5 Things You Should Never Try to Save On

I consider myself a frugal person. I've gone without air conditioning, drive a 20-year-old car, and grow much of my own food on a four-acre homestead. After years of trial and error, however, I've come to learn that some things just aren't worth trying to save money on. (See also: The Case for Expensive Shoes)

Here are five critical purchases I've made in the past that I regretted ever trying to squeeze a penny from.

1. Legal Services

While you can do some basic template-type tasks on your own, anything requiring a lengthy legal battle or a contested order should have at least the once-over of a good attorney. I admit to handling a divorce completely on my own, with the help of a divorce kit that was — at the time — housed completely on floppy disc. While the outcome wasn't horrible, I could have greatly benefited from even one hour of consulting time from a reputable attorney.

Now that attorneys are more accessible than they were even 15 years ago, there's really no excuse to not at least consider one. In fact, many lawyers make it super easy to get their expertise with the same ease of a "template" service. Rachel Brenke's Blog Legally, for example, gives bloggers and other digital content creators advice, tools, and an avenue to ask questions of a seasoned law professional — without the headache of an in-person appointment. This may be the future of most civil and business-related legal proceedings — one which I will happily pay extra to be a part of.

2. Dental Care

Have you been tempted to skip your six-month cleaning or save a few bucks by forgoing that annual x-ray? Before you pocket the extra cash from skimping on a seemingly unimportant dental task, consider that many life-threatening diseases can be possibly be traced back to the effects of a poor oral hygiene routine. (The Mayo Clinic lists heart disease and Alzheimer's as just a couple of afflictions that can be made worse by tooth or mouth problems.)

In addition to seemingly unrelated complications that can arise from cheaping out on your dental duties, most minor tooth issues can balloon into major dental disasters with a potential to cost you thousands. So, the next time you think that an extra $150 for a cleaning is something you shouldn't part with, consider the cost of waiting, and how it can affect your quality of life down the road.

3. Shoes

There are times when it's perfectly acceptable to pay $5 for a pair of cheap flip-flops (vacation, for example), but most of us rely too much on our feet to treat them badly with an ill-fitting or cheap pair of shoes. Not having the proper fit, dealing with poor support, or finding them to be slippery when wet are just a few problems I've had with cheap shoes.

For most of my daily life, I rely on shoes to get me through some pretty adverse situations; I chase kids, work the garden, and run through airport terminals far too often to risk my safety on a pair of duds. Unless there is an adorable pair you'll wear just once for a special occasion, your money is better invested in a long-term relationship with kicks that can deliver on months — or even years — of comfy wear.

4. Safe Transportation

Traveling to a place you're not familiar with can seem daunting and feel expensive. In some cities, you are at the mercy of the public transportation system or a taxi driver to get you where you need to go — at a price you often have no control over. When it comes to cost-saving maneuvers on transportation, I've always chosen to risk less and spend more. As a small-statured woman who is often traveling with children, it just seems okay to pay a premium to know where I'm going, with who, and for what price, ahead of time.

One way I've gotten around the feeling of being metered to death by cabs is to use the services of Lyft, which get me a clean and friendly ride experience within minutes of calling for a ride. The prices are transparent and I've never had a less-than-stellar experience. It's more money than, say, a bus, but still within reason for a budget-conscious traveler.

5. Furniture

This year marked the death of all of my cheap furniture. I'm not sure why it all decided to die on me at once, but it was another reminder that you really do get what you pay for. I've shared why I try to keep my old, ugly furniture as long as I can, but even with all my good, old solid stuff, there's a need to buy new. A new recliner for our fifth baby lasted just under three years; it was a $250 buy from the discount furniture store. My cheapo corner desk, made from crumbly MDF and covered in something that looked like shelf liner, lasted a little over two years — if you don't count the permanent coffee rings and the drawer that had to be reattached on three separate occasions.

The furniture that lasted the longest included a set of ChromCraft vintage kitchen chairs that we paid a pretty penny for, as well as a 90s country blue couch with a 100% steel frame. Yes, the couch was ugly — and expensive — but couch covers are cheap, and that piece lasted longer than most automobiles I've owned. Before you cringe at the thought of spending half a month's salary on that new sectional or dining set, consider how much wear and tear you'll give your new purchase. With six kids in the house, I now know that higher quality is worth the often exorbitant cost.

What other expenses are well worth the cost? Let us know in comments!

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Guest's picture

Don't skimp on contraception! I never trusted those free condoms at colleges and health clinics. Supermarkets like Publix or Winn-Dixie or big box stores (Target, Wal-Mart) have major brands (Lifestyles, Durex, etc) for half the price that drugstores charge.

Guest's picture

I'd also like to add overall clothes. No need to go crazy, but I've purchased cheapo wal-mart clothing before and the poor fit and crappy material means I never wear it. Also, avoid cheap socks.

Guest's picture

It's getting harder & harder to find good socks. Seems like there is a contest among manufacturers to make the cheapest sock. My fav one changed in wgu laity 2 yrs ago & I have yet to find one that fits & lasts more then a handle full of months.

Guest's picture

Perhaps it's not the most fashionable way to approach shoe buying but I've found several brands, sizes, and styles that work for my troubled feet and just buy them when they are on sale. Sometimes even in advance of immediate need. Since my favorite colors haven't changed in years, the shoes always work. My husband has a short wide foot with a very high arch. Also difficult to fit. He's finally realized it is well worth it to buy a pair of Ecco shoes on sale that last for years than to drop $40 on a cheapie ill fitting pair that falls apart in a few months.

The beauty of buying used wooden furniture is you can still get good quality solid stuff for less than particleboard. Old English furniture polish has been my go to remedy for the occasional ding. We have a plethora of used furniture places in our area, so have great options. And I love the idea each piece has a story to tell. Like you, we purchased a large new particleboard piece. It's useful, but structurally not too great. And I regret it.

Guest's picture

Amen! My ankle is messed up due to cheap shoes ( that I thought were cute). 100's of dollars in dr appts to save $30. Bad choice on my part. For those wondering how? Shoe literally fell apart while I was navigating through snow from my car on the street to the shoveled path on the sidewalk. It didn't register what was going wrong until it was too late to catch myself. Ruined slacks, severely scraped knee & hand, shin on other leg well bruised & ankle solidly wrenched.
Now I only get new more practical footwear & save pretty 'n cute for weekends.