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Funny Money: 5 Things Totally Worth Overspending On And 5 Things That Are Totally Not

It’s a lesson we seem to learn the hard way over and over again: With some things, it pays to pay for quality. Here’s a smattering of everyday items for which you should shell out a little extra — and a few more you should buy as cheaply as you can.


holey socksAt a certain point, minimalism turns into masochism, and frugality is just foolishness.

Some things in life are simply worth paying for. Meaning, the stuff you use every day, that has a major effect on your quality of life. Like socks. If your socks are awful, stinky and full of holes, so is your life. You need good socks to live well.

Other stuff, meanwhile, has the appearance of important necessities while they’re actually needless trifles. Like, say, shoelaces. No matter how fancy or robust your laces are, all they can really do is keep your shoes from falling off your feet. As long as they’re doing that, it doesn’t matter how much they cost or how staggering their quality is.

Most things in life fall either in the socks or shoelaces category. The trick is to distinguish between the two. Lucky for you, I took care of that for you, so you don’t need to think for yourself.

So with that in mind, off we go: Here are five socks to overspend on in order to better your life, and five shoelaces to skimp on quality and save cash for better stuff.

SOCKS

Pillows

They wait for you each night, accepting your frazzled noggin in a warm, puffy embrace. Or they can be miserable, lopsided bricks that make you detest the pleasures of sleep.

Toilet paper

If only sandpaper stayed in the sandpaper isle. If only manufacturers didn’t see fit to repackage it with clouds and teddy bears on the cover, slashing its price to trick sadistic penny pinchers into having their loved ones wipe with it. I shall say no more.

Computers

You are only as fast and capable as your computer. If your computer sucks, you suck. Don’t suck. Spend what it takes to at least have a chance at competence.

Home repairs

Your broken doorknob, toilet handle, piece of doorway tile and hallway light fixture had all better work well, because if they don’t you will notice their failures all too well, and be especially bitter about their ineptitude if a pathetic discount repair job is the reason for your crumbling homestead.

Shoes

They’re just like socks, only even more important because they are your only defense against the harsh, unrelenting spikiness of the ground. If your shoes ain’t comfy, you ain’t comfy. Remember that.

SHOELACES

Phones

Wow, you just got the brand new smartphone with all the great reviews that can do this, that and the other? Well guess what. In six months everyone will chuckle at you behind your back and pity you to your face about your ancient, Zack Morris-like embarrassment. Phones are so disposable that what people do with them is closer to renting than buying. So rent cheaply.

Haircuts

Sure, a great haircut can have you looking presentable for a while. But then time takes its toll and you end up looking just like any other Supercuts-shorn shlub. Sure, a fancy mop chop may be applicable if you’re on the cusp of a big date or job interview, or any other situation in which you need to trick people into thinking you’re better looking than you really are. But as for day-to-day life, pay a minimal amount and accept your mediocrity.

Clothes

However trendy and “2013” your clothes are, they will make you look just as weird and “two thousand and late” the second the fickle winds of fashion shift. It’s best to stay basic, dull and cheap with your garments so as not to stand out.

Car repairs

Do not spring for the high-quality water pump, timing belt or alternator. Your car is an evil, parts-devouring monstrosity, and it will chew up the good along with the bad. Always go for the cheapest option, and rest assured that another old terrible part is sure to break down before the new terrible one goes kaput. And eventually you’ll want to unload the whole mess and start over with a fresh, new, evil parts-devouring monstrosity.

Food

Just look at that gourmet platter at a superior, high-class restaurant that you’ll drop $80 a plate on. Take a picture. No, seriously, do it, because the only other memory you will have of your overpriced delicacies is the flush and swirl you hear as you say goodbye to it several hours later. If it all looks the same going out, question whether it’s worth paying a lot extra for its looks and pedigree as it goes in.

What do you think is worth spending extra on? Where are you willing to sacrifice?

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About Phil Villarreal

Phil Villarreal writes Funny Money weekly for Money Under 30. He lives in Tucson and works for the Arizona Daily Star. He's also an author, blogger and Twitterer.

Comments

  1. Awesome article! Creative analogies are great for helping learning, and they’re even better for helping remembering! My 2 cents: I agree with the items you put in the “sock” category, but – that doesn’t mean that every dollar you spend on them is a dollar well spent. A top-of-the-line, fire breathing gaming computer – or a celebrity-endorsed pillow woven from the threads of bilingual Peruvian silkworms – can be a lot more shoelacy than sock-like. But I get the point, and it’s a great one!

  2. Patrick says:

    I agree with the phone part except for one sticking point (with Android at least):

    If you pick up a flagship device on sale a year after it comes out, it’s a good deal, and the kind people at XDA developers love tinkering to make that old flagship have a majority of the features the newest devices have. You get a tested device, good support, and a little extra cash on hand.

  3. A couple months ago, I looked in the mirror and realized I needed a hair cut. My hair cut usually cost $15 with a $5 tip. I’ve been doing this for quite some time.

    I was out in Mountain View, CA and needed to get a cut (very particular on who I go to) and found a hole in the wall place for men haircutting. I didn’t even ask how much it was and when she was finally done the bill was $50. I nearly choked knowing how fast my hair grows.

    I get back to Jersey and find out my barber has increased his price to $18. I’m keeping the budget and only spending up to $20.

    I do however need to find an equally nice place that’s half the price. The hunt continues.

  4. Aisle, not isle.
    Otherwise, not bad.

  5. Marky Mark says:

    I love the one about food! So true! That is my problem right now. I spend way too much money on food. I know how to cook; but I just get lazy. Great point about food. Going to start cooking more now; instead of going out to eat a lot. Thanks a lot for the inspiration and motivation!

  6. Completely disagree on the part about car parts. Higher quality parts most definitely ARE worth the extra money. There is a big difference between spending a lot on one repair, only to have something ELSE break, and having to repair the SAME thing over and over because of inferior parts. And a timing belt that can destroy the whole engine if it breaks is not something you want to skimp on. Save $20 on a cheaper belt only to spend $2,000 on a new engine, yeah that’s real sound financial advice.

    And if you’re like me and you fix your cars yourself, there are some jobs you just don’t want to have to do the labor all over again if the part fails. It makes it that much more frustrating.

    This is coming from a guy who also works at an auto parts store and deals with quality and crappy parts all the time.

  7. This article is total BS. Don’t spring for car repairs? Don’t get a good phone? And for ladies, don’t get a good haircut? Is this guy TRYING to make everyone look like homeless people? Oh, but you definitely need to spring on expensive toilet paper and pillows. WTF?

  8. I disagree on cars and on clothes. I don’t know how you can say that you should shell out money on home repairs, because “if they don’t [work] you will notice their failures all too well.” I don’t know anyone who doesn’t notice, when their car malfunctions. Don’t get me wrong – you shouldn’t hand over your checkbook to the stealership, but going for the cheapest option actually led to my family members spending tons of money going to idiot, cheap mechanics, who did more harm than good, and having to constantly replace those cheap parts add up, when you could’ve just had a quality job done to begin with. The clothing section came off a little broad to me. I agree with avoiding what’s “trendy,” but spending money on good quality suits and work clothing – some good, solid, timeless clothing – is important, especially when it comes to interview time.

  9. Kate Settlemyre says:

    I agree on the toilet paper. I feel the same way about tampons – I always spring for the plastic applicators for…reasons. But the rest of this seems a little weird.

  10. I disagree with buying the cheapest car parts. A) You are screwing over the next buyer B) Its cheaper to keep a car driving than it is to buy a new car almost all of the time. You again are just screwing yourself over.

    Stick with either Genuine parts from the dealer, or buy the manufacturer who develops the parts for the dealership at a discount. NEVER buy Chinese junk — in fact, you end up spending MORE because labor is the most expensive part of repair, not the parts.

  11. Hello Phil,

    You have clearly pointed out necessities and luxury items that are not really needed especially if you are quite tight financially. It is really important to strike a balance when it comes to household spending. The key is not only to be frugal but practical and smart as well.

  12. Some more socks: Bed, desk chair, sofa by TV

    a shoelace: Coffee – seriously, people spend $5.99 on some fancy named latte that’s half milk and sugar anyways.

  13. Brendan Heussler says:

    On the topic of car repairs, I would highly suggest going for Synthetic oil. It costs twice as much as regular, but lasts twice as long. This just equates to less oil changes.

  14. I agree with most of the listed items, but a Mattress is definitely a “Sock.” You spend a long time there so it should be comfortable and not cause back issues.

    With car repairs, it depends on the part, the mechanic, and the company. My father in law used to manage his own used car business and would take vehicles to this one place to get repairs and maintenance. He recommended this place to me. I needed brake work done and the local dealership wanted over double the price of what I needed. The same thing later with an alternator…again dealership wanted more than double. I no longer have the vehicle, but the parts lasted just fine.

    With smartphones it can be hit or miss. I got my first smartphone 2 years ago…an HTC Evo Shift for $99. It was cheap…but then it became annoying with various issues. I finally gave up and got the iPhone 5 and have never looked back. I’ll probably keep it an extra year.

    I would say cell service itself can also be a “shoelace”…I had Sprint for 13 years, but the last couple with a smartphone was annoying. I didn’t get the data coverage I should have had. It’s like night and day now that I’ve switched to Verizon. I get an employee discount as well, so I have data that works and it costs less per month as well. One thing for sure is that I will never fall for those costly “upgrade” plan addendums that AT&T and Verizon just started. I don’t need to get a new phone every 6 months.

  15. Natasha says:

    I disagree with the food! Spending on organic and/or local items is worth it for me due to the better quality that I can actually notice, and the lessened exposure to pesticides. I rarely go to fancy dinners, but sometimes the experience and the food really are worth the price tag for a special occasion treat.

  16. Laura Fox says:

    These are all just opinions, but I disagree with most of them. Here are my thought:
    Phones
    Phones are almost as useful as computers today. Get a good phone and like another reader said get a good coverage plan. The convenience and features will save you money elsewhere like cameras and videos, I always use my phone as my camera 1 less thing to buy.
    Haircuts
    I’m on the fence about this one. Personally I cut my own hair but might have to change soon. Your day-to-day appearance at work is just as important as showing up to an interview. You’re being evaluated on a daily basis so appearing put together everyday is important in order to get ahead in your career.
    Clothes
    This is important. Yes stay away from oober trendy items, but invest in pieces. You must dress for the job you want, not the job you have. It’s better to be over dressed at work than under dressed. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the clothes you wore in college are acceptable for work, they aren’t. Create a small monthly budget and get 1 good piece a month, over time you’ll build up a good work wardrobe.
    Car repairs
    Save money by doing it yourself (only if you know what you’re doing). Your Car is your transportation and it’s an investment. Don’t add crazy things to your car like sub woofers or tweeters, Blue lights, or spinning hubcaps, but make sure it runs well and can last for years. Trading in for new is costly.
    Food
    Food is your body’s fuel. Feed it garbage and you’ll feel like garbage. The most efficient tip I read recently is, if you’re tired and don’t feel like cooking, instead of going out for dinner, stop by the grocery and pick up a deli chicken, a bag of salad, and a $1 loaf of bread. Everything is ready hardly any prep and you’ve fed a whole family for less than $10. Spending more on healthy food to fuel your body means you’ll be spending less on medical bills in the future. Take care of your body because you only get one.