The internet and fierce competition among retailers is doing its part to empower a generation of cost-conscious consumers. But here’s a note of caution as well, particularly when it comes to major purchases; the cheapest product or service isn’t always the smartest one to buy.
In fact, when acquiring big-ticket items for the home, planning a vacation or investing in products with multi-year lifespans, the objective mustn’t be to merely minimize the cost of acquisition, but instead to maximize overall value in return.
So when you want to cut corners and save money, do it on everyday products like groceries and essentials, clothing or, at a minimum, by limiting how many of those $5 mocha-choco soy caramel pumpkin macchiatos you order from Starbucks each week! Then, splurge a little instead on the five or so items you’ll discover below. As we’ll explain, from an overall value standpoint you’ll probably wind up feeling happy you did.
Purchases You Shouldn’t Skimp On
Laptop and desktop computers don’t generate the same sort of consumer frenzy as, say, the newest iPhone model. However, a computer is a lifeline to everything these days, and that’s the very same reason why features and overall quality—and not just price—should influence your product selection.
Today’s lower-priced computers tend to be those with smaller screens, an entry-level processor and little or no internal memory. For a higher price tag, you get a better overall value, which for computers means a faster and more powerful processor, more internal storage and longer battery life.
Now, there’s probably no need to spend $1,500-$2000 on a computer unless you’re really serious about gaming or other specialized uses. However, because you’ll presumably use this product for hours each day, there’s justifiable value in paying one or two hundred dollars more and ending up with a product that’s likely to hold up and meet your needs for an extra year or two.
So rather than simply buying a computer because it’s on sale, buy one that has the best and most desirable features for the money, even if it means splurging a little bit. The convenience, reliability and improved function is well worth the added investment.
Vacations & Experiences
My late Grandmother, in all her wisdom, used to remind our family, ‘We may never pass these portals again.’ So when it comes to traveling or enjoying other leisure experiences with your family, spending a little more to maximize everyone’s comfort and enjoyment is practically never a waste of money.
For example, are you planning a cruise? Then consider an upgrade to a more spacious cabin, or one with a balcony and ocean view.
Booking that Disney vacation for you and the kids? Then spend a little more to stay at a Disney Resort hotel and enjoy conveniences like free theme park transportation, close proximity to the parks and attractions, and the luxury and cleanliness for which Disney is so well known.
Remember, you can’t put a price tag on your family’s happiness; and like Grandma said, you never know if or when you might make it back again so don’t skimp out on experiences. Instead, maybe spend less money buying stuff like trinkets and souvenirs, and a little more on things like hotels, premium services and activities that will make your vacation easier and more fun. After all, a little money is nothing when it’s going towards making memories your family can forever cherish.
Some folks are handy around the house and actually enjoy spending their time working in and around it. You, however, may not be one of those people! And indeed, if performing countless hours of manual labor isn’t your idea of a fun-filled weekend there’s probably significant value to be had by hiring home services vendors to help eliminate some of the most taxing or burdensome items from your to-do list.
Think about the tasks that demand your attention each and every week. Perhaps it’s housecleaning, or maintaining the lawn and garden, or tending to the pool. Maybe it’s routine maintenance items like pest control, painting and power washing, or fixing any items that happen to break or otherwise need attention. If these items or others are chores you routinely dread, and that takes away valuable time you’d rather spend enjoying family and/or leisure activities, then don’t let frugality be a barrier that forces you to go without.
Depending, of course, upon where you live, home services providers may be both readily available and surprisingly affordable. The life value gained by allowing more time for family, a round of golf or just a quiet nap on the weekend is an investment in your happiness that’s probably worth a little added expense.
Furniture & Appliances
Although the average life span of furniture items and appliances is now noticeably shorter than in decades past, these remain critical purchases that directly influence your quality of life. The advice is this: when it comes to furniture and appliances, buy good and you ought to have good…quality of life that is.
Now that may mean paying a little more for name-brand products that feature better materials and craftsmanship. (Think solid wood instead of particle board for furniture, and all-metal component parts instead of plastic ones for appliances.) As with other major purchases, use the internet to conduct research about brands and product features, and focus on overall value, not just finding the lowest-priced option.
Once you identify the brand and particular product model that best meets your needs, follow our earlier advice for saving money on appliance purchases to make sure you snag a good deal. And don’t forget to arrange to have your furniture and appliances delivered and/or professionally installed—even if it costs a little bit extra. Because not having to spend your weekend building and lifting heavy furniture, or dealing with the inevitable problems you’ll encounter while installing your new appliance(s) on your own will be worth every penny!
It’s pretty widely held that a mattress is an investment in your ongoing health and wellness, and as a result, it’s a major purchase that is worth a premium price for many.
From a pure value standpoint, it’s crucial to love your mattress for more features than just the price. Fortunately, with the mattress industry now undergoing an all-out disruption, innovative companies are enabling consumers to realize great value on exciting new products and technologies, many of which can be customized based on your own personal needs and preferences.
Essentially, gone are the days when you’re limited to choosing a mattress based on whatever models are in stock at your local store. In fact, digital retailers allow customers a larger product selection, more price competitiveness and incentives like free shipping and returns and even 100-night trial periods to alleviate the risk of buying a mattress online and sight-unseen.
Today especially, exploring alternative purchase options—including online retailers—can help you get a better product for the money…so indeed, shop and spend wisely.
In closing, don’t underestimate the value that can come with spending a little more on certain big-ticket products that better satisfy your needs. With major purchases especially, consider your own level of convenience, the potential for improved quality of life and how best to ensure lasting satisfaction. Also, don’t be hesitant to pay a reasonable premium for goods and services that are more likely to produce those all-important outcomes.
About the Author
Nick Mango is a freelance writer and editor whose work in the investing, trading, and financial communities spans more than 12 years. He’s co-author of the book, Traders at Work (Apress, 2013), and has consistently published content across major media outlets and the Web’s most well-known and respected financial portals, including OTAcademy.com.