Even a cheapskate has to spend money sometimes. I’ve asked various frugal folks—bloggers, writers, money-saving and consumer experts—to compile personal, totally subjective lists of the products, services, experiences, and other “things” they’re willing to shell out good money on. Because if a cheapskate is willing to drop cash on something, you know it’s worthwhile.
I’ve also asked people to name some of the things they refuse to spend money on, or that they buy based strictly on the cheapest price, because it’s also important to know when it’s OK—smart, even—to skimp out. So far we’ve featured my own list and a list from personal finance columnist and author Greg Karp.
WORTH SPENDING GOOD MONEY ON
1. Food. Lots of people will opt for cheap food, but in reality, there is a price for that. Cheaper food such as fast foods and more processed items can actually be detrimental to one’s health. Of course, not all cheap food is necessarily bad for you. It’s just that most of them are.
2. Vacations. For me, it’s not worth going on a vacation if you can’t have a great experience. If you think you can enjoy yourself with cheaper amenities, say through camping, then go for it. In my case, since I’m not fond of camping, I only tend to go on vacations that I know I’ll be enjoying, which do have a cost. But I’d rather save up for one high-end vacation every few years than go on cheaper trips several times a year. So it’s all a tradeoff, really.
3. House Materials. A big part of my budget is on house-related materials. Since I spend most of my time at home, I make sure that my surroundings are as pleasant and as comfortable as I can make it. I also think that whatever I spend on my home and whatever home improvement projects I work on are investments which have some sort of ROI if I end up selling my house in the future. The bottom line? I don’t mind spending good money on things that appreciate in value!
4. Education. The value of education from a particular school or college may be harder to quantify, but I am willing to spend for an education at a more expensive university. I’ve learned that some of the connections you make during your college years can influence your work prospects and make a dent in your future.
5. Health. Good health is priceless. I’m willing to spend my money on anything that helps me support my good health. Some people may feel that investing in gym equipment or a gym membership is worth it. There are of course ways to exercise for cheap and for free, but if you find that the only way you’re able to maintain a healthy physique is by spending a bit more money playing a sport you enjoy, then I wouldn’t hesitate taking this route.
WHEN CHEAP IS THE WAY TO GO
1. Cosmetics/Haircuts. Women’s mileage may vary on this one. But in my case, I believe that there are ways to look great without having to shell out much money. Is it really necessary to pay $75 for a haircut? I believe there are simple things you can do to improve your look for very little cost. The ironic thing is that most people actually look better when they don’t try so hard embellishing their appearance.
2. Clothes. Along the lines of appearance, I believe that you can dress sharply and smartly for cheap by visiting discount shopping stores that already carry brand names at much lower prices. There’s no real reason why you’d need to spend that much on clothes, unless you’re truly image- and brand-conscious (which I think is unnecessary unless you work in a profession that requires you to be this way). There are always cheaper alternatives for clothing that do exist.
3. Medicine. You’ll save a ton by buying generic brands for medication. There’s a great tool called Medtipster.com that can help you find cheap prescriptions and discount medication in lieu of more expensive medicines.
4. Cars. There are a lot of well made cars that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Plus, it’s simply much cheaper to buy a used car right off the bat. You can save a lot of money by opting for used, cheaper automobiles if you absolutely need a car to help you get around.
5. Entertainment. These days, there’s just so much we can do to entertain themselves that it doesn’t make sense to spend that much on entertainment. Nowadays, we can watch television freely and cheaply such that we no longer need cable or satellite to tide us over. The fact that there are many sources of entertainment made available to us allows us to be discriminating about pricing in this area.