comments_image Comments

5 Products Consumers Like to Scrimp On, But Shouldn’t

For some key purchases, going cheap is never a good idea.

Photo Credit: Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock


We’re a nation of consumers and bargain hunting and scrimping are part of our way of life. However, there have always been products out there that we’ve collectively known we shouldn’t be frugal with.

Eyewear has historically been something people know not to go cheap on, unless they want to buy new frames frequently. But times have changed. Online shops like Glasses USA and Warby Parker have made it possible to get deeply discounted glasses without giving up much in terms of quality.

In recent years we’ve seen the advent of sustainable consumerism, buying used and refurbished products instead of new ones, not only to save money, but to keep still usable items out of our landfills. Internet sites — Craigslist and eBay in this case — have helped spawn this movement. It’s getting more common to see people buy everything from designer blue jeans to bicycles used, and at steep discounts over new.

But there are still many items you really shouldn’t scrimp on. For some items, like tailored suits and cutlery, you probably shouldn’t go the cheap route, but we have seen exceptions to the rule. But for the items below, we can’t think of one reason to go cheap.

1. Plumbing fixtures. When remodeling or doing home repairs, we often get caught up in details involving the tiles, cabinets, counters, and flooring. Plumbing fixtures are often an afterthought. Fixtures are often purchased without much research and at big box hardware stores. But this benign neglect has its consequences, and can leave homeowners all wet, literally.

A cheap stainless steel sink may have a higher gauge (which is thinner), which means it is more likely to bow, bend and even fail. Also, a thin sink doesn’t hold heat well, so a sink full of hot dishwater can turn cold quickly.

A bigger problem is fixtures such as faucets and showerbodies, which can come in a range of quality, even from the same manufacturer. Oftentimes, the products at big box stores contain critical parts made from plastic, instead of metal. Valves, once made of brass or steel, have been widely replaced by cartridge housings made mostly of polypropylene and rubber components.

Most plumbing manufacturers still make better quality versions of the fixtures you’ll see at hardware stores that have more durable parts and sometimes more features. You might have a hard time finding them at big box stores, because they’re typically sold in lower volumes at plumbing supply stores. Depending on the type of fixture, expect to pay 40-80% more for the high-end version of what you’d find at Home Depot or Lowes.

2. Mattresses. Few things are as vital to your health as a good night’s rest, which makes buying a quality mattress very important. And if you often find yourself waking up tired and with body aches, it’s probably time to start looking for a new one. A good rule of thumb is to buy a new mattress every 12-15 years, regardless of how restful your sleep is.

For many people, shopping for a mattress is a bewildering process. There are many different types of mattresses, such as innerspring, water, foam, memory foam, pillow-top, air, and gel. And then there are hybrid variations of these as well. On top of that, there are mattresses that work with articulating bases, that heat and cool, and that have adjustable firmness settings. Confusing?

Purchasing a mattress is perplexing, in large part, because the industry wants it that way. It’s hard to comparison shop when the options are so varied. Manufacturers make it even more confusing by creating different (but very similar) lines for different distributors, and at different price points. This practice allows them to slip in some less-than-well-made mattresses along with their higher-end fare. However, you’re still better off looking at the more expensive mattresses first, and considering less expensive brands only if they can match the comfort, quality and utility of a higher-end mattress. There’s nothing wrong with going home with a $500 mattress instead of a $4,000 one, just make sure you’re not conceding anything when you make your decision.  

See more stories tagged with: