To save money, don't be cheap

“Twenty rules to live by for cheapskates” offers some good advice, such as “Make one lasagna at home and have it for your sack lunch every day in the week.”

My favorite two are counter-intuitive:

Save money by buying expensive paint. It may sound goofy, but as Tom Kraeutler, WalletPopper and host of the syndicated radio program, The Money Pit Home Improvement Show, insists, “Always buy good quality paint, even if it costs a little more. Cheap paint doesn’t last, and since most of the work is labor, your cost-per-year is a lot less if you buy better paint.”

Save money by spending a little more…. I’ve tried to save a lot of money over the years, and while that mindset is great, it can backfire if you aim too cheap on important purchases. Like the car insurance I bought for cheap back in my ‘20s, car insurance that, when I wound up in a wreck, turned out to be worthless (the office workers or whomever I sent money to, had all left the country, according to someone I spoke with at the attorney general’s office). There are plenty of instances where saving money — like on baby cribs, smoke alarms or sump pumps — can be very costly if something goes wrong. And there have been numerous occasions where I spent cheaply and then, for the life of the product, found myself feeling like I had wasted my money, since I hadn’t been happy with the purchase.

How true! Years ago, I bought a recumbent exercise bike primarily because it was cheap, perhaps $200 or $250. I quickly discovered that it was pretty uncomfortable for my butt and legs, not nearly as comfortable as those I had used at gyms. I’ve used my bike a lot, esp. when the weather has been too hot or too cold to run. But I can’t use my bike for more than 30 or 40 minutes because it hurts my butt and legs, whereas I can ride gym bikes for over an hour without discomfort. Every time I use my cheap bike — and many times I think about using it but lose interest thinking about discomfort — I think, “I should have paid $400 or $500 for a higher quality bike!” I would have used a better bike more and felt better using it, making it well worth paying twice the price.

I’m learning. This week, I bought my son — who just began skating — skates and a hockey helmet. I paid more for a better helmet, partly because my son’s skull is well worth protecting and partly because it was much more adjustable than the cheap models. A helmet that doesn’t fit snugly and comfortably isn’t useful, even at half the price. And a helmet that can’t grow as my son’s skull grows isn’t going to be useful for long.

Posted by James on Friday, September 10, 2010