Everyone likes to save money, but sometimes buying cheap or eliminating necessary expenses altogether can cost you in the long run. Some things are so important to your health and safety that it isn’t wise or cost effective to look for the cheapest option – or skip altogether.

Don’t cut these from your budget no matter how broke you are:

  • Health and dental care – Regular checkups can help prevent smaller problems from morphing into major issues. Neglecting your teeth can cause severe damage in the long term. Using old medications to treat yourself can be dangerous.
  • Tenant’s insurance – Covers your household goods if you are a renter. Likewise, if you own a condo your personal belongings are not covered in the building insurance you pay for as part of your condo fee. For a low cost you will be protected if you experience a fire or flooding, or your belongings are stolen.

Paying more upfront for a quality item that lasts longer makes good financial sense. I’m not suggesting you buy top-of-the-line for everything, but for things you use every day, buy the best you can afford.

  • Shoes – Cheap shoes that are worn a lot won’t last long and will have to be replaced often. You spend a lot of time on your feet so you should be comfortable – or your feet and back will pay.
  • Cookware and knives that you use every day. Cheap pots will warp and not cook evenly and are harder to clean. Inexpensive knives dull quickly.  Yes, you can sharpen them, but most people will use a dull knife for far too long, resulting in hands cramping and tiring quickly, and the risk of serious cuts.
  • Paint – It may seem like a bargain, but cheaper paint is usually of lower quality and more watery. It will give you terrible coverage and you will have to do multiple coats and may need to paint more often. This not only negates the cost saving, it requires more time and labour.

Don’t go too long before replacing these items:

  • Mattress – Few things are as vital as a good night’s rest. If you find yourself waking up not feeling rested and with body aches, it’s probably time to start looking for a new mattress. The best mattresses should leave you feeling refreshed and happy when you wake up. A good mattress can also lead to improved memory, lower blood pressure, and reduced stress.
  • Car maintenance – I was told by a mechanic that a lot of car problems could be avoided by simply doing regular oil changes. Keep your vehicle in top operating condition with the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance.
  • Tires – I’ll admit I drove on seriously worn tires one winter. Needless to say, this has a big impact on your car’s safety. It’s not worth the risk to save a bit of money.

Don’t think you can scrimp in these areas:

  • Insurance – Insurance companies can vary widely in their costs, and it pays to shop around. But don’t just buy the lowest premium. Make sure you have the coverage you need. You don’t want to find out your policy won’t cover a claim when you need it the most.
  • Household DIY – If you are experienced and comfortable with doing the work, it’s a good way to save money. However, if you are going to have work done – whether renovating or repairs – sometimes it’s wise to pay for professional help right from the start rather than be forced to get someone in to fix a problem that you have caused yourself with your inexperience.

Final thoughts

Bargain hunting and being frugal are part of the way of life for many of us. Being economical is generally wise. However, shelling out a little extra cash will save you aggravation, time, or money in the future.

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11 Comments

  1. Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet on September 23, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    For me, travel insurance is one of the things I refuse to cheap out on. I realize its an added cost of travel but I figure if I can’t afford the insurance on top of the hotel, flights etc then I can’t afford to go in the first place. The last thing I would want is to have a medical emergency in another country that I didn’t have coverage for

    • Brian So on September 23, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      It’s true, and travel insurance isn’t prohibitively expensive, especially for young healthy people.

      Besides that, I also agree car maintenance shouldn’t be something to scrimp on. You wouldn’t want to have your car break down in the middle of the highway, pay to get it towed and pay for an expensive repair job, when all you had to do was bring it in for an oil change regularly.

  2. Travis @Debtchronicles on September 24, 2014 at 6:22 am

    “shoes” is what rings most true to me from your list. As a runner (running my 4th marathon on 10/5) I found out the hard way what happens when you try to run long distances in cheap shoes. Months of pain…..

  3. Tawcan on September 24, 2014 at 6:28 am

    Travel insurance is an excellent idea. I’ve heard many stories of people going down to the states without traveling insurance and end up with a huge hospital bill. Not good.

  4. Robert on September 24, 2014 at 6:51 am

    Simplistic answer but I never go cheapest. Almost never good value. I start looking at medium price

  5. Stephen @ HowToSaveMoney.ca on September 24, 2014 at 7:20 am

    There are good suggestions on things not to cheap out on. However, important things like this often cause people to irrationally spend more money than they need to. You still need to find ways to save money on these things while making sure that you have all your bases covered.

    For instance:
    – use your work or credit card travel insurance instead of buying a separate policy that you don’t really need
    – buy your car parts out of the states or online to save up to 90%.
    – use high quality synthetic oil purchased out of the states (half the price) so you don’t have to oil change as often and you get better protection for your engine. The oil change will cost much less if you bring your own synthetic oil.
    – purchase your tires online (winter & summer) or out of the states to save 50% or more.
    – get a spare set of winter rims so tires are easier and cheaper to change

    All kinds of ways to save on these essentials really.

  6. Justin on September 24, 2014 at 8:11 am

    One thing I always be sure to buy quality is ketchup and margarine. Sounds silly, but they last a while…

  7. Kathy Waite Eureka Investor Guidance on September 24, 2014 at 9:08 am

    I look for value for money not the actual price. Some things are expensive but good value. Something’s just overpriced for what they are.

  8. KC on September 25, 2014 at 10:29 am

    I can definitely agree with the tenant’s insurance. The entire floor of my apartment building was flooded one time. I was the only one who had insurance and managed to get money for most of my stuff. Common response for not having insurance was “I thought the landlord’s insurance covers all of our stuff!” More education was needed in this one!

  9. Sean Cooper, Financial Journalist on September 25, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    I go by the motto, penny wise, pound foolish. There are some things you just should not be cheap with. Have you ever tried to buy a can opener from the dollar store? Good luck eating your soup! Disability insurance is a must-have, especially if you’re self-employed.

  10. Jon King on October 5, 2014 at 8:11 am

    With tenant insurance it’s especially important to check the fine print regarding flooding as there are usually limitations on what type of flooding is covered. You may also have to pay additional, but often worthwhile, fees for that kind of coverage.

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