Marcin Knara

Jan 17, 2021

8 min read

Don’t Be Cheap on These 6 Things

Unlike frugality, being cheap can hurt more than help you. These are a few things not to skimp out on (with personal experience).

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This may be the difference between committing to a healthy lifestyle centered around frugality, or the inability to make smart financial decisions that can end up costing more in the long run.

This story, with my personal experiences, will take a look at some things you should not be cheap about.

Buying the most expensive version of an item does not guarantee quality- but quality is often more expensive.

1. Your Bed

Sleep is one of the most important functions of our body, and you should treat it that way by providing yourself with a bed that is right for you. Benefits of good sleep include increased productivity, better awareness, lower rates of depression, and better immune health. I don’t need to list every benefit to show how important a good bed is for inducing great sleep.

As a 21-year-old college student, I live with my parents when I’m not at school. At home, I still sleep on my first twin bed because it works for me (and I’m frugal). The mattress is a great stiffness for my anterior pelvic tilt, a pelvic problem that affects my lower back and body.

At school, my parents purchased me a new, full-sized bed that Jordan’s Furniture recommended me through their BridgeIT system. They analyze your back using lasers and weight displacement to find a mattress best for you (no, this is not a Jordan’s ad). The system found that I had an anterior pelvic tilt and needed a certain firmness of a mattress.

As a result, the mattress recommended to me happens to be like my mattress at home, and both are excellent for my back and sleep!

In all, it’s better to get sleep while you’re still able to.

Image (meme) Credit:

2. A Car

A car is often a tough purchase for teens and adults. When looking to buy a car, it is important to think about many aspects:

  • Used vs New
  • Mileage
  • Miles per gallon/electric
  • Front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive…
  • Insurance / Monthly costs
  • Much more.

When my older sister and I were in high school back in 2015, we got a used Hyundai Santa Fe 2005 with AWD (all-wheel drive). Ten years was not that old for a used car at the time.

After many beatings, to this day it is still driveable. It gets the job done.

A used car can do just that, get the job done. But it can come with shortcomings. We have put a lot of money over the years into the AC unit, brakes, new tires, axle alignment, transmission, and more — on top of having to repair these multiple times.

Looking back, it may have been easier, safer, and smarter to buy a younger car to not need to repair a beater. It may be in your best interest not to buy a car that can “get the job done”. You’re likely better off buying a car that will last, save you some hassle, be safer, and in all be a better driving experience.

It’s most important to make sure your car can satisfy you and your family’s needs.

3. Clothing (shoes, clothes, outerwear…)

In the digital age of e-commerce, it seems as if a new clothing “brand” opens daily and consumers are being marketed cheaper alternatives to more expensive brands like Lululemon or Red Wing Shoes.

*Like Lululemon but HALF THE PRICE!* usually means half the quality, too. This doesn’t mean buy Lululemon (I love Lululemon), but be wary of online advertising.

These brands are often run by people taking advantage of our naiveté.

They know that cheap people want quality clothing, but are not willing to pay the price for it.

When to buy cheap

It’s helpful to have some general rules of thumb for when to buy cheap. Here are a few you can use as inspiration for your own:

  • For temporary/one-time occasions (formal, recital, funeral, etc.)
  • Young children (elementary and younger)
  • Beater/junk clothes (yard work, skateboarding, beach, etc.)
  • Home-wear (slippers, pajamas, lazy clothes, etc.)

When to buy quality

When it comes to quality clothes, anything that fits you, looks good, makes you look good, and you will wear often will likely be more expensive. Here are a few things you should be ready to spend money on:

  • New shoes (boots, work shoes, daily shoes, etc.)
  • Jeans/formal clothes
  • Jackets
  • Et cetera.

Generally speaking, this list will contain anything you want to last long, look good, and give you a good return on investment.

4. Electronics / Gadgets

As a software developer and tech enthusiast, I am tech-savvy and familiar with the technology landscape today. Unfortunately, many people cannot say the same.

Like the issues of fake clothing brands online, the same goes for electronics and gadgets.

Here is one example of why you should not look to save on technology.

Last Christmas, my dad bought me a smartwatch. It sells for around $50 on “sale” year-round. I already knew the watch was a garbage gimmick.

I was right.

The watch has little to no functionality, is difficult to pair with a phone, and is a meager excuse for a smartwatch by today’s standards.

After a few quick google searches, I understood what made this particular watch stand out to my dad, who has little awareness of how much a good smartwatch costs and where to buy one.

Some signs to look out for online:

  • There are many websites that sell the same product
  • These sites use persuasive wording and advertisements
  • They all promote an arbitrary “sale” that is hard to refuse
  • The reviews are fake
  • The websites are set up to sell one product

All these and more need an article on their own that teaches how to look out for scams online.

Do diligent research.

Ask family and friends that are familiar if they can point you in the right direction.

Look up reviews (YouTube, Google, friends, and family)on items you are looking to buy.

Take the reviews on the seller’s website with a grain of salt.

Settling for a cheap alternative to any technology can increase the risk of early failure, money-wasting, false promises, and a useless gadget that will now sit unused in the back of your bedroom closet or, better yet, the dump.

It’s the difference between one “smartwatch” that does not last a day and a good smartwatch that lasts a lifetime.

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5. Food

As a broke college student and gym-goer, food is a tough subject.

I am frugal as can be in an attempt to save money, yet I know that my body needs good nutrients to recover from physical activity and stay healthy.

Do not sacrifice your health for cheaper food.

It’s one thing to buy less expensive store brand spaghetti and cheap veggies.

It’s another thing to eat junk food because it’s cheap.

The most important and expensive part of a meal is likely to be the fruit, vegetables, and meat. Don’t let this scare you away from getting them. They are healthy and monumental to your diet and overall wellbeing.

Instead of buying the $20 pack of 90 frozen pepperoni pizza rolls, look into buying fresh spinach, carrots, or fruits. $20 can buy 5 meals if you know what you are doing.

Currently, my typical diet consists of oatmeal, eggs, spinach, mushrooms, chicken, rice, potatoes, pasta, carrots, pretzel chips, and nuts. (Try pretzel chips, carrots, and celery with ranch dressing... thank me later)

On average, I spend no more than $60 every time I go grocery shopping. One grocery trip can last roughly 1.5–2 weeks for the main foods and 3–4 weeks for the longer-lasting snacks and pasta.

6. Home

A house is likely going to be most of our largest purchases.

I have yet to buy a home, but I have learned a lot about picking the right house through my experiences living with my parents.

We have dealt with flooded basement floors (three times in 15 years), renovating a kitchen, constructing a new bathroom (now broken), redoing all the flooring, a retaining wall that is bending due to a creeping hill, a garage that cannot fit a car, and more.

As young newly-wed immigrants, my parents had no way of avoiding most of these problems in hindsight.

But now I have learned a few of the things to look for in homes.

A house is a long-term investment.

Like you would not buy a stock that has no potential for increased growth, you would not buy a house that lacks more than it has to offer.

According to financial and real estate experts like Dave Ramsey, if you do not plan on owning a home for at least 5 years, you are better off renting. However, everyone's place and goals in life are different, hence why this next piece of advice is crucial.

Instead of listing off what to look for when buying a home, just take this advice from someone living in the USA as a first-generation American doing everything I can to provide a better future for myself and my family:

Seek advice and help from those who are better off than you or have what you want.

It’s not weak to seek out help from those who have achieved what you want. It will save you time, money, and a load of headaches in the future.

This is especially easy today with all of the resources online, so do your research and do not skimp out on an investment that can last you a lifetime.

Final Thoughts

I am not a financial advisor nor am I posing as one, but growing up as a first-generation American has taught me a lot about how to maximize my money, effort, and time to be able to achieve my goals.

If you want to live a happier, more financially stable life, then consider looking into finance courses and resources as I have done.

Save yourself from the struggles of debt and poor financial decisions. Future you will thank you.

How do you decide when something is worth buying or not?

This article was inspired by “Buy the most expensive version of these things you can afford.” by Sophia Malik. I enjoyed the article but believe the title is misleading, it lacks personal experience, and has no real “why” to the mentioned points.