During the lean, early years of my marriage, saving pennies was a necessity. However, as we got older and our financial situation improved, I found I continued to pay as little as possible for everything and anything. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford more; it was that I didn’t want to spend more.
You understand, right?
But my shopping philosophy eventually began to shift. After years of being surrounded by poorly made stuff that never seemed to work as I had hoped, I decided that just because something is cheap, it isn’t necessarily a good value. Some of you may be saying “duh,” but it took me a while to accept that simple truth.
Now I value quality over price, especially for certain items. Here are seven things that are often worth the higher price:
1. Good quality tools
Whether we’re talking about power tools or kitchen tools, you want the best items you can afford if you’ll be using them regularly.
Thin pots and dull knives will have you running to the takeout line rather than cooking at home. Anemic power drills and flimsy hand tools will leave you cursing and make your weekend projects all that more of a chore.
If you need an item for a one-time use, you can probably get by with a cheaper version, although renting might make even more sense in some cases.
2. A vehicle that goes beyond the basics
Remember the Yugo? There was a reason it was so cheap. Low-end cars come with low-end parts. They are uncomfortable to drive and may end up needing multiple repairs before dying prematurely.
Rather than buying the cheapest vehicle possible, look for one with a reputation for reliability and safety. It will likely last you longer and need fewer repairs.
You’ll spend more on a better car, but it doesn’t have to put you in the poorhouse. Because cars tend to hold up for many more miles than they used to — with a fair number of top models lasting more than 200,000 miles — go ahead and find a used car that combines quality and lower price. You can check out Consumer Reports for a list of the most reliable and affordable used cars to purchase.
3. Services from competent professionals
It would really stink to pay someone to do your taxes and then find out they filed the paperwork all wrong. And yet, that’s the sort of thing that happens when you go the bargain-basement route for professional services.
From accountants to lawyers to mechanics, you want to spend extra to get someone who knows what they’re doing. It could cost more upfront but save money in the long run. You’ll also skip the aggravation and stress that would come from scrambling to clean up the mess created by a cut-rate professional.
4. The best house you can afford
A house is another place you don’t want to scrimp.
Like cheap cars, some cheap houses may cut corners on quality. You get new construction but with paper-thin walls and chintzy cabinets. They may be expensive to heat and uncomfortable to live in.
Or you could buy a cheap old house, one with fantastic bones. However, the cheap price could be because it’s in a neighborhood plagued by crime, traffic or some other undesirable element. Again, going cheap in this case could make for a poor living environment. Plus, your house will be a lousy investment if later no one wants to buy it from you because of the neighborhood.
Instead of seeking out the cheapest house possible, buy the best house you can afford — considering both the structure and the location. Even if you only plan to stay there a few years, you want those to be comfortable and enjoyable years, not time spent completing repair after repair or stressing about the revolving door of questionable guests visiting next door.
5. A lifetime of memories
Staycations are popular (and great!) but don’t overlook the importance of sometimes splurging on memorable experiences.
After my husband’s death at age 37, I began questioning the wisdom of waiting to enjoy life. It seems like we often want to put off the good life until we have a little more money or until the kids get older or until the stars align and angels sing.
Now, I’m not recommending that people who are deeply in debt jet off on a world tour or spend two weeks in Hawaii. There are lots of ways to keep your expenditures in check while on a family adventure. And if your budget will allow a weekend at the beach or even only a day at the zoo, it can be money well-spent.
6. Clothes that will last
Clothing is what first made me rethink my “cheaper is better” philosophy of spending. My closet was (and still largely is) filled with hand-me-downs. The price was unbeatable, but nothing fit right and I often felt frumpy and self-conscious.
The same happened with my kids’ clothes. We would load up at the bag sale at the thrift store, but many of those bargain items wouldn’t last the season.
While I haven’t sworn off thrift store shopping, I’m much more particular about the brands I buy. For kids, Lands’ End and The Children’s Place seem to be good bets. However, I’m still sorting out the best brands for myself.
As with the other items on this list, paying more doesn’t necessarily mean buying the most expensive item available. You’ll need to find the sweet spot at the intersection of price and quality. For example, I’ve discovered a $50 pair of jeans is infinitely better than a $20 pair of jeans. However, the difference between the $50 pair and one costing $75 isn’t so great.
I don’t need a whole closet full of clothes. It’s actually much easier to have a handful of good quality items that fit well and make me feel together than to have a closet full of not-quite-right bargain items.
7. A mattress for a good night’s sleep
Finally, life is so much better when you’re well-rested, and it’s hard to feel well-rested when your mattress is thin or lumpy or uncomfortably stiff.
Find the best mattress to support your back and sleeping style and buy it, even if it costs a little more. Again, I’m not saying you have to buy the most expensive one. I’m only saying you should be willing pay more to get what you need rather than settling for less.
Those are seven things we think you should pay more to have. What’s on your list? Leave a comment below or share with us on our Facebook page.