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7 Things That Prove Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

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Everyone wants to save a buck. Am I right?

However, in our pursuit of savings, there are some things we shouldn’t skimp on. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but following are seven items for which spending more cash upfront can be worth every penny.

1. Paint

Let’s start with your walls. Cheapo paint may seem like a bargain, but you could end up spending more overall if you have to paint and repaint to get the coverage you need.

Not only could you end up using more paint initially, but bargain brands may also be less durable, which means you’ll be repainting again in no time. I’ll let this DIY Network article explain more about the differences between expensive and cheap paint.

Of course, you don’t have to run out and buy the most expensive cans either. Many midrange brands make perfectly good products. If you have a membership to Consumer Reports, check out their ratings. For everyone else, head to the Good Housekeeping paint reviews to find the right pick for your project.

2. Child Car Seats

Now, let’s go to the garage. If you have a little one in the house, what are you buckling them into when they get in the car? Please don’t say “nothing.”

I really can’t think of anything more worthy of spending money on than your child’s safety. Check out car seat reviews and buy the best one you can afford. Again, Consumer Reports has reviews available to members or you can read Parenting’s free ratings. Yes, some of these are expensive, but if they save your child’s life, they’re worth it.

Do NOT buy a secondhand car seat or booster. If it’s been in a crash, its integrity could be compromised. In addition, an old car seat could be expired. After years of sitting in the sun or freezing in the winter, the plastic may be degraded or the seat may be so old that it no longer meets current safety standards.

If you can’t afford a car seat or booster of any kind, go to SeatCheck.org and search for a car seat inspection site in your area. Call the site, explain your situation and ask if there are any local resources for free or low-cost car seats. Police departments, fire departments, health departments and WIC offices may all have free car seat programs for income-eligible families.

3. Toys

We’ll stick with the kid theme for a moment. Cheap toys are, well, cheap. They don’t always work right, and they seem to break easily. Then you end up with a frustrated child and more junk to declutter later.

I may be projecting my feelings onto parents everywhere, but I think we often buy cheap toys because we want to buy our kids lots of stuff. We want our children to run down to a Christmas tree loaded with gifts. And what is a birthday without tons of wrapping paper to tear through? But we only have so much money to spend, so we load up on cheap toys so we’re able to give what seems to be the appropriate quantity of items needed to delight our kids.

Some of you are probably rolling your eyes, but I can’t believe I’m the only one who’s fallen into this trap. This year, I made the conscious decision to buy less but spend more per gift. Overall, my gift budget stayed the same; I just spent that money differently. I bought higher-quality items I thought my kids would really like rather than searching for many inexpensive gifts.

It was a bit of an adjustment for my son to have only three gifts for his recent birthday when he is used to receiving at least twice as many. But you know what? A month later, he’s still using his presents, whereas in the past he usually lost interest (or they broke) after a few days.

4. Shoes

Shoes are another area where it pays to spend a little more. Kids, in particular, are rough on their shoes, and my experience has been that cheap shoes tend to quickly develop holes in the top or their soles tend to separate. One unfortunate year, I ended up returning all my kids’ new school shoes to a discount store because all had started falling apart within a week. Now I spring for the more expensive shoes for my big kids.

For adults, it’s a mixed bag when it comes to buying more expensive shoes. More money may mean better quality materials, but if you sit at a desk all day, that might not make much difference. You may think that more expensive running shoes will keep your feet happier and healthier, but at least one 2007 study found that wasn’t necessarily the case.

My advice is to consider your personal habits and how quickly your current shoes wear out. If you have to replace them more than once a year, you might want to upgrade your purchases.

As a personal example, my late husband worked a construction job requiring heavy-duty boots. He used to go through two to three pairs a year. Then he went out and bought a crazy-expensive pair of Red Wing boots. I wasn’t on board with the purchase at first, but they ended up being the last pair of boots he ever purchased and they saved us hundreds in the long run.

5. Big-Ticket Electronics

TVs and computers are both items for which a low price may also equal low quality.

Cheap computers may come with shoddy hard drives, short battery lifespans and limited warranties. If you use your computer only occasionally, you can probably get away with a bargain-bin laptop. Otherwise, it may make sense to spend a little more.

It’s a similar situation with TVs. You don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune for a decent picture; there are many good models in the $500 range. However, exercise caution when buying those deeply discounted TVs that come out of the woodwork each Black Friday.

6. Health Insurance

Another area where it pays to spend a little more is  health insurance. Cheap health insurance plans often have high deductibles, restricted provider networks and hoops to jump through for specialist care.

Rather than shopping based on premium prices alone, look for all of the following when comparing medical insurance options:

  • Deductible amounts per family and per individual.
  • Co-payments for office visits, emergency care and specialist care.
  • Out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs and any limitations on brand-name drugs.
  • Provider network, including participating hospitals and outpatient clinics.

If you’re young and healthy, a cheap plan may not necessarily be a bad idea. Just be sure to get one that can be connected to a health savings account so you can deduct your out-of-pocket expenses.

On the other hand, if you have a chronic condition or reason to believe you might have medical bills in your future (little boys and broken arms come to mind), buying the cheapest plan possible may be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Spend a little more per month, if you can, and you may come out ahead in the long run.

7. Toilet Paper

Finally, we come to the bottom of our list – figuratively and literally.

I’ve discovered that toilet paper might rank right up there with politics and religion when it comes to causing controversy. Regardless of your preference, I hope we can all agree you should not be buying toilet paper at the dollar store.

Toilet paper that cheap can shred easily. What’s more, you may find yourself using more to avoid the aforementioned messiness and that could negate your savings. Finally, less-expensive brands may not dissolve well, meaning potential plumbing problems and more dollars out of your pocket.

This post originally appeared on Money Talks News.

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