9 times when going cheap costs you money

If you’re a fan of Clark Howard, you’re likely to also be a fan of the the cheap deal. However, there are times when going the cheap route ends up costing more money in the long run. Examples run from ‘free kittens’ to dollar store electronics, and it can be a frustrating barrier to a balanced budget.
Benjamin Franklin famously wrote that ‘The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten,’ so here are a few examples when it saves money to pony up the big bucks from the get-go.

Backpacks and lunch boxes

Back-to-school season is right around the corner, and for many people that means buying yet another replacement backpack or lunchbox. Both Land’s End and LL Bean offer lifetime guarantees on their merchandise, and although their initial price point may be higher, you’ll get a better product than your average cheap-o princess or monster truck backpack. Pay more to get high quality from the beginning, and you can later get a free replacement if anything goes wrong with it.
When going cheap costs you money


Like most consumer goods, tools have come down in price in recent years, so it can be tempting to pick up inexpensive tools for your home needs. Unfortunately, those cheap tools don’t hold up to regular use, so you’ll end up buying them over and over again. Instead, you’re better off biting the bullet and buying a quality tool that includes a warranty. Craftsman tools from Sears are one example of a tool brand known for their quality that’s worth the extra money. Ask your contractor friends for brand recommendations before you buy your next hammer, screwdriver or socket wrench set.


Although you might find a better price on a box of crayons at your local dollar store, those crayons are more likely to break under your child’s firm hand grip. Why? Because off-brand crayons are wrapped in a single layer of paper. Crayola brand crayons are double wrapped in paper, which gives them the extra strength to withstand abuse from your adorable preschooler. Buy the name brand in this situation, and they might actually last more than an hour or two!

(Editor’s note: In addition, some dollar store crayons reportedly contain asbestos.)


Anyone who’s made the mistake of wearing a cute but cheaply made pair of shoes will caution you against choosing savings in this category. Proper fit, arch support and quality components can make the difference between a great day and endless hours of torture. As an RN who works 12-1/2 hour shifts, I’m a fan of Dansko brand clogs, which cost up to $135, but are worth every penny. Popular with teachers, hairdressers and anyone on their feet for extended periods, this splurge avoids painful foot problems that land a person in the podiatrists’s office. Other culprits include cheap flip flops, or really, any shoes without proper support. And if the comfort argument doesn’t sway you, the longevity of higher quality shoes should. Pay more, and you should be able to wear them for more than a single season.

Airline travel

If you’ve been sucked in by the cheap prices of cut-rate fares from Spirit Airlines, make sure to read the fine print ahead of time. Why? Because you’re going to pay extra for your carry-on luggage, ranging from $30 – $150, depending on the size of your bag and whether you’re paying for it when you initially book your ticket or if you wait until you hit the airport gate. You might end up negating any savings by traveling with even one normal roll-aboard suitcase.
When going cheap costs you money

Pots and pans

You might be tempted to pick up an entire set of pans for $30 from a big box store, but they’re unlikely to last beyond a year or two. Even if you’re able to avoid scratching the non-stick surface, the handles often break and you’ll be left without a way to cook dinner. Instead, invest a bit more and choose stainless steel or cast-iron pans which should last for decades if not centuries. Cast iron skillets get handed down from generation to generation, and the company Lodge Cast Iron has been manufacturing right here in the United States for over 120 years. No, you won’t get three pans for $12.99, but for $18, you can start using a skillet that will last until your great granddaughter steals it for her own kitchen.

Terrible frugal hacks

The Internet is full of a myriad of endless frugal hacks to try at home. Unfortunately, many of them fall flat, and the worst of them can end up costing you money in the long run. Need an example? I’d read about how much money you can save on vampire electricity by plugging all electronics into a surge protector to turn off when not in use. Sounds like a great idea, right? Wrong! I’d plugged all my TV-related electronics into a single surge protector, which I was turning off at night. Unfortunately, I accidentally turned off the surge protector while my TV was still on, which then fried it! I saved a few pennies but ended up spending hundreds of dollars. Fail!


It can be painful for us frugal folks to deliberately pay more for our household needs, but sometimes it’s better to pay more in the beginning to avoid needless repeat purchases. Websites such as Buy Me Once help consumers avoid buying things that lean heavily towards planned obsolescence. Whether you’re looking to save money or to minimize your contributions to the landfill, you’re better off buying quality and buying once.

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