Generally, if you favor a particular product and use it on a daily basis you should continue to spend money on it. More expensive products like high-quality pillows and mattresses are better for your physical comfort in the long run. Never try to save money on check-ups with the doctor or dentist — prioritize your health over your savings.
I usually go “cheap” when I’m spending money on things for myself or for my family. I aim for very low cost and healthy foods — I aim for spending less than $100 a week on food and household items for my family of five while still having healthy meals for all. I buy store brand versions of a lot of things. I rarely splurge on expensive items. I only buy clothes when they’re on sale, usually when clothing stock is getting rotated out at the end of the season.
Having said that, over the years, I have found that there are some things that I don’t skimp on.
“What stuff don’t you skimp on?” you might ask. “When is it a bad idea to go cheap?”
Don’t worry, I’ll get there and provide a list of items that I don’t skimp on for you, but first, I want to offer up my general rule on things you shouldn’t skimp on:
If you use an item every day and you can identify specific features that make a significant difference for you, then you shouldn’t skimp on those items.
That list of items is going to be somewhat different for everyone, because we all live different lives and use different items in different ways. However, there are some things that we do all have in common, such as eating, sleeping, and walking, and my list touches on all of those things.
The thing to always consider is whether or not a good version of an item will meet a genuine need for you and make a significant difference in your life. Something might seem “cool,” but does it really help?
One feature I always consider when it comes to daily use items is reliability. Is it going to last for years and years and years? That’s what I want, and I’m willing to pay more for that. I will pay more than five times the cost for something that will last five years versus something that will only last for a year so I don’t have to deal with the cycle of breaking down and replacement each year.
So, that being said, here are things that I don’t “go cheap” on.
Shoes Frank Augstein/Pool/Reuters
If shoes hurt my feet, I’m not going to wear them with any regularity. If shoes feel comfortable, particularly after long days of walking, not only will I wear them all the time, I tend to latch onto those models and keep buying that same model for as long as they’re made.
I generally have four pairs of shoes, one pair of sandals (for the summer), and one pair of boots (for the winter). I have a pair of “everyday” shoes, a pair of “hiking/outdoor/likely to get muddy” shoes, a pair of “dress” shoes, and a pair of “gym” shoes. I replace these shoes when they’re either starting to fall apart (at which point I try to get the same exact model as before) or if I’m feeling foot pain (at which point I get a different model). For the most part, I stick with the same models over and over and over and over again until they stop being made or the company changes their construction. For the most part, these shoes last a couple of years each at least. I have a preferred model for each type and I always watch for steep sales on them because if I find such sales, I’ll buy a few pairs and stick them in the closet.
If my feet are hurting because of my shoes and it’s not due to breaking in a new pair of old standby shoes (I do exclude days where I do an exceptionally large amount of walking compared to my normal amount of walking), then I get different shoes. I don’t accept sore feet. I don’t accept the idea that I should dread going for a walk because of foot pain.Foot pain due to cheap shoes is not acceptable; I will spend more on shoes to avoid foot pain, and I will stick with models that work. I prefer shoe models that will last for a long time and I seek out a good bang for the buck regarding construction quality and price.
In summary, when it comes to shoes, being able to wear them for a long period of time and on long walks in varied terrain without foot discomfort is something I’m willing to pay extra for.
Mattresses and pillows Apollofoto/Shutterstock
This is a similar argument to shoes. I won’t tolerate a nightly mattress or pillow that causes consistent back pain or any other form of discomfort. If I am experiencing neck or back pain due to my sleep, then I rotate the mattress as a first response and also carefully evaluate my pillow. If the pain continues, I’ll replace my pillow immediately. If it still continues, I’ll replace that mattress.
I’ll stick with a pillow until it appears to be the cause of neck or back pain. The same is true for a mattress — I’ll stick with it until it appears to be the source of neck or back pain after rotation. When it’s clear that something is causing me to be in pain upon waking or causing significant discomfort during the day, then it is going, no questions asked.
For replacing a pillow, I have a consistent pillow that works well for me for about a year before becoming too flat and causing some minor neck issues and upper back pain (this is the one I prefer). Mattress replacement is trickier simply because of the difficult marketing of the mattress industry which does all it can to make things unclear, but we tend to get lots of years out of a mattress. I usually just take note of what mattresses I sleep on while traveling that cause me to wake up over several nights with no back pain and I look for those models. (I am very much in the “firm” mattress camp.)
In the end, for me, when it comes to mattresses and pillows, a good night of sleep without discomfort or pain in the morning is something I’m willing to pay well for.
Basic kitchen equipment Asya Nurullina/Shutterstock
One thing I do almost every day is prepare at least one, and often two or three, meals in my kitchen. This often involves cooking things on the stovetop, chopping up vegetables, and so on.
For any tasks that I do that frequently in the kitchen, I want tools that just work — tools with a long lifespan that can take a beating, tools that don’t require endless maintenance, tools that just do their job.
For me, the core kitchen tools are a good chef’s knife (the Victorinox Fibrox is perfectly fine; I use a Global I received as a gift, but the Fibrox is where it’s at for quality versus cost), a good paring knife (again, Victorinox is perfect for my needs), a cutting board, a saucepan, a skillet (a cast iron one is best, one you’ve seasoned until the surface is basically nonstick), a pot of reasonable size (a Lodge 6 quart enameled cast iron works for almost anything you might do with one), a small spatula, and a larger one for flipping things in the skillet. With those tools, I can prepare most of the dishes that my family enjoys. Those things must work. Those things must do their job with minimal maintenance.
There are other things that I use frequently, such as a rice cooker, but I don’t mind buying the Goodwill versions of those if I need to replace one.
The core things I use in the kitchen need to be well made, to do their jobs well with minimal maintenance, and to last for a long time. I don’t want to waste time with things that aren’t working well any more when I’m trying to assemble a simple meal quickly for my family. This stuff needs to work. In summary, for me, with the daily use items in my kitchen, reliability and low maintenance are the killer features that I will pay more for.
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