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.
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