15 Things You Should Never Skimp On

We all want to save wherever possible, but there are times when it's actually in our best interest to spend a bit more and enjoy better quality. From toilet paper to kitchen knives and several other items in between, here's a look at 15 things I'll never skimp on — and that you shouldn't, either.

1. Toilet Paper

My husband makes fun of me because I'm adamant about having a bathroom stocked with high-quality toilet paper (really, it feels like heaven's clouds kissing my bum), and it's worth every extra penny that I spend. The alternative here, of course, is bathroom tissue that's one step above sandpaper. That ultimately leaves me feeling strangely violated. No, thank you. I even go one step further and bring in reinforcements in the form of wet wipes as a finishing touch; a boy's gotta feel fresh, after all.

I do, however, always use coupons for these purchases, and I try to sync them with available rebates from apps like Ibotta to cut the cost further.

2. Bed Sheets

I'm not saying you need to massacre your budget by lining your mattress with the most luxurious 95,000 thread count Egyptian-cotton sheets, but you can strike a decent middle ground by shopping smartly. (Personally, I think the very affordable T-shirt sheets are soft and comfy, but I also find them very annoying to fold because they don't hold their shape.) In lieu of those, I wait for more premium sheet sets to go on sale — Macy's often has awesome deals on bedding — or I scour sites like Overstock.com and the clearance section of well-known purveyors of quality home goods, like West Elm and Crate & Barrel. IKEA sheets aren't half bad either — and they're very easy on the wallet.

3. Fresh Meats

I didn't know there was a difference in the quality of meat from supermarket to supermarket until I started shopping for myself — and boy, is there a difference. I bought ground beef from a low-end supermarket near my apartment in Manhattan when I was in a pinch one night, and when I prepared it, the finished product was an unusual red color. That certainly raised my brow, and it didn't taste all that great, either. Chicken, pork, and seafood items are also susceptible to quality issues. These uncooked proteins might look fine in the packaging, but you'll often see and taste the difference when they're cooked. I hate to say it, but both Walmart and Target are notorious for promising quality meat, but delivering selections which generally fall short of expectations. Because of this, I now make a separate stop at Wegman's — a specialty supermarket in my area — to buy my meats. I pay more at the register, sure. But I don't mind since I'm getting my money's worth.

4. Household Cleaners

I've purchased national name brand cleaning products like Windex and 409, and I've purchased the bargain brands with a generic name. My official ruling is that the former perform better in both their cleaning ability ease of use. Generic window cleaner especially is an annoyance to me, as I've found it leaves streaks all over the glass. Seriously, you have one job, anonymous blue liquid — to remove streaks! As a result, I have to use twice as much as I do the name brand to finish the job. To cut costs here, I wait for BOGO sales on my preferred products, and pair them with coupons that I've clipped from circulars and online.

5. Dishwasher Detergent and Dish Washing Liquid

The same thing that happens with bargain brand household cleaners happens with cheap dishwasher detergent and dish washing liquid: I end up using twice as much to do the same amount of work, because the quality of the product is inferior to pricier brands. Trust me, the struggle in this case is not worth the savings. Thus, stick to the soaps you recognize. They're household staples for a reason: they work.

6. Prophylactics and Personal Care Products

I don't have to go into too much detail here, and I'm probably not allowed to, either. All I'll say is that my health (and yours) is far too important to compromise by buying discount personal care items. That doesn't mean you have to buy the gold standard items, but you should loosen your wallet and buy tested and proven brands that give you peace of mind, along with a satisfying experience.

7. Small Kitchen Appliances and Utensils

You know what really makes my head want to spontaneously pop off my neck? When, in the middle of preparing a meal, my can opener dismantles itself or my microplane breaks in half. It's one of those "count backwards from ten" situations. Like, code red-level anger, folks. Similarly, I get close to bursting into flames when my hand mixer or blender starts smoking just because silly me is using it on the "regular" setting. Come on, man — appliances are supposed to be tough and durable! These scenarios are precisely why I avoid cheap versions of these products — Hamilton Beach is officially banned from my house; yeah, I said it — because if I didn't, the air ambulance would have to fly my rage-ravaged body to the nearest mental facility, stat!

8. Dog Food

Considering the controversy that sometimes surrounds dog food — here's lookin' at you, menadione and ethoxyquin — and sporadic pet-food recalls (which probably happen more often than you think), it's important to me to feed better food to my dog. My furbaby is my buddy and best friend, and there's no price that I wouldn't pay to ensure that he's getting the best quality food I can provide. Discounts are far and few between on premium dog food, but who needs a coupon when the real takeaway is the pure joy I get from my (healthy) pup?

9. Candles

Cheap candles seem innocuous enough, but some of them may contain cancer-causing emissions. Got your attention? Good, because candles made before 2003 (unlikely that you still have any though) may have been made with lead wicks, which release five times the amount of lead considered hazardous for children.

The likelier culprits, however, are your beloved aromatherapy paraffin candles that Green America says is akin to "preparing a healthy drink of fresh squeezed lemon and adding a shot of gasoline" when burned. Doesn't that sound nice? Instead, look for candles made with 100% beeswax or vegetable-based waxes and cotton-core wicks.

10. Laundry Detergent

I never buy Tide because it's way too rich for my blood, especially when the lower-priced-but-still-quality Purex brand works just as well. I'll never lower my standards to a truly bargain liquid, though. Often the strength and cleaning power of these brands is lacking compared to their national counterparts. And you can forget about no-name powders altogether. I've encountered problems with the full integration of the powder into the water, which costs me more money in the long run because I have to wash the load at least once more to remove the undissolved powder stains.

11. Garbage Bags

All you'll need to make the switch from a cheap, flimsy garbage bag to a heftier brand is for the bottom of the former to break open when you're carrying it from your fourth-floor apartment to the street. If you've been lucky enough to avoid this catastrophe thus far, congrats; if you want to continue to play your cards with these disasters-waiting-to-happen — well, I told ya so.

12. Deodorant

Is your deodorant combating your perspiration, or simply covering it up? A quick sniff left and right will let you know what's up, and your armpits deserve better than that glorified dollar-store chalk that leaves stains all over your clothes. Spend a couple more bucks to get the good stuff that'll leave you feeling fresh — and keep your friends from fleeing.

13. Cheese

Good cheese can cost a pretty penny. Even middling — like Kraft or Cracker Barrel brands — can bruise your grocery-shopping budget. Unfortunately, those are the prices you have to pay if you want cheese that's palatable by itself and cooks properly in your recipes. Start skimping by buying what I like to call "government cheese" and you'll rue the day — and probably ruin your appetite. Much of that low-price slop is full of oil that transforms into a goopy, gross mess when you try to cook with it. Save dinner by spending a little more in the dairy aisle.

14. Cookware

Sure, good cookware is expensive, but you really have just two choices: You can fork over the dough for the trusted brand that's well known to stand the test of time, or you can roll the dice with discount cookware that often won't follow through when you're cooking, and needs replacing often. It'll only take a couple instances of making scrambled eggs or pancakes that permanently affix themselves to your griddle to see which is the better option.

15. Kitchen Knives

Dull knives aren't just an annoyance — they're downright dangerous. When your cheap knives lose their ability to slice and dice cleanly, you have a much higher risk of chopping off your fingertips — instead of the celery-tips. The dullness makes the knives unstable when placed on top of the items you intend to cut, which can cause them to slip unexpectedly. Given this potential hazard then, it's much more economical to shell out the big bucks for a top-notch set of knives, than spending the money you saved on the cheap knives on a fun-filled afternoon in the emergency room. You've been warned.

What do you never skimp on? Please share in comments!

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Guest's picture

I couldn't agree more. I am lucky to have a good supermarket chain, Stop & Shop, close to home, and their house brand of "premium" paper products is surprisingly good. But everything else -- preach it, brother.

Guest's picture

#1 Toilet paper. I care more about a decent TP that won't clog the pipes than one that's super soft. Good Housekeeping rates toilet papers so you can find one that hits the sweet spot of softness, flushability, and cost.
#4 Household cleaners. Simple common household products--vinegar, baking soda, borax, others--do the job at much much lower cost. And I know what's in them.
Completely agree with #7,14,15. I cook a lot--for health and budget reasons--and having reliable tools makes the task easier and more enjoyable. I use them so often that return on investment is good.