Backpacks and lunch boxes
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.
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!