Things you don't scrimp on

There are some things you can go the cheap route on. Dishwashing soap, tube socks, garbage bags, etc. Things not worthy of an extra buck for the brand name. And then there are things –little things, that are so useful that the extra cost is soon forgotten. These are a few of the things I’ve learned better than to scrimp on.

A Really Good Can Opener
Yeah, you can get a perfectly functional can opener for a buck fifty. And sure, it does a perfectly respectable job of opening your chicken noodle soup. But in the long run you’ll be glad you spent twelve dollars for the fancy stainless steel can opener that won’t rust to pieces. Get the one with those ergonomic handles that don’t bite into your hand or make the can lid all sharp and ragged.

Copper Cookware
Even if you just use it to heat up canned soup or cook noodles it’s worth the money for a decent set of copper jacketed pots. They heat more evenly than pure stainless and, well, they’re just better…

Really Good Flashlights
Sure, a flashlight usually spends most of it’s life mouldering away in your closet or your car trunk, so it’s tempting to go with the $3.99 Halloween Special two pack of flashlights complete with the cheap-o Ray-O-Vac nine-lives batteries, but chances are in an emergency they’d be almost useless.

A four “D” cell Maglite filled with Duracell batteries and the fancy krypton bulbs is pricey ($20 for the flashlight, $6 for batteries) but entirely worth it when you really need it. Also, when stranded on the side of a road in the middle of the night, you’ll feel better with a foot-and-a-half long three pound tube of metal in your hand.

Anybody got any more suggestions? I’m curious what folks who are more mechanical than me think of name brand vs. no name tools (Craftsman, Snap-On, Diamond, etc.).

One of the best damn tools I own that I lived without for far too long was my combination wire stripper/terminal crimper. For the first 10 years of my car stereo passion, I used the cheap-ass $3 crimpers that always come with a small assortment of crimp-on terminals and connectors. Finally I spent the $20 on a real set. Worth every penny.

Ditto with the 4-cell Maglite. Makes for a handy weapon too. It’s no coincidence they’re standard issue for cops.

Tools of any kind - Nothing sucks like a cheap screwdriver set or socket wrenches. Never scrimp on tools. The good ones will last forever. I still have my grandfather’s hammer.

Guitars - Most cheap guitars are just that. Expensive guitars won’t be made out of cheap wood, won’t have cheap imitation components, and they’re just put together well. That’s why the market for vintage instruments is so hot - The expensive Les Pauls and Fender Strats of yesteryear are durable and beautiful. When they’re taken care of properly, they last forever.

Computer components - It’s just not worth it to buy cheap hard drives, ethernet cards or even CD-Rs. Pay the extra few bucks for the quality and you’ll probably save yourself money down the line.

Don’t scrimp on tools if you’re gonna use them much. I knew a guy who kept breaking his cheap wrenches. You ever break a Craftsman (and I haven’t), you just walk into Sears and get a new one. (A friend tends to use a screwdriver as a prybar, and he’s always gotten it replaced.)

Tools! I only buy decent jeweler’s tools; the stuff that hobbyists work with just doesn’t hold up. I make a lot of jewelry, and since I frequently spend hours holding my tools, they have to be ergonomically designed, as well. Cheap tools may appear to be a bargain, but carpal tunnel syndrome is the hidden price one may pay for using them too often. Not a good bargain, IMHO.

Film Kodak or Fuji. It’s a one-shot world, don’t waste it on bargain brands.

Processing Pay the extra three bucks for “Kodak Premium” rather than the one hour special or bargain. What if that was the day they mixed the chemicals wrong? There is much better oversight at the Kodak shops.

Tools I have all Craftsman, because when I break one I go get a replacement free. I heard this was coming to an end, but I don’t break too many tools. Once I was beating on a rachet wrench to loosen a stuck wheel bolt: broke the tool and the bolt. Sears gave me a new tool but I had to dig a new bolt out of the parts car-can you say WD40?

Shoes You may save thirty dollars on those cross-trainers but they don’t last as long as the name brand, and old crappy shoes endanger your feet. A chipped bone in your foot is painful, dropping a few extra bucks on quality footwear is easy.

Electronics Cheapo is cheapo. Sounds it, acts it, I don’t put up with it.

Eyeglasses I don’t pinch pennies on prescription eyewear.

Really good brand name tools are worth every penny. Most of them come with a life time guarantee. A friend of mine took a large ½ inch drive craftsman ratchet and used it for a hammer. The guts popped out, he took it back to Sears and they replaced it, no questions asked.

I inherited my grandfathers tools when he passed on. There were three 30+ year old Craftsman power tools in his things. The 3/8 drill has more power than any other drill I have seen. The circular saw has outlived two Black and Decker skill saws. The last is a small belt drive table saw, it was probably good for it’s day, but not by today’s standards.

For the last 15 years, the good tools I have bought and have yet to have any problems. The cheaper ones, well…

Coffee - for about $0.50 per pot (or less), you can get a wonderful brew, vs. the unholy hellsludge that makes me gag.

Tape. Specifically Scotch tape. Wrap a few Christmas gifts with generic tape and you’ll see what my sister means when she says, “If you don’t use Scotch tape, you might as well not use tape at all.” I think she’s right. Cheap tape sucks.

Garden Tools, to echo the Craftsman discussion. My friend’s dad sez, “Never buy cheap tools. A $2 pruner is really a $25 pruner… since you have to go back to the store 10 times to replace it.” I’m down with that one too. I bought three different sets of clipper/pruners, until I settled on the $25 pair – which doesn’t get dull as fast, doesn’t muck up with dirt and rust and for some reason, I can always find them! Same with my watering wand. First one = $7. Dropped it on the cedar deck and busted it before I used it a whole summer. Hate that…

I will skimp on plants though. A $0.99 plant will do just as well as a $5 plant – if you prepare the soil correctly. Conversely, I spend more money on dirt than plants! 'Nuther adage from the generation before me, “Never put a $10 plant into a $2 hole. You’re better off putting a $2 plant into a $10 hole.” Grampa’s right…

I’m also going to have to second dustMagnate’s nomination for shoes and glasses. Amen. Cheap shoes are trouble! Cheap glasses are worse: they’re trouble and they don’t look good!

Clothing. “You’re never poor enough to buy cheap clothes,” Mother always told us. “It’s better to have one good suit than to have three shoddy ones.”

Tools - I couldn’t agree with the above statements more. Cheap tools are just not worth it, especially if you use them regularly.

Coffee - I agree with wring. Cheap coffee is swill. I’d rather pay a little more for quality beans.

Car parts - Don’t ever buy cheap car parts, unless you don’t mind breaking down at the most inconvenient time.

Furniture - That pressed wood slap-it-together-yourself stuff sucks. Sure, it may look presentable for a few years, but then it starts to warp, flake, blister, and fall apart. And forget about taking it apart to move. You can’t beat quality wood furniture, and it will last a lifetime. I prefer unfinished furniture - it’s cheaper, and you can stain it to match the rest of your stuff.

Oh, and inky-? I guess you’ve never had a cheap garbage bag bust open in your driveway while carrying it out, have you!

In summary, some things are ok to get the bargain brand, but with most, you get what you pay for.

SHOES. I bought cheap shoes for years, and ended up having dozens of pairs because none of them were that comfortable. Finally I was introduced to Eccos and other European brands: ugly and expensive, but they FIT. I can’t buy or wear anything else. I have a fairly wealthy friend who dresses like crap all the time and I asked her if she ever felt like salespeople, etc, ignored her due to her appearance. She said no, a smart salesperson always looks at the feet, because anyone who can afford it will never eschew well-made shoes. She never goes anywhere without her Mephistos or Eccos.

TOOLS: I think Craftsman are well-respected for home-repair type stuff, but for serious woodworking or heavy-duty work, you’d be well-served going go up a notch. And what’s good depends on the item. Delta may be best for some stuff, Makita for others, etc. My husband showed me a hand plane in a magazine that cost over $6000. Hello!

MACARONI & CHEESE: I’m sorry, I don’t care how tight the grad school budget is, don’t buy off-brand mac & cheese. Go for the blue box. C’mon, you’ve earned it.

Garbage Bags Sorry, Inky, but cheap-ass garbage bags suck.

Toilet Paper Nothing but Charmin Plus for me. Like wiping your butt with a washcloth. I’ve had guests come out of my bathroom asking me “I know this is weird, but I have to know what kind of toilet paper that is.”

Pots and Pans I don’t agree with Inky on the copper thing, but I do agree that heavy duty professional level cookware is the way to go. Expensive, but worth it. At least buy yourself a good frying pan.

Food in General Life is too short to eat margarine and canned vegetables. Buy fresh, real food. Cook it well.

That’s my short list. I could probably go on and on and on…

Here’s my list of things that you should never try and get cheap.

Car Brakes

Airplane Wings



That wonderous mechanism that lets your steering wheel actually affect where your car is going.


Bullet proof vests

scuba tanks

nuclear cooling systems

Space Suits


Tires- I will be moldering in the cold, cold ground before I buy a retreaded or Brand X tire. If you go to Sam’s Club, you can get name brand tires for only a few bucks more and besides that they’ll balance and rotate them forever. This lesson was learned the hard way in my college days when two retreads blew out on me within ten minutes of each other.

Scotch tape- I second Dogzilla on that one.

Shoes- dustMagnate and CrankyAsAnOldMan are spot-on about that.

Hand tools- The others on the list are right. Buy Craftsman. Only Craftsman.

Combs- Ace is it. Sure, you can get a package of six or eight plastic combs for the price of one or two Ace combs, but the plastic combs feel like somebody is dragging a disc harrow over your skull. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like having disc harrows dragged over my skull.



Hear, hear! My husband once made the mistake of buying sandpaper. Well, it was Scott Tissue, but it might as well have been sandpaper. He never forgot the Charmin after that. Unfortunately, we can’t GET Charmin Plus here.

Other things I don’t scrimp on:
vegetables - Fresh only. (Another thing hubby had to learn).

books - I buy hardcovers. Leather-bound if I can find them. If it’s not worth owning in hardcover, it’s not worth owning. I do buy used books frequently, though.

skin care - Why risk it?

shoes - Another vote! Why buy them if they torture you and fall apart after three months? You save money in the long run.

theatre tickets - I get the best seats available - or what I THINK are the best seats available (my opinion and the ticket sellers’ often differ on this point). I like the lower balcony, in the middle. I will NOT sit on the sides of the theater if I can help it. I will sit farther back rather than sitting on the sides (which, sometimes saves me money). I’m very picky.

Bedding - Until this year, I used the same mattress-boxspring set I bought used in college. I finally gave in when A) a spring busted through and poked me in the back, and B) I was moving anyway and the piece of junk wasn’t worth moving. (Why didn’t I replace it years before? It was more a case of the frog that doesn’t jump out of water that goes gradually from lukewarm to boiling.) Bought a new bed a few months ago. Price was no object. Good sleep is priceless.

Outdoor gear - The good stuff lasts. The good stuff holds up under the worst conditions. Never, ever, EVER scrimp on climbing rope.

Dive gear - Scrimp on nothing in the air system (tank, 1st stage regulator, hoses, 2nd stage reg, or console). Don’t cheap out on the mask or buoyancy compensator jacket (“BC”), either. It’s okay to cheap out on the snorkel (simpler is usually better), the gloves (they wear out quickly anyway) but never on the booties (a crummy pair can rub your toes raw).

Stereo equipment.

Here’s another vote for Tools! I buy Craftsman, but Snap-On and other brands are fine, too.

Prophylactics – 'Nuff said?

::Junior, I’m using the computer. Go bother your mom.::

ski boots- you might want to experiment with different types of skis and poles, but you must get good boots or nothing you do will work worth a damn and you will be uncomfortable the whole time

Ammo- new or reload, good ammo is good ammo & cheap is cheap. If you’re going to shoot, use the best you can or expect poor/substandard results. (Same goes for the actual weapon)

Condoms- see (Ammo) above :smiley:

SCUBA gear- for all the reasons mentioned before in this post

Suits- if your going to spend the money, spend it on something that will last for a long time, will wear will and will always look good. Cheap suits might be able to pull off two out of the three, but never all three of those things.

Cookwear- reasons list previously

Tires- it’s the only thing actually touching the road, you’re going to have them for years (two or so) and they might just save your life. Spend the money on some good ones (though you can save some money buying good ones, check Tirerack for some incredible deals and rapid response.)

Rum- If you’re going to drink, make it a good one. Captain Morgans is the minimum, Stroh is so very much better.