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  if anything I would guess spending more would lead to
  more expensive maintenance as well
The idea is to buy a $100 thing that lasts 10 years, instead of a $20 thing that lasts one year, thus halving your long-term spending.

Of course, not all more expensive products last longer, so careful attention to value for money is a must.

I get the concept in theory I'm just not sure it's a given in practice - the way I've seen people spend extra money on projects isn't really for long term cost reduction but features that make it look flashy (increasing the scope and making it more expensive to maintain).

Take, for example, road surfacing. You can use gravel, which requires multiple maintenance visits per year to remain functional and definitely has knock-on costs in terms of car damage and such.

Or you can upgrade to asphalt - lasts much longer, much lower maintenance in terms of required manpower and visits to remain functional, etc.

Or, if you want to go the whole way, you can use reinforced concrete or a slab paver setup, they will last ~30-50 years depending largely on traffic (asphalt tends to degrade even with little traffic).

That's what I mean. It's about a 3x initial cost difference between each of the tiers, but your long term maintenance costs go down the more you spend. It's not a strict one-to-one, but still.

Just because it isn't done in practice doesn't mean it can't be done--it's a cultural/institutional/incentive matter.

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