Three Times As Good, One-Third As Much

I once heard a piece of advice that provides a simple, practical way of choosing quality. “Buy three times as good, one-third as much.” At the time, I was both amazed at its simplicity and taken back by the challenge it posed.

Like most other women, I love a good bargain. If for a given budget you can get three items, why settle for one? Then I remembered my very first blazer that I bought when I started work. It cost almost $300 and was the most expensive piece of clothing I owned.

That blazer lasted me more than ten years, while the cheaper ones barely made it past two years. So the cost of the good blazer worked out to less than $30 per year, while the cheaper ones cost more than $50 a year. Plus, each time I wore the expensive one I looked and felt like a million dollars.

I was converted, and started to apply this principle to other aspects of my life as well. You may want to consider doing the same. Don’t spend more than you can afford, obviously. But when faced with a choice between quality or quantity, choose quality.

1. Buy material possessions that are three times as good

You can apply this principle to bags, shoes, accessories, furniture, musical instruments, and even pens. I’ve been journalling for twenty years and using a good fountain pen makes me feel so much better about myself and my day than scratching out the same details with a cheap pen. A decent fountain pen and a large bottle of ink can last a lifetime and you’ll never need to buy another pen.

I don’t apply this rule of thumb to disposables like paper though. Good paper won’t mean that you need one-third as much. It just means a higher expense for the amount you need anway. So I just look for the quality that is good enough for me at the cheapest price.

2. Experience service that is three times as good

Instead of eating out three times a week, eat at home more. Then go out just once a week but to a better restaurant where they treat you like royalty. You’ll feel so much better about yourself. Feeling worthwhile and successful will reinforce you subconsciously in other areas of your life.

Similarly, instead of having your hair or nails done at the neighbourhood shop, do your own manicures for a while. Then pamper yourself at an upmarket place occasionally. Experiencing the good life does wonderful things for your psyche.

3. Choose better friends

Some people pride themselves on having many friends. I am grateful for having few enough that I can count them with my fingers. These are people for whom I would drop everything and go if they ever asked for my help. I can’t be doing that for too many people.

These few select friends are those whom I would keep in touch with all year round. I prefer to spend hours in the company of a small chosen band than flit from function to function saying basically “Hi!” and “Bye!”

I do love getting to know new people, but at this point in my life I’m unlikely to be adding more people to my circle of cherished friends. When it comes to friends, the principle can be extended to “ten times as good, one-tenth as much” as far as I’m concerned.

4. Time commitments

Most of us try to do too much. I used to book back-to-back appointments in an attempt to get as much done in one day as possible. I would however fidget during an appointment, in a hurry to end it so I would make it on time for the next.

You may not have the luxury of determining your appointments at work, but you certainly do in your personal life. Even at work you can try to space out the timings a little. You can concentrate on the meeting because you aren’t in a hurry to be off again. The quality of the discussion are likely to be better and necessitate fewer follow-up meetings in future, so you still save time in the end.

5. Work

This one is tricky if you work for someone else, since most employees don’t have the luxury of deciding on the amount of work they have to do. Still, within your sphere of influence, you can certainly focus on a few things that you want to do well and make a reputation in, and just satisfy the requirements for everything else.

While there is a lot of pressure to get everything done, in the end you will be recognised for your value to the company, and most companies value effective workers who get things done rather than workhorses who pick up all the slack for others. And the way to get things done is to be very clear about the few things that will make the difference, and working three times as hard on those.

In fact, Pareto’s Principle (better known as the 80-20 rule) supports this approach. Basically it means give 80% of your time and effort to the 20% of people and projects that will make 80% of the difference.

6. Contributions to society

While it is good to give, it is possible to overdo this. Some people find it hard to say “no” when asked to help out for good causes. If you’re one of them, decide on one or two causes that are important to you, and say “no” to the rest.

The author of another of my favourite blogs, Zen Habits, just practised this rule when he offered to help others, but stated clearly in his post that he would be able to mentor only a few.

Be a valuable, contributing member of just one or two organisations, instead of a dispensable volunteer with several groups. Be a mentor to a select few, instead of trying to help everybody. Make your presence mean something, and make your contribution count.

Remember, THREE TIMES AS GOOD, ONE-THIRD AS MUCH. Practise this principle often, and experience what ‘quality of life’ really means.

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8 replies on “Three Times As Good, One-Third As Much”

Super Saver, thanks for your comment.

I can identify with the title of your last blog post… all holdings down! This is a good time to focus on what’s important – returns over time, rather than panic over the short term losses. Great blog, by the way!

I like your father’s analogy about the TV set. Most people can identify with that and it’s so true. You’re very welcome for the dedication Nudgeme, which I simply had to do because the post came about only because of you. I should be thanking you for the inspiration!

Thank you so much Daphne and the fact that you dedicated your post to me made MY day! I really appreciate it. And what’s more, I so concur with the post. It’s one of my favourite sayings “This too Shall Pass” and I know it as This too Will Pass. It’s so right as everything moves on and changes and evolves and it helps so much to remember that, esp when someone is going through a down period in their life. I also love your point about zooming out on a situation. I often quote something my father taught me a good few years ago now. “You need to move away from the tv set”. He explained that when you put your face right up against the tv set all you can see is a mass of dots. It’s only once you step back and move away that you can see the picture.

Thanks so much again Daphne for the great post, it’s so fitting in these troubling times for people. And especially thank you for the dedication. I’m already looking forward to checking my RSS feed for future posts this week!



You always make my day with your encouraging comments. I read your comment at about 11:30pm tonight and it’s now 1:30am. I stayed up to write a post simply because your comment inspired it and I wanted to capture the thoughts before I lost them. That post is dedicated to you, and you can read it here: This Too Shall Pass

Thank you for your support. You have a great weekend too!


Hi Daphne

Had such a lot of things to read in my RSS feed this morning, but found myself going straight to Joyful Days to read your post. Thanks once again for the insight – your blog really is one of the few that is always inspiring, thoughtful and well written, esp in these times of financial doom and gloom! I’ve shared it on Mixx.

Have a great w/end.


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