Buying things cheaply is only half of the thrifty living equation. There comes a time when too many cheap goods simply equals clutter, and often, those cheaply made products fall apart too quickly, limiting their useful lifespan.
With many products, the most frugal perspective is to take a look at the quality of the item, and to think about how often you will be using it.
False Thrift is when you buy something that is available at the cheapest price, without looking at the quality of the thing in question. How long do you want something to last? How many uses do you plan to get out of it? Would you like to make this your last purchase of this type - and maybe even pass it down to your heirs?
For example, when I buy camping gear, I want them to be among the most well-made on the market. I spend a lot of time in the wilderness and I use the heck out of my gear. I need my gear to be dependable, fixable and to last.
My husband recently picked up a pair of hiking sandals from the Sports Chalet. They were attractive and inexpensive - only $30 for the pair. After four hiking sessions the side strap on the 'leather' completely broke from the sole. My advice was to return the shoes to Sports Chalet, and to pick up a more expensive and rugged pair of hiking sandals at REI.
REI's products are extremely well suited to hard use, and come backed by a lifetime guarantee at the all REI shops. REI stands behind their products. My husband then spent $80 on a pair of hiking sandals that we expect will make it across the Grand Canyon. :)
Another example of false thrift is when you buy a car off Craigslist.org for $600 and hope it will last you more than a year. It is possible your low, low price was an uncommonly good deal, but more likely the car becomes a money pit in a short while.
Am I suggesting you only buy new cars fresh off the dealer's lot? No. I myself only buy used cars and frequently from Craigslist as well. The key is doing your research on what kind of cars are well made and sturdy, what kind of cars are most easy to fix, and which engines run like the Energizer Bunny (ie - practically forever). Then you do your upkeep so your good car deal lasts as long as possible. Often, a $2 or $3 thousand dollar car will be far cheaper in the long run that that bargain-basement auto next door.
There is a reason why antique furniture and many vintage durable goods are so highly prized - they were usually made well, and made to last. Whether you're shopping for clothing, tools, kitchenware, books, furniture, cars, shoes or household appliances, the most frugal thing you can do is a bit of research before you buy. Buy things that will endure a bit of time and abuse! You will save lots of money by only buying your item once.
Amazon Books on Smart, Thrifty Shopping -