Personal finance sometimes feels like a ceaseless war of attrition with your paycheck and your bills duking it out every month to see who will briefly gain the upper hand. Trying to bring peace to your money usually involves constant compromise and that compromise often comes in the form of buying the cheapest possible version of the goods you need and want.
Sometimes it makes sense. You’re trying to ration your money as part of a balanced budget and you’ll almost always have multiple options when it comes time to make your purchase. So you pick the cheapest one. In many cases the quality is roughly the same. If you can save $0.75 buying generic cereal, that’s probably a good call.
But a lot of times buying cheap ends up costing you in the long run. Here are five areas where you can’t afford to be too cheap.
Keeping yourself healthy can be expensive. Recovering from a major physical catastrophe can be financially crippling. It’s easy to sacrifice your personal wellbeing when you’re running up against a tight budget, but don’t. Take care of yourself. Costs are going to vary from person to person depending on your existing condition, but it’s vital that you exercise, eat a proper diet, get routine examinations, and take whatever prescription medication your doctor has prescribed you.
It’s perfectly okay to buy cheap furniture – as long as you recognize that it’s not going to last you very long. It basically comes down to where you are in life and what you need at that time. Cheap furniture can be good when you’re starting out, but it tends to not survive moving very well and will need to be replaced sooner than later. If you’re settled in, then spending more on better made furniture is probably a good investment.
“Cheap” is relative when it comes to automobiles. The key is really to buy the best car that you can reasonably afford and not to neglect the necessary upkeep. Anyone who’s ever had the misfortune of owning a junker knows that the cost to continually revive a cheap car can be staggering.
This really goes hand-in-hand with protecting your health. You don’t need to buy ultra-premium, farm raised, grass-fed, organic everything. But you definitely shouldn’t eat macaroni and cheese every day for a month because you could get 20 boxes for $5. A healthy diet doesn’t need to break the bank, so be good to your body and skip the super cheap stuff.
The unexpected happens. If you’re properly insured you give yourself a better than good chance of surviving and recovering from a major setback. But without the protection of adequate insurance, getting back to square one can be incredibly difficult. Saving money is a good, but don’t leave yourself unprotected in the event of an unexpected setback.
Finding cheaper alternatives is a great way to reduce your expenses and shift money into other goals, but you should always be weighing the immediate savings versus the long-term cost. Saving a dollar today doesn’t mean much when it ends up costing you three dollars tomorrow, so keep your eyes open for good deals, but be smart about how you’re saving.