“Penny-wise, Pound-foolish”

I was buying some coffee yesterday, (I try to buy fairtrade coffee when possible), and it got me thinking about things that you *think* are more expensive but they’re not when it comes to buying in larger quantities.

For example on this day, the “cheap” coffee was €2 for 40 pads, whereas the fairtrade coffee was €4 for 80 pads. So, per pad, that’s the same price and if there’s money in the kitty to buy “future coffee,” then you can really help someone else out in a developing country, and, with no extra effort or cost to you.

Companies pay a premium to have their products situated at the consumer eye level, or conversely, offer the retailer the most amount of profit margin on their sale. Packaging is designed to gain or detract as much attention as possible away from this eye-level. Fairtrade products are not normally placed at eye-level, either because they don’t offer so much of a margin for the retailer, or pay for the privillege of the most sought after placement, so are often tucked away and means you’ve to hunt them out. But what I wanted to say, is that on comparison, often they are not as expensive as you think, especially if you think “in bulk”.

I’m trying to buy more fairtrade when it comes to chocolate, because if I buy better quality then I also eat less and appreciate it more at the same time. It flies a long way to get to my belly.

This got me thinking about my student days when I used to buy small quantites of own-brand toilet roll (99c for 2 rolls), but that’s really stupid because … it doesn’t add up! That is 45c a roll, compared to if I bought a premium-branded pack of 12 for around 4€ they would be 30c a roll – never mind own brand where the difference is a lot more!

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, that the mentality that you “can’t afford” something, in a weird way can in some ways stop you from from making savings (if you were to buy a larger quantity for example). Do you know what I mean? Have you realised when you were being “pennywise but pound foolish” with your shopping?



  1. I am forever standing in the grocery store doing math… I always want to be sure that I’m getting the best per-unit price…. and sometimes I’m shocked to find that the smaller packages turn out to be cheaper per unit than the big ones!

    But, more often, buying bigger quantities is cheaper. Though I have gotten in trouble with this approach from time to time by buying more than I really need or can use.

  2. No you’re quite right, if you sort of half-way know what the “usual good price” is, then with some basic quick mental maths, often the smaller pack works out cheaper.

    E.g. last weekend, we were eating out in a restaurant and worked out that two caraffes of wine (more in volume) worked out quite a lot cheaper than a bottle of the wine!

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