Quality Over Price: 15 Items to Spend More On
In general, I’m a cheapskate. I look for the lowest-priced deal I can get away with. But with certain items, I look for quality rather than the lowest prices. Particularly when it comes to health and safety, buying quality items is worth it and may actually save you money in the long run. Having a long-term view of your purchases can help you to buy frugally, but also wisely.
Fortunately, the best-quality items aren’t always the most expensive, and the saying “you get what you pay for” isn’t necessarily true. As we’ve all seen, companies that spend a lot of money on marketing can convince you that their products are good quality when in reality a lower-priced item may be made better and cost less. Do your research, check the reviews, and buy accordingly. (See also: 5 Home and Family Items to Avoid Buying Used)
Buying cheap tools can be tempting, especially when they are so readily available. But consider the amount of money that will be wasted when you have to buy a new drill because the cheap one you bought a week ago stops working or has its drill bits all dinged up already (a clear case of “buy it right or buy it twice”). Poor-quality tools can also be a safety hazard. Well-crafted tools made of sturdy, hardened metal will be worth the money in the long run. If you can’t afford them new, look for good-quality tools at garage sales and estate sales where you can pick them up for a fraction of the price.
You spend a third of your life in bed, so make your bed comfortable! A good mattress with firm back support (and a soft cushy top, if you like a plush feel) can do wonders for your posture and general well-being throughout the day, making you healthier and more productive. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars for a good mattress, but chances are that a $150 one from Walmart just won't cut it.
Not everyone may agree with me on this, but I believe spending money on quality food is a long-term investment in your health. As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I choose to spend marginally more of my income on good-quality fruits and vegetables, milk from cows that have not been treated with growth hormones, and whole-grain foods instead of cheap and low-quality pre-packaged foods. I'm hoping that eating healthfully will prevent complications down the road like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other conditions that will cost more to treat. I’d rather forgo a big-screen TV and other purchases in order to afford top-quality food. Fortunately, good-quality groceries aren’t that much more expensive than cheap “food” — especially if you shop smart and cook from scratch.
4. Large Appliances
When my husband and I purchased a new refrigerator, we did a TON of research on the best fridges within our budget. While we could have opted for the cheapest possible option or even bought a fridge on Craigslist, we recognized that we wanted a fridge that would last for years and had room to fit food for a growing family. We ended up with a quality model that had been recommended by Consumer Reports, had good reviews from buyers, and came with a warranty. If I’m going to be spending hundreds of dollars on a fridge, I’d rather spend a bit more to get something that will last longer, is more energy-efficient, and that I’ll be happier with in the long run.
5. Shoes That Fit
I have a bad habit of buying cheap shoes on a discount, just because I like how they look and how little they cost. Unfortunately, the majority of these shoes don’t fit properly and leave my feet blistered and sore. When I look through my closet, I see almost 10 pairs of $20-$30 shoes that I wish I could trade in for one pair of quality $100-$150 shoes that fit properly and that would keep my feet feeling happy. At some quality retailers, you can even get a lifetime warranty on your shoes or boots if they ever start falling apart.
Life is too short for cheap wine. We’ve bought cheap wine before and had to toss out the bottles because it was too bad even to cook with (bad wine imparts a sour flavor to food when used in cooking). That being said, inexpensive wines can vary wildly — a $5 wine can taste like a $15 bottle if you choose wisely. Read reviews, ask for recommendations, and remember your favorites. Currently, we like the $3 bottle of Vinas Chilenas Cabernet from Trader Joe’s. It’s a good example of how quality doesn’t always equate to price. The Vinas Chilenas tastes like an $8-9 bottle (a.k.a. drinkable) and is a big step up from Two-Buck Chuck.
Along the same lines, chocolate is one of those items where the cheap stuff isn’t worth going after. A tiny square of quality chocolate is worth a ton of Hershey’s bars (except when you’re making s’mores, that is). Buying smaller amounts of good chocolate is better for your waistline too.
One good quality chef’s knife is all you need and is better than 10 cheap knives from Walmart. A cheap knife can be a safety hazard — poor balance, weight, and a dull blade can cause the knife to slip and cut you. On the other hand, a quality knife is a joy to work with.
9. Outdoor Gear
I’m talking rock climbing shoes and crampons, quality weatherproof clothing, comfortable hiking boots, and a tent that doesn’t leak. While I know people who go to the extreme in buying pricey top-of-the-line gear and then never end up using it, I am definitely in favor of getting quality outdoor gear (it doesn’t have to be the most expensive) if you like to spend time outdoors. You will be much more likely to enjoy your adventure and do it again. If you’ve ever slept in a leaky tent in the rain, you know it is not fun. Again, some manufacturers have warranties and will replace backpacks, shoes, sunglasses, and other gear if they wear out.
10. Baby Gear
Buying a new car seat for your first baby is a must. You never know whether a second-hand car seat may have been in an accident, and safety standards are being updated every year. Also, car seats have expiry dates after which they are no longer considered safe. Since safety is paramount for your little one, go for a car seat with top safety ratings.
Because safety standards are constantly being updated, many people recommend buying a new crib for your baby as well (for example, drop-side cribs are no longer considered safe). Whether or not you choose to do so, make sure that the crib has a non-toxic finish and is equipped with a firm, tight-fitting mattress (this reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
A recent survey by CarMax showed that consumers choose quality over price when buying a used car, looking for the best quality combined with a fair price. Personally, I’m a big fan of Toyota, and I’m willing to pay a more for Toyota’s reliability. However, the question of who makes the best quality cars is another debate in itself (you can start your research at Cars.com). If you think about it, every time you get on the road, you're taking your life in your hands. I'd make sure the vehicle you're doing it in is good quality.
Also, don’t cheap out on maintaining your car. Getting your brakes checked and tires replaced when needed might save your life.
If you enjoy traveling, a sturdy, well-constructed suitcase is your most indispensable accessory. I’ve made the mistake of buying a cheap suitcase (in China, where a huge suitcase cost me all of 10 bucks), that started bursting apart at the seams on its first trip (well, you could say I got my money’s worth). Many quality luggage manufacturers have a guarantee on their products and will repair or replace your item if it breaks.
If you’re going to be splurging on a big-screen HDTV or a new laptop that you hope will last a few years, it’s obviously worthwhile to do your research on the best quality product that you can get on your budget. I generally let my more tech-savvy husband do the digging on our household electronics, and he hasn’t let me down.
14. Professional Services
When it comes to hiring a financial advisor, a real estate agent, a tax accountant, and other such professionals, doing your research to get the best quality service can save you thousands of dollars. Read client testimonials, interview candidates in person, and don’t necessarily go for the person who offers you discount service. Remember, quality professionals know their worth and should be able to explain to you in detail the value that you are getting when hiring them.
15. Home Improvement
There are lots of things you can DIY around the house, but when it comes to big, complicated, or potentially dangerous jobs like roofing or replacing your electrical panel, it may pay to call in the experts. It’s risky to mess with improper wiring or the danger of being up on the roof, especially if it’s your first attempt. And aside from the personal risk, doing the job poorly may cost you more to repair in the long run. Ask friends for recommendations of contractors with a reputation to uphold who offer a warranty on their work.
When do you opt for quality rather than the lowest price?
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