Finances are simple: Take in more money than you shell out. But what happens when you need to dish out big bucks on something important? We're not talking about a Louis Vuitton bag or a fancy bottle of chardonnay. But things like health care, home appliances, or even a reliable vehicle — things where quality matters. Here are 10 items and services worth the extra dollars because you'll be thankful in the long run.
1. A Mattress
It’s where we drift off to sleep, roll over to start each day, and do many other, ahem, activities. This isn’t somewhere to cut corners. “A high-quality mattress will have features that make it worth more than the cheaper or used versions,” says Trudi Davis, a former mattress salesperson. A good mattress will be consistent in firmness — meaning the corners and middle will have equal give. It’ll also have thicker, higher quality padding that prevents sagging, making it last longer and helping you avoid back and neck problems. We spend about a third of our lives in bed. If we do it right, we can spend the other two-thirds well-rested.
2. A Refrigerator
Most people would rather go without a bed than a fridge. And we can't blame them. According to Lowe’s refrigerator buying guide, a fridge for two people should have eight to ten feet in storage space, with an additional foot for every additional person. Also, make sure your fridge has an Energy Star rating — these fridges use 10 to 20 percent less electricity. A good refrigerator will also make your food last longer, with frost-free features, temperature control, and drawers that keep delicate foods at stable temperatures.
3. Running Shoes
Scrimping on running shoes will have a huge impact on your body. Whether you're always training for marathons or just like to go for a quick jog once in a while, finding the right shoe is extremely important. In an interview with The Huffington Post, shoe salesman Mary Arnold says, "Every time you put your foot down while you're running, imagine that weight times three, because that's the amount of force you're generating when you're running no matter how fast or show you're going." Without having proper footwear to support your weight, it is highly likely that you will end up sustaining injuries in the long run.
4. Food. Sometimes.
Choosing quality food over cheap, processed stuff translates to lasting health benefits (and less medical bills down the road). This doesn’t mean making hundred-dollar restaurant bills and gourmet salad bars part of your routine, but it does mean shopping smart at the grocery store. When funds are limited, nutritionist Jane Davis says the organic priority list should look something like this: fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy, eggs, then grains. In the produce section, go organic first on thin-skinned fruits and veggies, since they absorb pesticides at the highest rate. (Tip: Strawberries are very absorbent.) If you still can’t swallow the Whole Foods prices, checkout a nearby farmer’s market. They’re usually cheaper than any grocery store and you can ask the farmer directly whether chemicals have been used on the food you’re about to buy.
5. Medical Expenses
Even with healthy eating and exercise, we’re still bound to end up at the doctor’s office eventually. But how can we preempt paying for an ambulance, emergency room visits, physical therapy, and anything else that comes along with an unexpected illness or injury? Regular doctor and dentist visits, of course. If your health insurance doesn’t cover the dentist, check out other plans. Many do cover 100 percent of preventive checkups. Regular cleanings and checkups can catch a health problem early, which not only saves money, but possibly your life.
6. An Accountant
Unless you have formal training, you should have a professional take you through tax filing at least once. There are tons of deductions that you may not even realize you’re eligible for. But accountants are useful for so much more than just filing your tax returns. If you run your own business, they can help with payroll and through various stages of financial growth. So make your life easier by hiring a good accountant that can help you make the most of your money.
7. Mental Health
Can you put a price tag on acquiring the tools and techniques you need to live a happy life? Therapy might not be cheap, but the healing process it can take us through is often necessary to living happily and successfully. Check with your insurance provider for details on your coverage; if your primary physician recommends it, it will often be covered.
8. Quality Furniture
As any former college student can attest, cheap furniture is best avoided whenever possible. Do you really want your future mother-in-law to come over and sit in a chair that collapses, or deal with constant backaches because of the lawn chair you’re using at your desk? Whether you’re talking kitchen table or couch, getting a piece of furniture that lasts and makes you comfortable, means spending a little more, but is totally worth it.
9. A Hybrid Car
Yes, they’re sometimes more expensive—especially when gas prices are high—but hybrid owners end up having the last laugh. (That said, make sure the hybrid you’re looking at does actually have low gas mileage. Some SUV hybrids do not.) According to Consumer Reports, the Honda Civic has the lowest total ownership cost—everything from sticker price, insurance, repairs, and resale value. The Toyota Prius has the lowest gas mileage. Spending a bit more now will undoubtedly save you money later—and it’s good for the earth.
10. Durable Pans and Knives
Cheap knives and pans will burn your food, cut your fingers, rust, and warp, leaving you in need of new pans and knives before you know it. But if you pay more for quality cookware, it’ll last years. “A cheap knife will blunt quickly, and is probably not formed to best cut whatever it is that you’re working with,” says culinary student Natasha Costa. She advises maintaining nice knives by hand washing them straight away instead of soaking or dishwashing them. (Both will dull and corrode knives.) Keep them in awesome shape by picking up a small sharpener to use daily before cutting.
While it’s always a good plan to look for the best buy before shelling out cash, we shouldn’t feel bad if our research ends up showing that full price is actually the best option. Check out used hybrids and kitchenware sales for good prices on quality things. Financial success in tight times means avoiding the frivolous—even though I want to, I won’t be picking up fancy wine or designer bags any time soon because I don’t need them. What I do need, however, is a place to put my food, a place to sleep, my health, and some comfy furniture to sit on. Who says we can’t shop in a recession?
Updated June 28, 2016