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The following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Kevin Mercadante, who is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry.
On nearly any personal finance site, frugality is the usual order of the day. We should save money anywhere and everywhere we can. But there are times – with certain purchases – that looking for the lowest price isn’t the best choice. Sometimes it can leave you with an inferior product or service. Other times, the purchase is for something so important to your life that it has to function and do so reliably.
Here are some important purchases that you may want to think long and hard about before you go buying on the cheap.
Computers and Internet service
If you’re looking for service for your kids, or mainly just for email and light surfing for yourself, you might want to go with the least expensive computer and the cheapest Internet service provider you can find. But if you have a more significant purpose for having either, it may be in your best interest to go with a better computer, and a more efficient Internet service.
This is especially true if you use your computer and Internet connection for work or for running your own business. If that is the case, you’ll need a very efficient Internet connection – complete with top-notch customer service – plus a computer that can handle whatever you will throw at it.
A computer that is under capacity, or an Internet service that is interrupted frequently, can cost you clients and money. Think of your computer and Internet as part of your business infrastructure, and spend as much money as you need within reason.
Mattress and box spring
It’s often said – and it’s true – that we spend about one third of our lives in bed. That being the case, you’re better to spend a little bit more for a good mattress and box spring.
Not only do you spend a lot of time in bed, but your bed is also where you recharge for the day ahead. If you’re unable to get a good night’s sleep, because of an adequate mattress or box spring, your days could be filled with fatigue, confusion, and even phantom aches and pains. Enough of that can take a toll on your job and on your productivity, and can cost you more money over the long run.
One more factor to consider is the fact that a bed is usually an item that you expect to last for a long time. It might be better to spend $1,000 on a mattress and box spring that will last you for 10 years, than to spend $600 on a mattress and box spring that will have to be replaced twice in 10 years.
There are so many expenses associated with car ownership that it can take a flowchart to figure out what the best car for the best price will be for you. Certainly you should consider upfront cost, fuel efficiency and reliability. But unless you plan to buy new car every five years or less, you’re probably better off to pay a little bit more and to buy a car that will last longer.
Some cars are built to last, and others…are more like throwing cars! (That’s the driving force behind planned obsolescence.
Better quality cars not only last longer, buy they also tend to break down less and are generally safer to drive. Since these are all “bankable advantages” – the car will perform better, and cost less over the long run – they’ll be worth spending some extra money on.
If you can’t afford to buy a better quality car brand-new, you may be better off buying one that’s two or three years old, rather than paying less money for a less efficient substitute.
Furniture and appliances
My wife and I bought a refrigerator freezer back in 1996, and we paid well over $1,000 for it. While you can easily pay more than that for refrigerators today, back then, it was on the high end of the range. We just bought a house, and we had a young family, so we broke the bank to buy a better unit, figuring would last us for at least 10 years.
We were wrong. It has lasted for over 17 years and it’s still going. Had we bought a cheaper unit, we probably would not have gotten even 10 years out of it, and we would have had to replace it by now. But we haven’t had to buy a refrigerator in all that time.
Appliances tend to be that way, pay a little extra and they’ll last longer.
Furniture is less certain. The argument for paying more for better quality, is that a good set of furniture can quite literally last lifetime. You can buy it once, and never have to buy furniture for a room again .That’s a REAL investment!
The counter argument however, is that your taste in furniture will change during your lifetime. The living room set you bought when you were in your 20s and first married may not match your tastes when you’re in your 40s. Children also have an effect on furniture. While they’re young and growing, it may be best to buy less expensive, lower quality furniture. The kids will mostly use it for trampolines anyway.
No one ever intentionally opts for cheap health insurance, but cost is a real problem. That can cause you to cut corners on your coverage either by taking very high deductibles, or by refusing certain coverage’s in attempts to keep the premiums to a minimum.
For example, it’s OK to opt out of prescription drug coverage if you are not on any ongoing drug therapies. But if you or your family have several regular prescriptions that you need, refusing this coverage will be a real problem.
Another example are high deductibles. If you are young and single, a $5,000 or $10,000 deductible may work well for you. But if you have a family you may need a much lower deductible, because more people means a much greater likelihood that you’ll actually have to file claims.
This is of course is easier said than done when it comes to health insurance. As a rule, any insurance is better than no insurance, but you should still try to get the best you can based on your circumstances.
How about you all? Can you think of any other products or services where buying on the cheap is probably a bad idea?
Share your experiences by commenting below!
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