Minimalism in general sounds a bit odd to most people. Most of the time they tend to think that minimalism means being too miserly or living on a tight budget. But the reality is not even close to anything like that. Of course we do run on a budget, but certainly not on tight budget. Likewise, we spend quite a bit where we think it makes sense. Where we don't see value, we tend to spend less. Minimalism is not about being a miser or not spending at all but about spending on stuff that is important to you.
Minimalism is all about keeping fewer, but extremely useful things. Those things could be expensive or cheap. The important point is keeping very few of them. Because the more things you have, the more time goes into the maintenance of the things. Like the recent fridge issue I have written in one of my posts. So minimalism not only reduces the initial investment cost, but also the recurring costs. But more importantly it also gives you back more time. Another example is my car that I sold a couple of years ago. It relieved me of maintenance cost two times a year. One less vehicle to check engine oil, coolant, brake oil, tire pressure, windshield washer fluid etc every month. No more insurance costs too. So many reductions with one less thing! That is minimalism.
You need some things
But of course that does not mean I can get rid of everything. We need to find the right balance. Suppose I did not have a fridge, or washing machine, then we would have one less thing to clean and maintain. However, we could be losing a considerable amount of time in the way of frequent shopping (no fridge to store perishables remember?) and washing clothes. That is not a reasonable compromise to me. It may be different for you. And that is where minimalism may mean something different to you than me.
That is my rationale on how I decide what to buy and what not to buy. Now lets get to the point of how I decide on whether to buy an expensive item or a cheaper item. Take for example a fridge. How do I decide if I should go with a more expensive but branded company vs a cheaper alternative?
When it comes to buying things that have matured considerably and don't have a fast changing technology, I go for expensive and branded. For most others a cheaper one will do. Let me explain with the refrigerator example again. The technology has been there for a long time. It is quite mature and new innovations in cooling technology is extremely rare. In this case I would go for an expensive fridge.
I want to buy one fridge for life and it better work as long as I live (with some minor maintenance of course). Since it is a mature technology, if all the components used are of good quality (compressor for example), then it should last a long time. The manufacturer has seen all the possible failures in the tech for several years so they are very reliable now. May be the thermostat may fail every 10 years or the LED light might die every 15 years. Those small repairs are fine.
At the same time there will not be any innovative new technology in cooling every 2 or 3 years. It has been the same technology based on compressor. For this reason you don't normally replace your fridge every so many years because there will not be any large improvements. Why not buy the most reliable fridge you can afford. Same applies to other things like kitchen hob. washing machine, microwave etc.
When technology changes too fast, I prefer going for the cheap ones. Examples are phones, laptops, TVs etc. The minute you buy the best and latest in tech, it will become obsolete. You may have thought a 55 inch 1080p LCD TV is the greatest tech some 10 years ago. But in just a couple of years came a 65 inch TV at the same price. Where is that inflation that you have been talking about now? Then came 4K TVs. Then TVs with HDR and dolby vision. Soon after we had OLED TVs and now 8K TVs. All at the fraction of the cost you put in 10 years ago.
Given that I am techie guy, I love to get my hands on the latest tech as soon as I can. So if I buy an expensive good quality TV now, I will have to wait that much longer to buy another. I will be missing out on a lot of innovations. Same applies to laptops, phones, media centers etc. On the other hand, the surround sound technology hasn't been changing at that same rate. So investing on a good set of expensive speaker system will do just fine.
Expensive or cheap?
Some decisions are not as black and white. For example cars. They are very reliable. With proper maintenance they last a long time. So should I go for an expensive and reliable one? How about clothes? The fashion keeps changing, so should I go for cheap clothes and buy new styles every couple of years? These are all personal preferences. In my case I went with moderately cheap and reliable cars (Maruti and Honda) and expensive clothing and shoes most of the times. My daily wear is of the cheaper kind though.
The main reason for going with cheap cars is because of the maintenance and insurance costs. The more expensive the car, the higher the expenses. On the other hand, I hate to shop, especially to buy clothes. So buying expensive, good quality clothes that last a long time will help my cause :).
Hopefully that gave you some idea of how I spend as a minimalist.