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21 Purchases You Should Never Skimp On

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Who doesn’t love a bargain? Scheming to get the best price — whether by utilizing coupons, sales, frequent-shopper points or other tips — is a rewarding and fun pastime.

But sometimes, purchasing the absolute cheapest item in a certain category isn’t the way to go. That old saying, “You get what you pay for,” rings true time and again.

Here’s a look at some items that you might want to splurge on rather than jumping on the lowest possible price.

1. Car insurance

Upset driver in front of car accident
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When it is time to buy car insurance, those cheap policies seem awfully appealing. But before you grab a deal, know what the policy covers and the company’s track record.

It’s smart to set up an in-person meeting with your agent to discuss what you do and do not need. Don’t forget to ask for a discount if you have multiple policies with the same company.

Another way to get a better rate is to let a service like The Zebra get quotes for you.

2. Luggage

Woman packing suitcase.
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Traveling the world can be eye-opening and memorable, but you don’t want your most enduring memory of Paris to be of hauling a bursting suitcase through Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Splurge on high-quality suitcases now, and you’ll thank yourself when you’re thousands of miles from home.

3. Professional movers

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Few things in life are as stressful as moving. With so many things to juggle, it can make sense to leave the labor to professional, experienced movers.

They’ll know how to pack everything from Grandma’s bone china to your baby grand piano, and they have the equipment and supplies to make it happen.

For more tips, check out “10 Ways to Save Money on Moving and Minimize the Headaches.”

4. Braces

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Before you commit to multiple years of wearing dental appliances while paying thousands of dollars for the privilege, you need to learn the whole “tooth” about what the patient needs to correct his or her specific smile.

Talk to your insurance representative — some dental plans don’t cover braces at all while others pay a limited amount. Meet with multiple orthodontists, and don’t just pick the cheapest offer. You’ll be living with the results for a long time.

For more tips, check out “10 Ways to Save Money on Braces.”

5. Shoes

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You only get one pair of feet, and they have to haul you around all day long. Whenever you can, splurge a little on comfortable, well-made shoes.

That celebrity-endorsed or strikingly colorful pair might look cool in the box, but footwear is one place where how it feels every day should trump fashion.

6. Sushi

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Not everyone likes sushi and sashimi — admittedly, the Japanese delicacies are an acquired taste. But as with any dish that involves raw meat or seafood, freshness is key.

You want the highest-quality and freshest fish possible, whether eating sashimi (sliced meat or seafood, usually draped over a garnish) or sushi (any dish made with vinegared rice, possibly also served with raw fish). Know where your meal is coming from and when it arrived.

7. Pillows

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If you manage to snatch eight hours of sleep a night like we’re supposed to, that means you spend one-third of your life sleeping. So do whatever you can to make that one-third comfortable.

Pillows are a big part of it and take some time to investigate them before buying. Consumer Reports advises that you determine whether you’re a side, back, stomach or combination sleeper and then look for a pillow recommended for that position.

The magazine also notes that pillows only last about two years, and if yours doesn’t pop back when you fold it in half, it may be time to shop.

8. Mattresses

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Mattresses can cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. Consumer Reports advises that buyers lie down on the mattress they’re considering buying (shoes off, please) and urges you to spend a long period of time checking it out.

Find out what the company’s return policy is in case you get the mattress home and experience buyer’s remorse.

9. Chef’s knife

Woman chopping celery for salad
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A high-quality knife is a sharp decision. If you can afford a higher outlay upfront, you’ll get more use out of one, it’ll cut better and it’ll keep its edge longer before needing to be sharpened.

To save more, avoid buying the whole set. The late chef Anthony Bourdain wrote in his memoir, “Kitchen Confidential,” that home cooks don’t need a full set offering a knife for every purpose. He wrote:

“Please believe me, here’s all you will ever need in the knife department. ONE good chef’s knife, as large as is comfortable for your hand.”

10. Bathroom tissue

bulk shopper
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Bathroom tissue matters. You can cheap out with a mega-pack of one-ply from a discount store that’ll save you money in the moment. But you will be less thrilled with the product, and you’ll also go through rolls faster and have to buy it more often.

Splurge a bit and let the good times roll.

11. Windows

Workers installing windows in a home
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It’s clear as glass: Windows are an important part of your home. Whether you’re replacing old windows or building a new home, avoid choosing the cheapest option.

Good-quality windows improve your home’s energy efficiency and save money on utility bills down the road. And there may also be government incentives for installing energy-efficient windows.

12. Home computer

Woman working in a home office
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Computers can be pricey but think how often you use them — there’s email, online banking, bill paying, shopping, streaming movies, music and more.

If your computer isn’t up-to-date and doesn’t have the memory, you could find your computing plans have crashed.

13. Baby car seat

car seat
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All car seats sold in the U.S. have to meet required safety standards, but some are just easier to use and carry. Premium features include an anti-rebound bar at the foot of the seat that limits the amount of movement during a crash.

More expensive seats might also offer cushier fabric and a larger canopy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers more shopping and installation tips.

14. Cat litter boxes

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Sure, you treat furry little Princess Jessica Patterpaws like one of the family — but if kitty starts forgetting her house training, it could be a cat-astrophe.

Make sure that litter boxes are large enough so your feline friends don’t kick the litter out, and consider the covered options that do even more to contain the mess.

15. Flights

Airplane flight attendant
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First-class flights may be nice, but not all of us can afford them. You can make even economy class on long flights go by a little more smoothly if you are smart when you book a trip.

For example, take note of the baggage costs. Some seemingly cheap fares come with fees for your carry-on luggage. When you multiply by two for a round trip, it can cost as much as the airline fares that looked more expensive.

For more tips on saving, check out “11 Smart Ways to Save on Travel.”

16. Tattoos

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As Grandpa learned from the days when he was in the Navy, tattoos are forever. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t get one on a whim, and if you do decide you want permanent body art, do research, research, research.

Ask for referrals from folks with high-quality work, sift through online reviews, ensure the tattoo parlor is licensed and ask any questions you have about their cleanliness and setup. Don’t make price your main concern.

17. Hair color

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No question, store-bought boxes of hair color are cheap and can offer a fun way to try out a new look without much commitment or cost. But know what you’re getting into.

If you’ve never colored your hair before or have a special occasion such as a wedding or other photo-heavy event, consider forking over enough money for a salon dye job from a professional. You’re much less likely to want to curl up and “dye” when you see the results.

18. Paint

man shopping for paint
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Paint is just paint, right? Comes in pretty colors, covers your walls.

Brush those thoughts out of your head. Consumer Reports notes that cheaping out on interior paint may mean you need to use multiple coats to get the perfect sunshine yellow of your dreams. And poor-quality exterior paint won’t weather as well as the better stuff.

For more tips on the subject: “Paint Your Home Like a Pro With These 12 Tips.”

19. Wedding photographer

Wedding photographer
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Sometimes it can feel as if planning a wedding is just digging a big hole to throw money into.

But don’t underestimate the worth of a good wedding photographer. The photographer is the one person who will be following you around all day as well as charming everyone from the tearful ring bearer to the groom’s grumpy great-aunt. And those pictures? They will be around throughout your life.

20. Bikes

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Bicycles can be expensive — not new-car expensive, but it’s easy to spend hundreds, maybe even thousands, on a new bike with all the bells and whistles. You needn’t go that far but do think about your plans for riding it.

Do you need a bike just for an occasional leisurely jaunt around the park or are you thinking of commutes or other longer, regular rides? If you buy a cheap used bike without having it checked out, any looming repairs could equal what you paid for it in the first place.

21. Guest beds

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You’ve probably moved beyond the inflatable-air-mattress-on-the-floor stage now. Spend the money on a regular bed for your guest room, and everyone from Grandma to Cousin Greg will appreciate it.

This bed isn’t likely to get the daily use that your own bed will so you needn’t fuss to pick the exact mattress firmness you personally prefer. Balance comfort with affordability.

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