Stylized photo of a car engine

Why I will spend more money for the same service

When the choice is between time and money, sometimes the answer is experience.

When I’m grocery shopping, I often find myself looking at shelves of various name-brand products priced significantly higher than their generic counterparts wondering why anyone would spend more for what is essentially the same product. Of course there are plenty of good psychological explanations for this that aren’t that difficult to understand, but this got me thinking about the things that I spend money on regularly that I know I can get cheaper elsewhere.

One of these things I paid for just this morning. I took my car to a dealership to get an oil change and a new set of tires. My 22-year-old self would have a heart attack at the thought.

First of all, I can change my own oil for about 40% of the price. As for tires, there are a handful of shops nearby that sell perfectly good used tires at a steep discount and would mount them for less, too. So what makes me any different from the chumps who buy Kellogg’s for twice the price?

Meme showing an off-brand box of cereal alongside the brand-name Kellogg's Frosted Flakes with the caption: "They're greeeat" vs. "Dey aiiiight" - When you don't have enough money for branded cereal

It’s possible that the answer is nothing. But I have made a somewhat calculated decision that the experience I receive from the folks at my local dealership are more important than the dollars I lose in the transaction. And it’s not just because they provide stellar service every time, which they do. It’s more tangible than that.

After my first hesitant visit to the dealership for a problem with my brake system, the mechanic I worked with went above and beyond to explain the issues on my level and was completely transparent about the process of moving forward and various options I had (including options that involved giving my money to someone else). In a 10-minute conversation, the mechanic earned my trust and, as a byproduct, my repeat business.

In addition, I’ve made the calculation that my time is better spent focused on the things that are most important to me than cleaning up old motor oil. At 22, even with fewer resources I imagine I’d have been better served losing $20 every 5-6 months and spent an additional hour on trying to not still be in college.

All that to be said, I think most buyers are like me in many ways. The lesson here for myself is to never fear asking for what I’m worth — whether it’s from a buyer or an employer — when I know I’m capable and willing to build real trust and provide real value every step of the way.

I’m still buying the Kroger brand. Let’s not get crazy.