Contrary to popular belief, being frugal isn’t just about being cheap (SHOCKER). I, myself, learned this the hard way.
I’m great at saving money–thus the reason I am a self-proclaimed thrift savant and budgeting queen. I find the deals, I pocket the cash, and I prance away from stores (or, let’s be honest, my computer screen) laughing all the way to the bank.
Well, this is true most of the time.
The truth is that there are some things you really SHOULD NOT be cheap about. Frugality is so much more than finding the lowest price and saving the most money. Being frugal also includes smart spending, which means researching products and, essentially, getting the most bang for your buck. It’s true what they say–you get what you pay for; and the least expensive items often aren’t the best quality.
Don’t get me wrong, I can usually find pretty good deals for most things I buy. However, there are a few things that I will always pay a little more for to ensure good quality. In some cases, spending more on certain items can really save you money in the long run. I could buy the cheapest version of product A, but if that product keeps breaking or wearing out to the point that I’m replacing it (and paying for it again) multiple times, the expense can quickly surpass the price I would have paid for product B that was more expensive, but better quality.
So what kinds of things should you splurge on? And how did I come up with this list? Allow me to explain…
1) Winter coats
This was my first revelation that I needed to rethink my spending strategy. I’ve always bought my outerwear at second-hand stores like Plato’s Closet, Clothes Mentor, or discount stores like Burlington Coat Factory. This usually worked out in the past–and hey–if I didn’t end up liking the coat as much as I thought I would, I wasn’t out that much money.
This happened every year. For about four years. Each year, I purchased a different coat. The first year, I didn’t like the style. The second year, I decided I didn’t like the fit after all. The third, I went to New York in January and decided that I would never again purchase a coat that didn’t cover my behind (seriously bad decision). Last year, I purchased a longer coat that was actually really warm. After about a month, I realized that the sleeves were shorter than I liked, I didn’t like the strange inner-vest that didn’t seem to serve a purpose, and when the folded cuff of the hood came unfolded, I looked like a Sith Lord from Star Wars. So this year, I finally decided to suck it up, find a good quality winter coat that I liked, and to hell with the price.
You have no idea how difficult this was for me (or maybe you do). Finding a coat was easy–I knew what brands I trusted, the style I wanted, and I made sure to read all the reviews I could find. I even had a COUPON for 20% off! This was great because on a $280 Columbia coat, that’s a little more than $56 off. *Cringe*
But it doesn’t matter because–you know what?–I now have a good quality winter coat that I plan on keeping for years and years! And, you know, not freezing to death in Ohio winters…
2) Necessary footwear
I tend to do this thing when I shop online where I finally narrow down what I want, have all the items in my shopping cart, and then I just sit there and stare at it for hours, days, maybe weeks, hemming and hawing over whether I want to actually make the purchase. It’s completely stupid because I know I’m going to purchase these items. Otherwise, why would I go to the trouble of shopping for them?
But this happens most often with shoes…
It’s the same story as the winter coat–I have purchased so many pairs of shoes that I settled for just because they were cheap, only to decide I never really liked them, only to buy more shoes and spend more than one good pair would have cost in the first place. I have finally learned my lesson from buying dozens of pairs of cheap shoes because they looked cute only to find that my feet were either in pain, completely frozen, or drenched after wearing them in any weather other than 75 degrees and sunny.
Seriously–buy good athletic shoes, buy good hiking boots, buy good heels, buy good flats. Good shoes aren’t always expensive, but don’t go cheapskate if it means compromising quality and comfort.
3) A reliable vehicle
Once upon a time, I had a Honda Civic I used to drive too fast like I was Paul Walker (RIP) until one day some guy ran a red light, smashed into me doing 45 mph, and totaled my poor car (but, fortunately, did not total me). After that, I bought a little Yaris hatchback with the insurance money, owning it free and clear. Even though it had high mileage, it was awesome because it also had the best fuel economy second only to a Smart car. Which was great until…
After almost getting pulverized in my previous car, every time a Denali or Tahoe turned out into traffic anywhere near me, I tensed up with anxiety. My little egg was great, but I wanted a larger vehicle.
So that’s what I did–I traded my huevo for a baby crew cab, more high mileage and terrible fuel economy be damned! That is, until later when I moved further away from work, it needed repairs, and finally the A/C croaked. Finally, when I was sweating my ass off with all the windows rolled down while driving down the interstate to a legit job interview, I thought to myself–I have made a horrible mistake.
I mean, at least it was still running and got me to my interview, right?…
Fortunately, you can always come back from mistakes (no, really). I ended up selling my truck to Carmax for a few thousand dollars, and now I’m saving major bucks for a good, reliable vehicle that I want (thanks to our one-car-household strategy).
But keep in mind–there can be balance. You don’t have to throw down your entire life savings for a reliable vehicle. If you can find a good vehicle with low mileage, good fuel economy, and good safety and reliability ratings, it can definitely be a few years older (think Toyotas and Hondas, for example). Don’t get caught up in the thrill of something you want RIGHT THEN. Think about what kind of vehicle will work for you now and what you might need in the future. It’s not such a bad idea to spend a little more on a quality vehicle now to avoid paying major bucks for continuous repairs (which can cost you a lot more in the long run).
4) A passport
If you don’t already have one, set aside a few bucks every week and get yourself a passport. Seriously, it’s $110, they’re good for ten years, and you should probably have one anyway (internationally recognized identification and all).
We buy so many material items, why not buy one that’s an investment in your personal growth and a key to adventure? You won’t remember that designer clutch you never took out of the box or those shoes that were too nice to wear anywhere. You will, however, remember taking that cruise through the Baltic Sea or trekking through Thailand.
I have never heard of anyone who regretted seeing the world. And let me tell you–anyone who hates on international travel is a xenophobic lame-ass. Yup, I said it. Sorry, not sorry! If you splurge on anything, it should be something that will change your life, your mentality, and your perception of the world.
Is there anything I forgot? What are your worthwhile splurges?