We all have our favorite cost-cutting measures, but at times this thriftiness can backfire. For example, buying an inferior product just because it’s cheaper often results in aggravation, not to mention additional costs for repairs or replacement. If you’re going to spend a lot of time and energy frustrated by a cheap purchase, and potentially have to replace it anyway, was it still worth its savings?
In some instances, it’s worth investing in either the name brand or more expensive option right from the start, especially if it’s an item you use every day.
We each have our own spending priorities, and that extends to our lists of things worth paying full price for now rather than paying for in other ways down the line. My list may not necessarily look like yours, but hopefully it inspires you to consider what items are most important to you, and which are more ripe for compromise.
Here are the six items I’ll always pay a little more to purchase.
1. A Great Work Bag
For the first few years of my professional life, I used a decades-old IBM laptop zipper bag to carry my everyday essentials. It served the basic function of holding my lunch and reading material for the commute, but it had its shortcomings, too. For example, it didn’t have a shoulder strap.
A work bag, much like our clothing, conveys to colleagues and others our level of professionalism. As I grew into my late 20s and my bag required a replacement, I switched to a J. Crew messenger bag that is not only sleeker and more durable, but also more comfortable and helps me come across as someone worth taking seriously.
2. A Proper Pillow
Many levels of comfort exist between the pillows provided by airplanes and the ones commonly found at the Four Seasons. It’s up to everyone to determine his own preference for softness versus firmness. However, consider the importance of a good night’s sleep. And that starts with your pillow.
Think about someone tossing and turning all night, maneuvering his head and his pillow to find some degree of comfort. Doesn’t sound like a restful night, does it? Having the right pillow propels me into the right position to sleep comfortably. I can easily avoid regular morning grumpiness by spending a little bit more on the pillow of my dreams. Here’s a great guide to choosing a pillow that’s right for you.
3. A Good Shampoo and Deodorant
This one might sound a little strange, but remember that your list may not look at all like mine.
I didn’t want to develop a bad habit of scratching my head in public due to dandruff, or fidgeting inside my shirt because my anti-perspirant wasn’t doing its job. Body language matters, and promoting ourselves with confidence starts with how we put ourselves together. To find the brands and formulas that worked best for me, I tested a variety of shampoos and deodorants until I found winners.
4. Supportive Athletic Shoes
When I joined a weekly outdoor volleyball game on blacktop last year, I played in my New Balance sneakers. A few months later, they were no longer able to hold up, so I bought a pair of discounted athletic sneakers. When those, too, tore apart in a matter of months, I learned my lesson: buy shoes designed and built for the wear and tear of sports.
Even in my first week wearing my new Nike high-tops, I could already move around the court more nimbly than before. They were only $10 more than the discount pair, but that small extra cost has made all the difference.
5. Quality Cleaning Supplies
Like many people, I do my own cleaning rather than paying someone else to do it.
However, it’s important to use the right supplies to make my efforts worthwhile. Name-brand cleaning supplies like Pledge, Windex and Tide have those reputations for a reason, while cheaper cleaning supplies, sometimes offer nothing more than soapy water.
Floors, countertops, carpets and clothes are better off if they’re cleaned with the right substances, geared toward making them as good as new. This is especially important for finishes on wooden furniture or flooring, and technical fabrics like Gore-Tex.
6. A Well-Made Knife Set
Have you ever tried to cut raw chicken with a bad knife? It takes a while. Slicing potatoes or a pumpkin with one can be challenging, or even dangerous.
I always buy knives that will make cooking more efficient and will last for years. Yes, that sometimes means spending $40 to $60 more than I may have wanted to, but it makes life so much easier (and often safer). I use these tools multiple times per day, so the value is apparent both immediately and in the long term.
Your Turn: What’s on your it’s-worth-paying-for list?
Danny Groner is a freelance journalist based in New York City. Continue the conversation on Twitter @DannyGroner.