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13 Instances When Being Cheap Doesn’t Pay Off

Photo: David LaMorte

We're all about shopping wisely and saving money. Comparison shopping for the best refrigerator within your budget on the market? We're so there. Researching online to find out what consumers say about the new digital camera you want to buy? Awesome. Monetizing your hobby? You must read our website a lot to be that smart.

Undertaking a DIY project to redo the plumbing in your bathroom? Well... not so fast. Are you equipped to handle that project?

There's a big difference between frugal and being cheap. Frugality means you're conscious about how you use and spend your hard-earned money.

Being cheap means you want to spend the least amount of money possible — no matter what. And that's not always the best approach to spending money. There are times when being cheap just isn't smart. Here are 13 examples of when it doesn't pay off to be cheap.

1. Buying in bulk
Going to Costco or Sam's Club to buy items in bulk is great in theory. You can save money by stocking up on some much-needed goods, such as toilet paper and vitamins.

But buying that big jug of spaghetti sauce or that loaf of bread won't pay off when you're throwing it away. Chances are that you'll still have to make a run to the regular grocery store, so don't buy anything perishable or that would be cheaper to buy elsewhere. Remember: just because you can buy in bulk does not meant it's a bargain!

2. Driving far away to save on gas
It seems that every so often we hear about how gas prices are rising. In our commuter culture, who wouldn't want to save on gas? But if you're driving out of the way to save a few bucks on gas, well, you've got to calculate if it's worth it.

First, figure out how many miles your vehicle gets per gallon. Then find out how far away the gas station is and the price of gas. Calculate how far you'd have to drive and how much it would cost to get there to fill your tank.

Would it be cheaper to go to a closer station with more expensive gas? If you're confused, websites like Gas Buddy might help you figure out if driving further away for gas is worth it.

3. Eating cheap food
Getting a cheap lunch or buying an overpriced bag of chips from the vending machine is OK every once in a while. But making the local fast-food restaurant or vending machine your constant go-to during lunch or dinner is unhealthy.

Saving money on cheap eats won't matter when your health takes a toll (and you get that health care bill) and you spend hours in the bathroom. That said, you don't necessarily have to stock up on organic produce either. Consider purchasing healthier snacks instead. Your waistline and wallet will thank you.

4. Going for cheap over quality clothing
Buying cheap clothes is OK if you're looking for something disposable or to buy in bulk, but when it comes to important garments, it pays to pay.

One quality jacket or blazer might be worth the investment if you're planning to wear it over time or as a statement piece. The alternative is buying something cheap that might break after a few washes or go out of style after a few seasons.

5. Cheap shoes and mattress
You'll spend most of your life in one of the two. Buy comfortable shoes, not just the cheap stuff. Cheap shoes are likely to break soon and don't have much heel support. That might cause irreparable damage to your feet and back.

As for your mattress, think of how many hours you spend sleeping. Spending a couple hundred bucks for a cheap mattress might feel good to your wallet, but could cost you in back problems later. You don't want to sleep on something that feels like concrete. So invest your money into something that will give you countless hours of comfort.

6. Using cheap services
Whether you're looking to hire a contractor or plumber, it's a good idea to shell out some bucks so that you get good service. Of course, that doesn't mean you should choose the most expensive service provider either.

Go with someone who has solid reviews and won't break the bank. In the long run, it will cost you more money if you hire someone cheap who does a shoddy job.

7. Vehicles and repair
There's no problem with buying a quality used car. But if you try to pinch pennies and buy a vehicle that's dirt cheap, you might end up paying more than expected when it comes time for repairs.

Make sure you know the type of car you're buying and ask questions about wear and tear. In the end, it might be worth spending a bit more for a car that's better quality and will cost less to repair.

8. Skipping health visits
Have you visited the doctor or dentist within the last 12 months? Having regular health checkups can sometimes be a pain, but it's worth it. Don't skip on these health visits, which can help identify problems before they worsen.

Regular health exams will help identify health issues early, when your chances for improving and getting treatment are better. You don't want to find out you've got a serious problem a few months down the line for something that could have been treated early on. That would be bad for your health -- and pocketbook.

9. Pet care
Just as you shouldn't be cheap when it comes to your own health care, you shouldn't pinch pennies when it comes to taking care of your pet. Buying cheap pet food might result in a visit to the veterinarian.

When it is time to visit the vet, you can save by looking into what the costs for a shot might be at your local animal shelter or the Humane Society. If your pet needs to undergo a procedure, try negotiating the price tag with your veterinarian or checking out local veterinary schools.

Some animal welfare organizations can also help with vet bills.

10. Anything for safety
Fire alarms, smoke detectors, child car seats -- these are not items that you should buy at the dollar store. When it comes to safety, it's OK to budget for a bit more than you normally would.

Besides, you'll feel so much safer knowing that you've bought something that will give you (or your loved ones) the best protection possible.

11. DIY
Do It Yourself projects can be a ton of fun -- and even earn you money if you're talented at, say, knitting scarves or creating skateboards. The great thing about DIY projects are that anyone can do them and there's a wide variety of stuff you can do or make.

But DIY can also go very, very wrong. If you're trying to save money by fixing cracks in your drywall or making a bookshelf -- and aren't equipped to handle the project or see it through -- it can spell disaster.

Don't DIY if you don't think you've got the goods. Hire someone else with the talent instead.

12. Buying daily deals
Everybody loves a good bargain and daily deal sites are so enticing, dangling their gift certificates in front of you. The problem with these sites is when you act impulsively and purchase too many of the deals.

Many of these sites count on urgency because the deals expire after just a few hour or days. If you're still waiting to use that certificate to see a comedy club show or find yourself forcing friends to go with you to a local restaurant before your Groupon discount expires -- it's time to rethink buying these daily deals.

13. Date
It never pays off to look like a cheapskate on a date. Ever. It's not a good look if you're trying to court someone. Nobody's asking you to drop hundreds of dollars on a meal, but don't start counting dimes and using discounts when you're trying to impress someone!

Even if the date is actually cheap, don't make it seem so! Be creative, think outside the box. Go to the beach or take a walk around the city. Make a home-cooked meal rather than go out to a restaurant. Just please, don't look cheap.

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This article originally appeared on MyBankTracker

Read/Post Comments (18) | Recommend This Article (18)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2014, at 7:32 AM, elsie1028 wrote:

    How about paying $8 for a car wash to save 10 cents a gallon? Even if your car holds 30 gallons, you're underwater by at least $5.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2014, at 11:26 AM, TheBartender wrote:

    1. Buying in bulk

    Costco tends to have two separate average size containers of organic peanut butter attached together rather than one giant jar.

    Same for organic pasta and organic sauce... smaller individual boxes/containers packed into a larger container. Expiration date is often two years.

    Organic bread is packaged as two loaves individually packaged so one can be frozen

    Its like this for many items (but not all) and they have a huge selection of organic.

    I am not affiliated with Costco but I appreciate their thoughtful packaging

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2014, at 11:52 AM, janetevans100 wrote:

    It's really more about value versus cost. Even something as innocuous as a manure fork can be ranked by value. A low cost Chinese fork costs 1/3 that of an American made Equi-tee Flex'n Fork, but with its superior durability the Flex'n Fork will last 10 times as long. In the end that makes it a better value despite its higher purchase cost.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2014, at 12:47 PM, MrEd wrote:

    A guy I worked with drive a couple of miles across town to a station where gasoline was about a dime a gallon less. He drive a small car and probably saved about a buck a trip. When I pointed out that he was spending more to get there than he saved he admitted that was right, but he kept doing it.

    Cheap people sometimes don't use commons sense at all.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2014, at 3:42 PM, dvdblack wrote:

    One thing I never skimp on, besides mine and my pets food, is toilet paper and paper towels. If it's on sale I get it in bulk. Always look at the price per square foot and compare. The way I explain it to my wife is good toilet paper and paper towels will get us through a time when the budgets tight, but if we have plenty of money and it's 12 AM and we run out. I don't think either of us want to run to the store. LOL

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2014, at 7:10 PM, mcFoolish wrote:

    I disagree with the DIY. I do almost all my own house and car repairs. Much cheaper, and done right. Hiring someone to do things is expensive, and often it is not done correctly.

    The other advantage of DIY, is when you do have those times where you do not want to do it yourself (I will not paint my entire house exterior for example), you have the knowledge to make sure the job is done correctly.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2014, at 9:18 PM, beachwalker65 wrote:

    You are so right about things like Groupon, Living Social, etc. I bought things I didn't use to the tune of probably 300.00. It kind of makes me wonder were my sanity was at the time.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2014, at 10:15 PM, McSniperliger wrote:

    You should never go cheap on car parts...I've seen a few people buy cheapo economy parts like ball joints and they are going 70 miles an hour down the highway, the cheap part snaps sooner (softer metal) and either they crash or not.

    When it has your life you treat it like you want to live, not come to a sudden realization that your gonna die because you bought a cheap part and are crashing into other cars.

    Worst case scenario but it has happened...and if you live and the other person dies, your the one at fault for not having your vehicle properly maintained.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2014, at 11:09 PM, jgirl33062 wrote:

    A couple of these seem rather obvious to me, but I did learn a few things I didn't know. (And kudos for mentioning dating.) I've been recently temped to check out 3 different "saving sites", posing as an article. Glad I found out more about some of them here- I don't want to be tempted to much, and waste money on stuff I really don't need.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2014, at 9:31 AM, mom1097 wrote:

    One note about #12...if you do not use those deals before they expire, the business is usually required to honor the purchase price of the certificate. So if you bought $20 worth of food at a local restaurant for only $10 and didn't use it before it expired, the restaurant is still required to honor the original $10 purchase price and give you a discount. So the real important thing to keep in mind when visiting Groupon or Living Social...if you wouldn't buy it full price, don't buy it at a discount. If you've been dying to try that new restaurant but couldn't afford it, a voucher might be a good solution. Discount tickets for a sports team you always watch on TV but don't get to see play live? Probably a good idea and could be fun. But if you rarely get off the couch, let alone exercise, those half-price adult ballet classes probably aren't a good deal for you. On the other hand, if you used to be a dancer and want to relive your childhood for a couple of months, then maybe it's worth it. Then again, that goes for everything. You wouldn't buy a brand-name product at the grocery store if the store brand is half the cost and just as good...just to use a 25-cent-off coupon.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2014, at 11:12 AM, SecularHumanist wrote:

    If one is lucky enough to have an ALDI grocery store nearby and isn't married to name brands printed on the boxes/labels, one can save at least 30% on groceries.

    I haven't clipped coupons in over 15 years, because once I did the math, I noticed I bought stuff I didn't need, but seemed to be a bargain.

    Aldi has a unique concept - small footprint, mainly food items and some very good special buys each week, a user-friendly website, advance notice of weekly sale via email.

    I not only save money, I save time too.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2014, at 2:17 PM, gadfly1000 wrote:

    Check it out. Aldi's is hell on its employees in every country.

    While the employees are ssweating out every second, the Albrecht brothers (German) who own Aldi's are together worth about $40 billion. The money floats to the top and the "bargains" leave huge room for excess profits.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2014, at 2:42 PM, taloft wrote:

    The rule of three for hiring a contractor:

    1. Good

    2. Fast

    3. Cheap

    You can pick any two of the three.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2014, at 1:01 AM, RxPro wrote:

    1) Buying in bulk - No, its not about throwing out spaghetti sauce, here is the truth about costco/BJs/etc: anytime a place wants a membership fee you should be wary. Their prices aren't THAT great and they know that if you have a membership there then you have to shop there or you are "wasting" your membership fee. You probably need to shop there at least 20 times before you recoup the membership fee and they may be MUCH farther than your regular grocery store from your house, using up double or triple the gas per trip!

    2) Driving to save on gas... I really hope no one is dumb enough to do this. Pick a gas station on your route to and from work or somewhere you have to go that has the best price and fuel up there, problem solved.

    3) Eating cheap food - cheap does not mean unhealthy. Read the nutritional labels, eat chicken/turkey instead of beef/pork, watch your total sodium intake, and limit your calories if you are trying to lose weight. Its basic stuff and has nothing to do with cost. In fact, compare ground turkey to ground beef and you can be healthy AND save money.

    4) cheap clothes - I've bought cheap and expensive clothing and here are my tips: don't overpay just for a brand name (ie: chanel or brooks brothers) but, don't buy the low end stuff. It will only end up fading and having worn spots after a few washes leaving you to buy a replacement. Also a lot of the stuff you pay more money for, if it does get worn out, the store will replace it for you or give you store credit.

    5) Cheap shoes and mattress - ok get the cheapest shoes you can find, but get the best insoles. Also I don't know how everyone doesn't have a tempurpedic, CHANGED MY LIFE.

    6) cheap services - be careful here. Some cheap services are good (ie under the table workers), but sometimes they are inexperienced. Also keep in mind that someone who is charging you more for the same job may just be "highballing" you because they don't really want to do it, but will do it if you pay them enough. Best advice: use angieslist, and get a couple estimates. I usually go with the cheapest one with the best reviews.

    7) cheap car and repair - this is hit or miss. I've bought cheap cars that ran really well, but more often than not the cost and the HEADACHE of the repairs/problems they have just isn't worth it. Also for mechanics you need to check around: Ask them what they would charge in labor for X job and then buy the parts yourself and bring it to them. Whenever you get ripped off by a mechanic, its almost always parts. IE: salvage radiator for $2,000 when a new one at costs $1,700. Also this requires you knowing a bit about whats going on with the car.

    8) skipping health visits : with "obamacare" your yearly visit should be no charge (preventative care). So skipping is kind of silly. I know I have to go or I get hit with a $600 premium increase. But keep in mind, the most important part is what you do between your visits. Had a patient tell me today he didn't have his cholesterol medicine so he had to eat healthier for a few days... umm that's not how it works!

    9) cheap vet - umm vets can be major rip offs. I mean yeah you care about your pet, but they use that to their advantage and charge ridiculous rates. I have a very cheap vet that is amazing, all the others I've been to charge more than most primary care providers for HUMANS,

    10) anything for safety - who buys smoke detectors at a dollar store? whatever, what I think of here is ALARM systems. In which case you could pay ADT a lot of money or you could DIY it (#11), in which case you get a much better system at a fraction of the cost. Always good to weigh your options, I have ADT personally and they aren't that great, but are very costly, I would shop around.

    11) DIY - yeah don't do your own electrical or plumbing but DIY is a lot of fun and can be very rewarding. However I find that usually DIY doesn't save you money (very task dependent). But being able to DIY a shelf for example can be a fun project that can save you money. Also, I DIY'ed a paintjob on a wall and yeah I learned that painting is something I need to leave to the professionals.

    12) buying daily deals - Looking at these can be addicting, I know, but their motto should be "Go broke saving money!" because thats what they make you do. You buy things you normally wouldn't just because its $100 off. Just try not to look at these OR if you really need someone, check them until you get a good deal on that one item and then stop checking them.

    13) cheap dates - You need to be able to have cheap dates if you are going to survive a long relationship without going broke. Good ideas there are hikes, walks, minor league sporting events, picnics, homemade dinner and movie at home, and girls love these more than the normal dinner-date type stuff anyway.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2014, at 10:43 AM, 48ozhalfgallons wrote:

    A quiet walk though a cemetery is a cheap date...... always think outside of the box.

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 7:50 PM, elijed23 wrote:

    I completely agree. There are some things you don't want to skimp on. I love trying to fix things myself, but I know when it is time to call in a plumber. If you find yourself thinking "Where do I go from here?" it is time to bring in a professional.

    Elisa Jed |

  • Report this Comment On December 12, 2014, at 2:36 PM, areed wrote:

    I was just talking to my roommate about this the other day, there are just some things you have to spend money on. She wanted to try and fix our plumbing ourselves, but I knew we would only make it worse. I decided to get a good plumber to come out and fix it next weekend, I don't want any more issues with it!

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2015, at 10:51 AM, smithpaige256 wrote:

    I agree that do-it-yourself plumbing is not the best way to go. Unless you are personally trained on how to fix the pipes properly, you may end up with a bigger problem then what you started out with. My roommate for example thought it would be a great idea to fix the sink in our bathroom that was not draining, but by the time the maintenance guy took a look, not only was the sink clogged as the original problem but the facet was missing a handle on one side.

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