10 Things Not to Buy on the Cheap

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You can buy anything at a discount but you might want to think twice about these items in particular.

If you've ever been accused of being cheap, it's not such a bad thing. After all, living below your means leaves money in the budget to build your savings account, invest, or even take a vacation. As you shop, though, there are some things you should never cheap out on. Here, we share 10 of them.

1. Batteries

Batteries are not cheap. For example, the AA batteries used around most homes can cost up to $1 apiece. As frequently as you must replace them, the cost adds up. As tempting as it may be to purchase your batteries in bulk from a discount store, it's rarely a good idea. Here's why: Discount stores sell batteries at a bargain because they are lower quality, normally made with carbon-zinc instead of alkaline.

Batteries are powered by energy units called "joules." When the technology magazine Wired tested AA batteries from Dollar General against brand names Duracell and Energizer, here's what they found:

  • Dollar General battery stored a total of 2,983 joules
  • Duracell battery stored 9,398 joules
  • Energizer battery stored 10,798 joules

Considering the quality, it's easy to see how the discount chain was able to sell their batteries so inexpensively. A product is not cheaper in the long run if you must continually repurchase and replace it to make up for poor quality.

2. Lightbulbs

Like batteries, you'll replace cheap light bulbs more frequently than quality light bulbs. This will lead to you ultimately spending more money to keep your home lit.

The lightbulb industry tests Average Rated Life (ARL) to learn how long it takes half of the light bulbs in a test batch to die. While things like turning a light on and off reduce its ARL, so does the quality of the bulb. It's safe to assume that the less you pay for a lightbulb, the lower the quality.

For example, you can purchase a general use, incandescent 60-watt light bulb for less than $1, and it will last around 1,000 hours. However, if you pay more for an LED light bulb (approximately $3), it will last up to 25,000 hours -- 25 times as long for $2 more.

3. Wall paint

Whether you love or loathe painting walls, saving a few bucks on a can of paint makes the job more difficult -- and more expensive -- than it needs to be. Cheap paint typically means thinner paint, which leads to more coats to achieve the same coverage.

4. Shoes

Shoes can be expensive; there is no doubt about that. But the right pair of high-quality shoes can also be worth their weight in gold. A good pair of shoes means less foot, leg, and back pain. And if a good pair of shoes makes it easier to get up, move around, and enhance your health, there's no question that it's worth the investment.

5. Mattress

It's estimated that most of us spend one-third of our lives sleeping. The quality of that sleep is vital to physical health and makes it easier to cope with emotional issues. While there's no reason to spend a small fortune on an expensive mattress, you don't want to cheap out on your mattress either. Make sure it fits your needs for a good night's sleep.

6. Laptop

When money is tight, it's reasonable to want to go with the cheapest laptop available. One way companies sell laptops at a discount is to cut battery life. Replacing a battery is expensive, meaning you may end up spending more over the life of the laptop than you anticipated.

7. Tires

When you're buying something as important as tires, you don't want to scrimp. After all, a good set of tires can help protect you and your family. A decent set of tires should be rated to last at least 50,000 miles. Ask a mechanic for recommendations and look for tires with the most extended warranty.

8. Dish soap

Given the speed at which most households go through dish soap, it's natural to want to replace it on the cheap. What you typically get with a more expensive soap is greater concentration, meaning it takes less product to do the same job. Using less products means not having to buy it as often, which can actually save money in the end.

9. Pet food

Having a pet can be expensive. After all, you're responsible for everything from training to medical care. If you've considered trimming the budget by purchasing cheap dog food, you may want to think twice. To keep production costs low, dog food manufacturers typically add filler to their products. Filler is a cheap, starchy ingredient that "bulks up" the food without adding any nutritional value.

Buying the most expensive food on the market does not mean it's going to be the healthiest, and buying something at a lower price point doesn't mean it's unhealthy. What matters is what's in the ingredients. They're listed in descending order of weight, meaning the top five will give you a good sense of what you're feeding your pet.

10. Appliances

Maybe you're buying a home and need new appliances. You're worried about spending too much so you decide to find the cheapest appliances on the market. The problem is that the cheapest appliances tend to require the most costly repairs. Cheaper appliances also come with less exhaustive warranties, meaning you'll be footing repair bills yourself.

Fortunately, if you live to find a bargain, there are plenty of other things you can buy on the cheap without having to worry about spending more in the end. The trick is knowing where to spend a bit more and where to save.

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