5 Things I’ll Pay More For (and 4 Things I Won’t)

When are you willing to spend more to get better quality? Paper towels and shoes are on my list.

When I was growing up, my parents had conflicting ideas about shopping and spending money. My dad always bought the cheapest products. My mom firmly believed that “you get what you pay for” and hated generic brands. Thankfully, they both love to argue and they made it work.

When I moved out on my own, I didn’t know which way was the right way. At first, I followed my mom’s advice and bought top-shelf products, but that quickly put me on the path to being broke. Then I tried to buy the cheapest things I could find, but they didn’t always hold up.

Finally, I realized they were both right. Sometimes you should buy the cheap stuff and sometimes you really do get what you pay for. Through a lot of trial and error, I identified the things I think are worth splurging on and the things that are best bought at the lowest price.

Here’s Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson with the “5 Golden Rules of Saving on Everything.” Check it out, then read on to find out what I’ll pay extra for.

What I’ll pay more for

1. Furniture. For years I bought either cheaply made modern furniture or looked for freebies my friends and family no longer wanted. Not only did I grow to hate my home, but I also developed lower back pain. When I finally decided to upgrade, I looked for well-built pieces instead of cheaper build-it-yourself models – and my back pain went away.

You don’t have to buy new to get good quality furniture. Just look for stain-resistant fabrics, solid wood pieces and well-built frames.

2. Electronics. In college my roommate went through four low-cost DVD players in a year. I bought a higher-end model and it lasted for seven years, until I finally sold it at a garage sale for $20. I won’t pay full price for electronics, but I do look for deals on highly rated brands.

3. Paper towels. Standing in the aisle, staring at the price of paper towels makes me cringe, but I’ve never been happy with generic brands. They rip easily, they’re less absorbent, and I end up using twice as much for each cleaning job. To save money, I buy in bulk at Sam’s Club or Costco.

4. Shoes. I wouldn’t spend $500 on a pair of boots, but I’ve found that discount shoes can cause blisters and make walking painful. I even had a pair that stained my feet. Plus, they don’t last as long as designer brands. I’ve found the best deals online at sites like 6pm.com and Zappos. They usually have a clearance section and, by signing up for their newsletter, I get coupons and other deals.

5. Swimsuits. For years, I’d buy three new (cheap) swimsuits at the start of the summer. By the end of summer, two out of the three would have rips or tears and got tossed. Finally, I bit the bullet and bought a nice swimsuit. I paid about $80, but it has lasted five years. When swimsuit shopping, check out the stitching and hooks. If they seem weak or fragile, they probably are.

What I won’t pay more for

1. Food staples. More than a few cookbooks I own recommend top-of-the-line ingredients, but I’ve never noticed a difference when I’ve made the recipes and substituted less expensive versions of the required foods. For foodstuffs like sugar, flour and milk, I buy whatever is cheapest. To get the lowest price, make sure you consider sales and coupons for name-brand items. Sometimes the name brand is a better deal on sale than the generic brand at full price.

2. Basic clothing. My sister swears by Puma socks. My best friend buys pajamas from Victoria’s Secret. I personally stick to cheaper brands when I’m stocking up on the basics. I’ve never found a significant difference in items like layering T-shirts or lounge pants.

3. Books. I own dozens of books, but I refuse to pay full price for them. Instead, I shop thrift stores, library benefit sales, garage sales and used bookstores. It’s cheaper than Barnes and Noble and more fun – like grownup treasure hunting.

4. HDMI cables. I have a few friends who swear by their Monster HDMI cables, but after CNET reviewed different brands, it said: “CNET strongly recommends cheap HDMI cables widely available from online retailers instead of the expensive counterparts sold in your local electronics store.” Whenever I need a new cable, I search online for ones under $10 and buy whichever brand has the highest user rating.

Do you have specific items you’re willing to spend more on? Sound off on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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  • BigDog40

    Clue: ALWAYS buy the VERY best toilet paper. End of report!

    • Mamatoni6

      Soooo very right about that!!!

  • Cindy Kadinger

    My philosophy is I am too poor to buy something cheap. Practically anything made of fabric from Wal-Mart is OUT! Staples like shampoo, deodorant or laundry soap is fine, but you still have to watch the price per unit or ounce whatever the case may be. A word of caution on laundry soap; if you have a family with small rug-rats, buy the better brands for tougher stain release. Lived and learned!

    • Anon

      I read that Tide consistently tops the list of highly rated laundry detergents, but that Costco’s Kirkland brand ranks near the top, too. That’s one I buy when I don’t make my own.

  • Kit Wilson

    Never ever buy generic (store brand) flour–you can’t make a roux with it, and all baked goods come out awful. I threw out nearly five pounds of store-brand flour because it was useless.

    • Mamatoni6

      I have had generic brands do just as well as brand names, though I know what you are talking about. So I usually stick to name brand also, unless I know the generic is one I have worked with. Thats a good one! Most people don’t think twice about things like flour etc, until they end up with a something that doesn’t taste so good lol.

  • Mamatoni6

    There are 5 of us that love Mac and cheese. Generic brand is just a cruel joke to the dish lol. Still add many ingredients to make it my own instead of straight out of the box, but hate the store brands. They never work put * sigh* lol

  • Rudesal

    Why buy paper towels at all? Use washrags and dishtowels. Then wash and line dry when possible. Save trees and money.

    • Grace McCarter

      THIS! And if you fry something, you can get smaller colanders to put over a bowl. I do this when frying up tofu and it’s not overly greasy after it sits for a few minutes(while frying up the next batch of food). No paper and a one time purchase!
      I do prefer to cover my food with a napkin as opposed to plastic when nuking my food, however.

  • miabellacoupon

    My Dad always said you pay extra for two things. Shoes and mattresses. I have found he is absolutely right! I have been couponing for two years and it has changed my life. I buy items at really low prices and stock up on them. I am usually a snob and only buy one kind of Paper towel that is the most costly. This week I got a paper towel deal and got 20 rolls for free with a sale and coupon. I have been surprised to find they are really very good paper towels. I’m sure that will make the company happy. In the last month I have gotten free Dry Idea deodorant, free Aussie hair products, free Crest toothpasteetc I love Free! Yay! Last year I didn’t have to spend grocery money on anything but produce and dairy! Suhweet!The money I would have spent for that can now be saved or spent on more fun things!

  • Maria Velasquez

    Why not MAKE laundry soap, cleaning supplies with vinegar, lemon juice, etc., so there can be enough money for the
    nike shoes, brand name jeans that also last longer than cheap ones? I’ve been doing this for over a year and works great
    for my family. Also, since I’m not working anymore, I also cook 90% of our meals and snacks.

    • Grace McCarter

      Oooooh do you have a blog where you talk about these things?

      • Maria Velasquez

        No, I don’t, but there are many wonderful people in cyberspace that do. Thank God for the internet.

        • Vito V

          Yes! Why did it take him so many years to come up with the idea?

  • Grace McCarter

    I’m a notebook snob. I have become addicted to Moleskines. That said, I have a $6 fountain pen that I refill using a cheap computer ink refill kit I bought on Ebay, and since Michaels arts and crafts carries moleskines and those NBs never go on sale anywhere, I wait until a week like this one where it’s 40% off any one item and pick up a couple(going through a few times or nab 2pack).
    I get all the regallness of having a fancy moleskine notebook, and my $6 fountain tip pen is much better than any other pen I see my fellow students using.

    Also, I have a small moleskine for general notes, and I get a thin one for each class I’m taking.
    you can save on ANYTHING if you’re smart!

  • Vito V

    I found a generic brand of Lysol in Walmart. It was 1/2 the price, and id have to check but I think the can is even bigger. Says it kill 99% of bacteria just like Lysol so I bought it. Now I just have to figure out how to count the germs. LOL

  • What I will Pay More For:

    1) Face Wash – when it comes to your skin, especially on your face – there is no compromise. Generic products do not always work the same. Take care of your skin!

    2) Toilet paper – ’nuff said!

    3) Lunch meat – gosh…. generic is so much cheaper, but the taste of the big brands like Hillshire Farm and Boars Head is soooo much better!

    4) Chocolate milk mix – the generic is just disgusting. It’s like drinking chalk in milk… haha Get it?

    5) Bras – I will say that a Victoria’s Secret bra lasts much longer and keeps its’ shape better than even a bra from Target. I will pay $40.00 for a bra if I know I wear it for years and still feel just as pretty and confident!

    There are others – but these are top of mind!

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