Clipping coupons from the Sunday paper was a pastime I remember fondly growing up in my household as my parents raised two kids on one (self-employed) income. We didn’t grow up poor, but my parents were always very money-conscious, and when you’ve got two hungry mouths to feed (my brother moreso than me, you should have see him in 6th grade…), food tends to be a pretty significant chunk of your budget. In the mornings I’d sit with my mom, finding deals on groceries for the week. I remember her green coupon box; some things carefully organized, others just haphazardly scrunched up from the thing being overstuffed. My parents taught me and my brother about money from a young age and their frugality wore off on both of us to varying degrees.
My parents, while frugal, were not overly so. Some folks take it to the extreme, doing just about anything to save a buck. Some grow their own food, make their own laundry detergent, or even go as far as washing and reusing plastic bags. I can get behind the food thing – it’s fun – and I can tolerate some of the other things I don’t personally consider fun but could maybe see some people enjoying. But when you do things to save money and you’re miserable because of it, there’s a point that you have to question: is this worth it?
In my experience, some things just aren’t worth trying to skimp on.
If you’re like most Americans, you’ll end up spending roughly 30% (at least) of your adult life laying in your bed. That’s a staggering percentage, and some experts argue even that isn’t adequate. Beds range in price from dirt cheap and crappy to luxurious and more than double the median American’s income (!!!!), but many folks err on the side of “too cheap” on this. Part of that decision, at least initially, may be circumstances under which mattresses are purchased. Think about it: I bought my first mattress when I was in college, and barely was making any money (relative to now). The thought of spending $1200 on a mattress – what ours cost – was absolutely insane at the time. Even right out of school, I didn’t get something new. After all, I had a functional mattress.
As I got a bit older though, I started to feel the perils of time, and sleeping on a less-than-awesome mattress wasn’t going to cut it anymore. As a real grown up, it’s worth it to spend the extra money on a mattress that properly supports your skeletal system and makes you sleep well and wake up feeling energized. Tossing and turning all night is not a way to live your life! Plus, a good mattress with a mattress protector will last a lot longer, in better condition, than a cheap one will. The added benefit of a (relatively) little extra money up-front is absolutely worth it in my book.
This one follows the same logic as a mattress. In particular if you work from home or just spend a lot of time at a computer, spending some extra money on an office chair makes the world of difference. When I was young – I think four – I was diagnosed with scoliosis. For those who don’t know what it is, it’s a curvature of the spine; it’s not a big deal (I have a pretty minor case) but it has made me more prone to the effects of bad posture. Finding a chair that makes you feel good when you sit in it is a weird thing, but after having something good it’s tough to go back.
I personally am a huge fan of the Herman Miller Aeron series. They’re pretty highly rated, and while you’ll shell out considerably more dough than your IKEA placeholder, it makes a noticeable difference. I am admittedly too sedentary (as are most people), sitting for 8 hours a day at work and also writing on the nights and weekends. If I’m going to sit, I’m going to do it comfortably. This will be one of my first purchases for my new home office after we move.
What goes on my feet makes a huge difference in my attitude. Finding a pair of good quality shoes that are comfortable and durable is a great victory. When I was growing up, I never really had nice shoes. They always did the job, and they fit, but as can be expected with any growing human, I tore through shoes quickly. I never had Air Jordan’s (not to mention how unathletic I am…maybe it’s because I never had Air Jordan’s) or any of the fancy shoes. Even today, I don’t like to over-spend on shoes. But I do always make sure that they’re made to last. My boots, for example, I remember getting on sale for $40 off which was a pleasant surprise.
I don’t cycle through very many shoes at once; I think right now I have two pair in the closet that I don’t wear (which will turn into yard mowing shoes when we move), 3 pairs I swap depending on my outfit, two nice pairs of dress shoes (black and brown), and a pair of boots for the winter. My boots – Sorel’s – I’m sure will last nearly forever. My dad, who’s in his mid 60’s, still has a pair he got when he was 18. They’ve had to be repaired a couple times, but I remember him wearing those every winter when I was growing up. Shoes get a lot of usage, and buying a pair that will last and is also versatile means my shoe budget is basically non-existent (save for maybe once every three years or so).
I debated throwing a car on this list, because I figured I may get some flak for spending more on a car. But you know what, screw it. I spent more on my car than some people; slightly more than $20k on a salary two and a half times that. I only had $1000 down plus trade-in value of my other car, and while some would say I should have opted for something less expensive, I went with a certified used car for a reason: it was reliable, and it came with the standard manufacturer warranty despite having about 8000 miles on it.
My Sonata was rated very highly for reliability, it was slick and stylish back when I got it, got good gas mileage (I consistently get better mileage than the EPA rating) and it’s pretty safe. I’ve since taken it across the country stocked to the brim with my possessions – twice – and I’ve had almost no issues with it. While some folks opt for a less expensive used vehicle – something in the $5000-$8000 range – I’ve got no regrets on my car, and wouldn’t consider buying a vehicle because of a low price alone. That’s not to say that we’ll end up spending $20k on the next car we need to get , but I think the important thing here is having a reasonable idea on total cost to own.
What do you spend a little more on to get something good? Is there a specific brand or type of item?