12 Times It’s Okay To Be Cheap

This morning I read an article on Yahoo Finance titled 12 Times Being Cheap is Totally Worth It.   The author shares 12 examples of items where you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get good quality.  I’m all for saving money at the supermarket whenever possible, and I also love shopping at Costco because there are so many great deals to be had.

Below I have listed each of the 12 examples along with some thoughts of my own.  

Shampoo.  I don’t put much thought into shampoo but my wife swears it pays to spend a little extra.  I’m fine with using whatever is on sale or shopping at the dollar store.

Produce.  The article mentions that frozen fruits and vegetables are generally cheaper than fresh, though I would caution that isn’t necessarily true.  There’s a farmer’s market nearby where I often stop for fresh fruits and veggies and the price can’t be beat.  But we also keep some frozen vegetables on hand, especially during the winter when it is harder to find them fresh.  I think we have some frozen corn in the freezer right now as well as some berries and mixed fruit.  We like to use those in place of ice when making smoothies.

Prescriptions.  I always ask the pharmacist for the generic version of prescriptions because they are just as effective for a fraction of the cost.  The same goes for over the counter pain killers and cough syrup.  Why pay more just for a name?

Water.  Bottled water is a total rip-off, but it is something I’m guilty of buying from time to time.  I know filters work great and all but the convenience of grabbing a cold bottle of water out of the fridge on my way out the door is something I appreciate.

Contact Lens Solution.  I don’t wear glasses or contacts so I don’t have much opinion on this one.

Tools.  As a do it yourselfer, I don’t completely agree on this one.  While it’s usually not necessarily  to spend top dollar on tools, you don’t want to go too cheap or you’ll end up with something that doesn’t work.  I’d say I usually buy mid-ranged tools…they may not have all the bells and whistles but they have enough of them and I’m confident they’ll last for a while.

Coffee.  Umm, no.  My wife and I are both coffee-lovers and the generic brands just don’t cut it in our house.  I’d rather spend a few extra bucks and grab a bag of Starbucks when it goes on sale.  I NEED my morning cup of coffee!

Cell Phone Plans.  We have a family plan through Sprint and I’m happy with that.  I spend more than the author of the article does but it’s not the most expensive plan either.

Toothpaste.  I don’t have any brand loyalty when it comes to toothpaste.  We buy whatever is on sale and with coupons you should never have to pay full price for a tube of toothpaste.

Pantry Staples.  We almost always buy the generic version of items like cereal, rice, and canned goods…with a few exceptions.  Anything but Hellman’s mayonnaise is gross to me.  And as an avid griller I like to try different barbecue sauces…the cheap stuff usually isn’t very good.

Toilet Paper.  Completely agree with the article…Scott’s toilet paper is horrible, but the store brand is usually just fine.

Wine.  My wife and I both enjoy drinking wine and there is definitely a difference in quality as price increases.  We usually shop in the $9 to $12 range for a 750ml bottle and I find that’s a nice balance between quality and price.  The cheaper stuff is usually not very good.

In the end, it’s all about trade-offs and balance.  I’m more than willing to shop smart and save some money on most items so I can afford to spend a little bit extra on a few items that are more important to me.

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Mike is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in finance and parenting topics. He is a dedicated husband and father of three who is obsessed with creating multiple streams of income and building wealth so he can achieve true financial freedom for his family. Like what you're reading? Subscribe to our free RSS feed and follow us on Twitter.

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  1. says

    Hey Mike,

    The coffee, wine, and tools were my suggestions where I often go cheap.

    We are a little selective and prefer the $3 Charles Shaw (3 buck chuck) from trader joe’s over some other $3 wines out there. So we do have some discrimination in taste. Just not enough to pay 3x the price for something indistinguishable (to us).

    Same for coffee – I tried the aldi’s store brand (at $5-6 for a 2 pound can) and it wasn’t very good. Walmart has a Master Chef brand that’s about the same price, and tastes good (to me!). I’m also okay with Maxwell House cheap stuff (same price range). Again, to me, I can’t taste the difference between this stuff and the stuff that’s 2-3x the price. YMMV of course.

    Tools – for infrequent users, I’d go cheap. Except something like cordless drill that quickly becomes useless if the battery has minimal life or it’s so weak it can’t actually screw/drill to a high enough torque. If you’re a weekend warrior building your own fence or shed, or renovating your kitchen, I’d pony up for mid grade tools. But for turning the occasional screw or the occasional bolt, the cheapo screwdrivers, bit sets, and wrenches should be fine.

    I definitely agree with your closing thoughts – it’s all about trade offs. I get much more value out of a $9/lb block of fancy cheese and a $3 bottle of wine than I would a $9 bottle of wine and a $3/lb block of cheese. I can taste and appreciate the differences between varieties of cheeses, but wine is just wine to me (unless it’s reaallly bad!).

    But if wine and coffee are big parts of what you enjoy, I’d definitely not recommend foregoing those just to save a few bucks a day (unless you are truly broke and deep in debt). We all enjoy different things, but wine and coffee are two areas where I get by on the cheap.

    • says

      Hey Justin, thanks for stopping by. I couldn’t agree more. The key to me is deciding what gives you joy and what you want to prioritize. Those things you can spend a little more on if you are willing to go cheaper on some other things that don’t matter as much to you. Everyone will have their own list of items they’re willing to go cheap on.

  2. says

    Interesting list. I agree with some and disagree with others.

    Shampoo – I buy the cheapest stuff possible. The person who cuts my hair say I have the healthiest hair she’s ever cut.

    Produce – There are ways to save, but I try to make room in the budget for foods that are good for me. Health is not a place to go cheap, in my opinion.

    Contact Lens Solution – I use a generic brand, but I have tried generic brands that hurt my eyes.

    Coffee – I drink coffee multiple times a day. I believe most people are paying way more than they have to. Just try out a few brands. I found the gourmet blend my supermarket (Kroger) makes is pretty good.

    Pantry Staples – Go cheap. Aldi has these for a great value.

    Wine – I am with you. I usually can find an $8 to $10 bottle of wine that I like. $3, not so much.

    My strategy has always been to pinpoint the things I’m spending a lot of money on, then try to reduce those expenses. Just being more thoughtful about what I buy– and the alternatives out there– really helps keep expenses in check.

  3. says

    I do agree with your comments on most of these. The funny thing is that although I’m a woman, I usually select the cheaper shampoos as well. Suave works just as well for $2 than Herbal Essences for $6. My only complaint about the store brand toilet paper is that I’ve noticed they put a lot less on the role than the name brands and because the paper is rougher it appears that you’re getting more than you are. In the end, it’s still probably cheaper though! :)

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