and brightest. However, to the discerning eye, many of these purported improvements are little more than squares transformed into diamonds by a slight twist; not nearly as revolutionary as they first appear.

Embracing this custodial attitude brings greater rewards. You do not have to live like a pauper or suffer from scarcity; however, you need to become more discerning and reduce the literal and figurative junk in your life. Stop making excuses for shoddy craftsmanship, poor advice, negligent leadership, or slipshod friendships. Be patient and realistic in what you can afford, not what you want others to think you can afford.

Life is more pleasant when you surround yourself with a few things that work exceptionally well rather than a plethora of dysfunction.

You help people up so they can reach new heights.

Help lift people up.

You help people up so they can reach new heights.

You don’t slam the door behind you after you get yours.

You don’t sabotage people’s ambitions to feed your ego.

You don’t sacrifice the dignity of fellow human beings for profit or popularity.

Leadership is about addition, not subtraction.

Success is not an elite club, and no one named you its bouncer.

If you’re in a leadership position and can offer aid or comfort, you do so because it comes like second nature. There is no hemming and hawing and calculation. You provide service and compassion. Because that’s what kind, courteous people do; anything otherwise is deluded, selfish, lousy leadership.

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Karl Bimshas

Boston-bred and California-chilled Leadership Adviser | Writer | Podcast Host who helps busy professionals who want to manage better and lead well.