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Buying Cheap vs. Buying for Life



Ever hear the expression, “penny wise and pound foolish”? It means you focused too much on the price, and not enough on the cost. When you are trying to stick to a budget it can be tough not to cheap out.

While overspending is a much bigger problem in this country, underspending can also cost you — and in some cases, it can even cost you your life.

Buying for life means purchasing high-quality, durable products that are intended to last a lifetime, or at least a significant portion of it. The concept is based on the idea that investing in a high-quality product upfront can save you money in the long run by reducing the need for replacements and repairs.

Here are some benefits of buying for life:

  1. Saves money in the long run: High-quality products may be more expensive upfront, but they are typically built to last and will not need to be replaced as frequently. This means you can save money over time by not having to replace or repair the product as often.
  2. Reduces waste: When you buy cheap, disposable products, you contribute to the growing problem of waste in our environment. By investing in high-quality products that last, you can reduce the amount of waste you produce and make a positive impact on the environment.
  3. Higher quality: High-quality products are generally made with better materials and are designed with more attention to detail. This means they are likely to work better and last longer than their cheaper counterparts.
  4. Better performance: High-quality products often perform better than cheaper alternatives. For example, a high-quality kitchen knife will be sharper and more precise than a cheap one, making it easier to prepare food.
  5. Pride of ownership: Owning a high-quality, durable product can bring a sense of pride and satisfaction that you may not get from a cheaper, disposable item. Knowing that you have made a wise investment in a product that will last for years can be very rewarding.

Knowing how to save money by buying for life. Here are some things to consider when making a purchase:

  • Cost versus value
  • Corners are being cut to make a product cheaper
  • The cost of replacements and repairs over the years
  • Buy-for-life goods save money and time
  • Lifelong things give you long-term satisfaction
  • Look for timeless quality, extended guarantees, and repairability

buying for life may require a larger upfront investment, but it can save you money in the long run, reduce waste, and provide better quality and performance. Here is a list of items you may be tempted to skimp on but would be better off spending on better quality.

Self maintenance


That $10 shirt from a discount retailer sure is a good deal – until it starts falling apart after just a few washings. While there’s no guarantee that your clothes will last longer when they come with a higher price tag, it’s a pretty good bet that if you buy a new article of clothing for next to nothing, the fabric will be cheap and the stitching won’t hold up for long.

Fast fashion may seem great when you are getting a deal on an outfit but after one or two washes they tend to fall apart. Not only is this industry bad for your wallet it’s bad for the environment and the worker who make them.

Do yourself a favor and invest in your wardrobe. Buy well-made clothes that you love that will last you a lifetime.

Don’t despair if you want to save money on good clothing, however. You can still get quality clothes at bargain prices by shopping end-of-season clearance racks at higher-end department stores.

Tip: Go to thrift shops if you’re tight on funds for a new outfit.


Just like shoddily made clothing, shoes cobbled together with cheap materials won’t stand the test of time if you wear them much. Even worse, the money you saved on cheap shoes could be outweighed by how much you may spend at the doctor for back and foot problems caused by wearing poorly made shoes.

Buying cheap shoes may seem like a bargain, but your feet may disagree. Take time to find the right fitting shoes and pay extra for quality. This especially applies to running shoes.

Buying a pair of knock-off running shoes may seem like a bargain, but over time, they won’t stand up to the damage of running on paved roads.

A good pair of running shoes can set you back $100 or more. But $20 shoes might not last you in the long run — especially if you suffer from plantar fasciitis, back pain, and knee problems.

: Watch for sales and  href=””>use rewards programs to save on shoes. All people are different. One running shoe may work great for someone you know, but not the same for you. Go to a specialty running shoe store and try on a few.


There’s a reason why haircuts and styling are so cheap at those walk-in places that charge only $10 or so. You won’t find many – if any – hairstylists with years of practice cutting hair there, so every customer is a learning experience.

The good news is that hair – along with self-esteem after a bad haircut – can always grow back. And you only need to spend an additional $20, $30 or maybe a little more to walk away with a hairstyle you love.

Tip: Ask around and read reviews. Interview them. Make sure they can work with your hair type.


We spend about one-third of our lives sleeping, so skimping on a mattress is a really bad idea. In addition to needing a new mattress sooner than you should, you could end up paying a chiropractor, massage therapist or physical therapist to straighten out or relieve body aches caused by sleeping nightly on a terrible mattress.

You don’t have to pay thousands of dollars for a mattress that lets you get a good night’s sleep. But you also don’t want to buy a mattress so cheap that it’s lumpy and breaking down after only a year or two. To find an affordable mattress that will last, wait until businesses put mattresses on sale for national holidays.

If you don’t have enough right now for a decent mattress, find one that you can finance at a 0 percent APR for a year or longer so you can pay it off a little at a time with no interest.

Tip: The best time to shop for a mattress is during the holidays when all the furniture stores run sales. Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Fourth of July are some of the best times to go mattress hunting.

Toilet paper

Nowadays, even the cheapest toilet paper isn’t cheap, since the pandemic put the fear of not a square to spare into the American public. So, it’s tempting to grab the package of toilet paper with the lowest price and worry about quality later.

You won’t have to wait long, however, since you and your family will blow through several rolls a day of that one-ply “bargain” brand and you’ll soon return to the store to buy toilet paper again. If you want to save, it’s better to clip coupons, watch sales and buy a better brand in bulk.

You may not notice a difference — it’s just toilet paper. The bargain brands often only provide single-ply toilet paper, compared to two, or even three-ply toilet paper. If you are buying cheap single-ply stuff you will run out quicker, leading you to run out to the store for more.

Tip: One of the easiest ways to save money on name-brand toilet paper is to clip coupons. There is definitely one for toilet paper.

Healthy food

Similar to the previous slide, eating ramen noodles long enough can cut your food budget down, but can also harm your health just as drastically over time. Fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t as expensive as you may think. It’s best off to eat a healthy diet to avoid expensive medical bills.

Tip: Buy fresh vegetables you can use in more than one dish. Also, bagged fruits such as oranges or apples are generally priced lower than when you buy individually.


Going against most other pieces of advice here, cheaper sunscreen often works better. But you need to do some digging to find the right bottle at the store.

You can’t always rely on the sun protection factor (SPF) number on the bottle. Though the higher number often means better protection, you can’t completely rely on it. That number measures protection from ultraviolet B radiation.

Tip: Look for “broad spectrum” sunscreen that covers both ultraviolet B and A rays. Luckily, these aren’t always the most expensive in the grocery store. Also, Look for the cream kind of sunscreen, not the spray one. Most of the spray stuff ends up dispersing out into the air.

Safety gear

You should never try to cut costs when it comes to you or your family’s safety. Your kids may outgrow their bike helmets, elbow, and knee pads — but that doesn’t mean buying cheap. You should pay for their safety.

Tip: Taking the cheap route on a bicycle helmet or other safety gear for your kids or yourself can lead to injuries as well as medical bills. Places like Amazon offer a variety of options at a variety of prices. Cleveland Clinic has some tips on what to look for.

Skimping on health insurance

The average cost of an individual health insurance Silver Plan for a 40-year-old in 2022  is $541, according to ValuePenguin. Depending on your age and whether you must purchase individual health insurance vs. an employer-sponsored health plan, monthly health insurance premiums can exceed $1,000.

If you’re healthy, you may think going without health insurance is a good way to save thousands of dollars a year. However, skimping on health insurance can cost you later. For example, even if you’re healthy, you could get hurt in a car accident. What if you get a head injury or break a limb from taking a tumble on your bike?

Without health insurance, you could end up with a hospital bill that could lead to bankruptcy. The average cost for a three-day hospital stay is around $30,000, according to Fixing a broken leg can cost up to $7,500. And comprehensive cancer care can run up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills.

To lower health insurance costs, compare plans and consider a plan with a high deductible for lower premiums to save money.

Not contributing to a retirement fund

If you’re decades away from retirement, saving now so you can retire comfortably at some distant date may not seem like a priority. However, saving for retirement while you’re young can make a huge difference in your life when you’re ready to say goodbye to the workforce.

For example, if you contribute $150,000 to an investment retirement account from age 25 to 40, you could have around $1 million in the retirement fund by age 65, according to Vanguard. If your employer matches your 401(k) contributions, your annual contributions to have $1 million by age 65 could be as low as $2,200.

If you have an employer-sponsored 401(k), enroll in the program, especially if your company matches a portion of your contribution from each paycheck. You’ll barely notice the deduction, and it’s a painless way to save for retirement.

Home maintenance

Regular inspection and maintenance for your HVAC system, washer and dryer, chimney, fireplace and appliances is essential to keep appliances running smoothly and avoid costly repairs later.

For example, you may not want to fork over $100 for a furnace or air conditioner inspection and maintenance. However, if you don’t, you may end up paying hundreds of dollars later if the furnace stops working on a freezing night or the A/C quits on a hot, humid weekend.

Renter’s insurance

You may not own your apartment, but you probably own your stuff in the apartment.

Paying an extra $150-$300 a year will protect you in the off chance of damage from a fire, natural disaster, or even theft.

Tip: Your landlord isn’t going to cover those costs for you. It wouldn’t hurt to protect yourself.


That $300 sofa online may look cool in the photo, and it could look just as good in your living room. Maybe it even seems comfortable when you first plop down on it. But when you go cheap on a sofa, you could end up with more problems than just a stiff neck and a backache from sitting on a couch made for style over comfort.

Cheap sofas tend to break down fast, whether it’s the shoddy frame or the bargain-basement fabric that begins to pill after a few weeks. Throw in daily use, whether it’s just you or an entire family of people and pets, and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be aching for a new, better quality sofa soon. Then you’ll just have to spend more money on a new one.

Instead of trying to save money on a cheap sofa, shop around for a good deal. If you have good credit, you may be able to buy a comfy, quality sofa that will last and finance it with a 0 percent APR for a year or longer. Check out sofas in local furniture stores’ clearance sections, or wait to buy the couch at a discount when the store has a sale. You’ll also find quality used sofas in excellent condition at online venues like Facebook Marketplace or consignment shops, and retirement homes.

Tip: Shop around, and buy solid pieces not something you have to build yourself. It’s an investment. Furnature sales are during Presidents Day, Fourth of July, and Memorial Day.


Paint is expensive, so buying cheaper house or interior paint to save hundreds of dollars may seem like a smart move. However, when you buy cheap paint, it typically doesn’t cover well, at least not compared to more expensive brands like Benjamin Moore or Sherwin-Williams, so you end up using more paint and having to repaint sooner.

Tip: Look for 30-40 percent off sales at Sherwin-Williams during Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, and other holidays.


When you get a costly estimate from a plumbing business for a new water heater and installation, you may think you’re saving money by hiring a guy on Craigslist to install it for one-third of the price. That low-ball installation may work out fine, but there’s also a chance it won’t. When that happens, you’re stuck with the shoddy job and no recourse.

What if the Craigslist handyman injures himself falling down your basement stairs? What if he leaves the job half-finished and never returns? He could install the appliance improperly, causing dangerous carbon monoxide leaks. Maybe improper installation invalidates the appliance warranty.

With home repairs and appliance installation, it’s better to hire a reputable business that has insurance and workers trained to do that specific job, along with warranties and guarantees. If the price is too expensive, ask friends and family for recommendations of reliable, skilled technicians to perform home repairs and appliance installation.

Tip: Do your research

HVAC maintenance

Keep up with yearly tune-ups to your furnace. Living in a cold climate, your furnace will keep you nice and toasty throughout those frigid winter months. But by not keeping up with the routine maintenance, you risk your furnace going on the fritz while in the middle of a snowstorm.

Tip: Don’t wait to repair or replace expensive appliances when you’re at the mercy of a repair company. Purchase a new furnace in the spring or summer and the A/C unit in the winter when prices are lower. To keep up with maintenance, you can buy an annual plan that includes two tune-ups for as low as $139 through Home Depot.


You may think choosing the cheapest dishwasher, washer and dryer, stove, refrigerator or hot water heater is a great way to save money. But it’s a better idea tospend more for appliances priced at least mid-range.

That’s because when you buy appliances with cheap parts and materials, they probably won’t hold up as well as more expensive appliances. So, you could end up shelling out money for repairs or even a replacement appliance sooner than you’d like. Help them last longer and maintain them as recommended.

Tip: Read reviews and make sure the appliance fits your lifestyle. Get a washer that can deal with 3 kids who play sports.

Car maintenance

Your vehicle’s owner’s manual lists important maintenance schedules, including when you need to change the oil, along with recommended replacement times for brakes, timing belt and other parts that keep your car safe and running smoothly.

Ignoring your mechanic’s recommendation to replace a part as vital to your vehicle as the timing belt, you can find yourself broken down, and stranded on the side of the road one day. Not only will you be stuck, but you’ll pay extra for a tow truck to pick you up.

AAA recommends setting aside at least $50 a month for routine maintenance and unexpected car repairs. Ask around for referrals to a trustworthy mechanic so you can stay on top of routine auto maintenance and avoid costly repairs later.

Tip: Regular oil changes according to your manufaturaers will keep your car’s engine strong.


An average American spends 101 minutes per day driving. Those round rubber tubes are the only part of your vehicle that actually touches the road. Buying cheap tires is not the way to make sure you are comfortable and safe.

Even if you own a used car, it’s still worth it to slap on new tires when needed. Taking the risk of driving around with used tires puts your life at risk, too.

There is no way to tell if a used tire was previously driven overloaded, or underinflated, with air. It’s also difficult to tell if the tire was mishandled, damaged, or improperly repaired. All of these situations put you in danger while driving. Saving a few hundred on tires may cost you a few thousand in medical bills or worse.

Tip: Pay attention to the tread on your tire, and use a penny to check how much tire is left. If you place a penny in the tread with Abe Lincoln’s head facing down, the tire tread should cover his full head. If his head is uncovered by tread, you need new tires.

Being cheap vs frugal

You may consider yourself a savvy shopper, always on the lookout for a good deal. You’ve probably saved a lot of money by clipping coupons, shopping sales, matching prices online and other smart ways to get the best price on purchases both small and large.

But did you know that trying to save money can sometimes backfire and end up costing you more?

Cheap paper towels

You know that paper towel brand sporting the picture of a lumberjack who looks like he can wipe up any mess you can muster? Well, cheap paper towels should have a picture of a twig-like man being tossed about the kitchen by ceiling fan winds, because you get the equivalent when you cut costs on paper towels.

The thing is, pricey paper towels will last a lot longer than a package of six flimsy rolls you can get for less than half the price. That’s because you won’t have to use three or four paper towels to clean up a mess that one good absorbent paper towel can easily cover.

Tip: Just like other paper products clip coupons and buy BOGO

Pet food

You may think you’re getting a bargain for a large bag of pet food for cheap. You’ll think again about when that food risks your pet’s health.

Cheaper pet food is similar to junk food for people. A poor diet will increase your chances of health problems that will lead to expensive veterinary bills down the road.

Tip: Check pet store and manufacturer’s websites to compare prices.

Signing up for free trials

From free streaming services to free trials for supplements, teeth whitening and other health or beauty products, free trials can save money – if you remember to cancel before the trial expires.

However, some free trials are hard to cancel, with hidden terms and conditions, pre-checked sign-up boxes online and strict return and cancellation requirements that make it almost impossible to stop deliveries and billing, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Before you sign up for a free trial, the FTC recommends researching the company online to see what others say about the company’s free trials and its service.

Financing with 0% interest

When you can’t pay cash for large purchases, a 0% interest financing offer for a year or longer can be a smart move. However, if you fail to adhere to the offer terms, you could end up paying more than anticipated.

Read 0% offer terms and conditions carefully, paying special attention to the interest rate that kicks in on any remaining balance after the offer expires. On many 0% offers, paying late or missing a payment may cancel the no-interest terms, subjecting you to a higher interest rate. Also, if you owe a balance when the offer expires, you may have to pay interest retroactively on the original purchase amount.

Transferring credit card balances

Transferring credit card or loan balances to a new credit card with an introductory 0% APR for a year or longer can be a wise move when you save more in interest than you pay for the 3% or higher fee on the transferred balance. That’s because payments go directly towards principal, so you won’t pay interest.

If you don’t pay the balance by the time the intro period ends, however, a new, higher interest rate typically kicks in. Carrying a balance with a higher interest rate than the one on the original card may cost more in interest than you’d have paid otherwise, especially if you make purchases on the new card.

Abandoning your sales circular shopping mission

When you run into an expensive health food store to grab the advertised head of broccoli for $1, it’s easy to abandon your frugal mission with impulse buys on snacks, pastries and other enticing products.

Before shopping make a list of what you need to buy and take a set amount of cash instead of a credit or debit card to avoid buying more than intended.

Buying more online for free shipping

Around 75% of consumers expect free delivery, even on orders under $50, according to a report from the National Retail Federation (NRF). Additionally, 65% of consumers look up shipping costs and free-shipping thresholds before getting to the checkout, according to the NRF.

When you purchase something you need for $25 but then add one or more items to the cart to meet the free shipping requirement, you’re not always getting a good deal. More likely, you’re just spending more money than planned.

Buying stuff on sale that you don’t need

Just because it’s a bargain doesn’t mean you need to buy it. It’s hard to pass up a half-price shirt or a pair of pants that are a fraction of the original price. However, if you don’t need the item, you’re spending money on something that may simply hang in the closet until you drag the item out for a thrift-store donation purge.

Carrying a rewards credit card balance

If you’ve got a credit card with a high cash back or other rewards program and you pay off the balance each month, you’re saving money on purchases because you get money, miles or other rewards in return.

However, when you don’t pay the balance off each month, you’re canceling out that “free money” by paying interest. Another way to trip yourself up with this savings tool is to charge more purchases than you can pay off that month just to accumulate rewards points or cash back.

Talk to a debt relief specialist to find the best way to pay off credit card debt.

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