Purchases you shouldn’t scrimp on

April 30, 2014 | Paul Brucker

To scrimp or not to scrimp? That’s the question for many buyers when they are in the market for a product or service and are comparison shopping. Consumer Reports, the magazine that tests and rates products, often notes that the brands and models that sport higher prices tags do not necessarily possess better durability or quality. On the other hand, there’s an old adage that remains ever new: “You must buy it right or buy it twice.” That is, if you buy some items on the cheap, you’ll have to replace them more often.

So what’s a smart shopper to do? As a rule of thumb, there are some items that are worth the extra money and simply not worth scrimping on. That doesn’t mean that a shopper should splurge to the point of paying more than he or she can afford and become debt-ridden. It means opting for good quality products with good value. In some cases, that might mean searching through stores and online for the best prices and sales.

Here’s a list of items many people insist you should never scrimp on.

  1. Your car. Do you spend a lot of time behind the wheel of your vehicle? If so, it’s vital to get one that is comfortable and meets your needs. Make a list of the car features you need and really want before you shop. Then, within your budget, opt for the most reliable and safest car with those features. To calculate your total price tag, factor in the expected cost of insurance and maintenance for the car. Then protect your investment by maintaining the car with regular service visits and repairs.
  2. Your mattress. A lot of doctors emphasize that a good night’s sleep is as important to your health as what you eat and whether you exercise. The quality and quantity of your sleep also impacts your alertness and work performance. Great mattresses promote restful sleep. Today, people keep their mattress for an average of 10 years and sleep 7½ hours a night on it. That’s 27,000 hours of achieving or trying to achieve quality zzz’s. How can you tell if a mattress is high quality and right for you? Expect to pay more than $300. You’ll also want to give it a test drive (or rather a test lie down) in the store. Look for a mattress that offers good support and feels especially comfy to you. While we’re on the topic of beds: many people say it’s short-sighted and unkind to your body to scrimp on bed sheets. If you don’t want to splurge on lavish Egyptian cottons, at least buy sheets that are 100% cotton.
  3. Clothes and shoes. Did you know that in the 1950s, about 90% of U.S. homes had sewing machines and people had a better sense of what constitutes high quality clothing? Today, off-the-rack, mass-produced clothes are the norm, but that doesn’t mean you should choose clothes simply because they have a low sticker price. Rather, veer toward clothes that are durable, comfortable and flattering. Clothes that look good on you and make you feel good about yourself are worth paying for. That goes for shoes, as well. Be kind to your feet by buying well-crafted and comfortable shoes. Otherwise you risk being the owner of shoes that quickly fall into disrepair, and you may suffer foot woes such as bunions and heel pain.
  4. Groceries. Food coupons can save people considerable money and are nothing to sneer at. On the other hand, it’s important to get the food that you like to eat and that’s good for you – not just what’s promoted with a coupon. A smart course is to buy the best food that you can afford. And stock up to avoid an empty cupboard. Otherwise, you might need to spend a lot more money by eating out more than you’d like to. 
    And on the topic of eating: If you cook, invest in quality knives – ones that won’t become a hazard by growing dull or breaking. Sure, you may be able to pick up a complete set of cheap knives for under $75, but make sure you have at least a top of the line 8-inch chef’s knife. It may set you back $100, but it will serve you well and last a lifetime.
  5. Computers, appliances and electronics. Conduct research to ensure what you purchase has a reputation for great performance. For instance, if you frequently use a computer or tablet, opt for a lot of memory to make your machine faster and more efficient.
  6. Gifts for your significant other. If you spend less than what your partner expects on a gift, that might cause him or her to feel resentful. Rather than spend rashly, spend smart. If your decision comes down to an item with a variety of slightly different prices, send a re-assuring message to your loved one by choosing the nicer, more expensive option. 
  7. Garbage bags. Beware of bags made from thin plastic or ones that come with hard-to-use plastic ties. Avoid the agony of a broken bag and messy floor by buying bags made with thick plastic and drawstrings.

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