Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. These are the core concepts of environmental awareness. But other, less intuitive concepts such as the prevention of waste, known as precycling, can be equally important.

In lean times, it is often difficult to spot the high cost of something when you're hunting almost exclusively for a low price. Yet even in tough economic circumstances, strong consideration for well-constructed products and durable materials is paramount.

Perhaps the simplest way to demonstrate the advantages of siding with quality is through Life-Cycle Costing (LCC). LCC helps identify the most cost-effective approach to achieving the lowest long-term cost of owning something. Although this involves tedious calculation tables and charts, it is well worth the plunge. The information has a big impact.

You can apply LCC to any product, really: a hiking boot, an SUV, or even the roof over your head. All you're doing is taking the product's price and dividing it by the life of the product. You can easily break the answer down by the year, week, or even day.

Take the hiking boots, for example: A $150 pair that lasts five years has a cost of $30 per year. A better pair priced at $250 may last 10 years or more, and so they only cost $25 per year. Although saving $5 a year on footwear may do little more than keep pace with Grandma’s birthday cards over the next decade, it doesn’t hurt to treat every purchase with this type of respect, because the cumulative effects can be far-reaching. For one thing, having quality equipment can actually help you to get out and use it more. Now you have to love that.

Where LCC becomes truly impressive is on big-ticket items such as a vehicle or new siding for your house. You can save several hundred dollars per year per item. It is a simple concept, in that the more life you can get out of your purchases, the more life you can get for yourself.

The best way to maximize the longevity of a quality product, or any product for that matter, is to maintain it. By catching problems early and taking corrective actions, life-cycle costs can be reduced dramatically, with the cost of “maintaining” more than covered by the increase in longevity.

The benefits of purchasing high-quality products and maintaining those items cannot be overstated. They perform better, last longer, and save substantial amounts of time, money, and energy in the long run. Try using these simple calculations the next time you're considering a major purchase. You'll likely find that you cannot afford to spend less on what you really want.