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It is better to save, than it is to spend — that's usually a winning (and smart!) mantra to live by. But there are actually some things that are worth the extra dollars in cost. Here are 10 of them.
- Service. Consumers like to complain about the terrible service they get from certain companies — cell phone and cable TV providers, for example, or dry cleaners and tailors. Ever have to fight with customer service on the phone over a dispute on your cell phone bill? Ever pick up a pair of pants from the tailor only to later discover that your hemlines were uneven? Had a bad haircut? It's worth it to pay more for quality service. People who are skilled in their craft generally charge more for their expertise, and people are willing to pay for a good experience — especially if that means having a bad experience that the service provider is willing to quickly make right for you for free. That's priceless.
- Direct flights. We're used to going onto sites like expedia.com or kayak.com to find the cheapest airfare for wherever we want to go, but it's often worth it to pay the extra money for a direct flight. Not only do you avoid the hassle of having to transfer planes at a layover, you save the precious time you could be spending more efficiently at your destination. I'd pay $50 or $100 more for a flight in a heartbeat if that means six extra hours with my family and friends during the holidays instead of snacking on overpriced airport food in the middle of nowhere waiting to get on the second leg of a flight.
- Closet basics. There's absolutely no reason you should spend $200 on a pair of designer jeans. But a good, durable pair of jeans from a retailer like Levi's, which produces them for around $50, can last much longer than cheaper brands from big box stores. The key word here is basics: You don't want to spend a lot on whatever is "in" now, but stuff that you can wear no matter what year it is: A nice suit that will work for both a job interview or a wedding. A nice pair of shoes that can be dressed up or down. A white dress shirt you can wear to work or a night out. One nice coat to get you through many many winters. Spending money on quality basics means you'll have things to wear for a long time without ever going out of style, and that actually saves money in the long run.
Read on for more things worth paying more for.
- One good pan. It's common sense that cooking at home will save you money, and if you had to buy just one thing to cook with, it's one really good quality pan, which will cost you about $70 with a glass lid. Good pans last longer, and cook food more evenly, and most importantly are very versatile — you can use it to steam vegetables, sear or fry a steak or fish, make sauces, and even boil pasta if it's deep enough. Get one that can be put in the oven at high temperatures, and it also works as a roasting pan. If you only have money for one piece of cookware, this is it.
- Dinner out. Since we're saving money by eating at home, I believe that going out for dinner should be special, and it's worth it to shell out a little more for a good meal. It can be pretty disappointing to go out to dinner and pay for an unsatisfying meal — "I could've made this at home and much better" is what comes into mind. Of course, there are a lot of great restaurants that serve delicious food at affordable prices in every town. Think about the food, and not about prices, and you'll be much more satisfied.
- Car maintenance. Get your car checked out regularly, your tires rotated, and oil changed and it'll run longer and won't fall apart on the road. I'm the son of a mechanic, and this advice has done me right. When you're on the road, one sudden breakdown can cost you your life. Get your brakes checked. Don't let your engine overheat. Your safety is worth the money spent.
- Accommodations. When I was young and decided to backpack through Europe, I had no problem staying at hostels and even camping in the woods outside of town. I once stayed at a hostel in Florence, Italy where I was greeted with a mattress stained with blood and other unimaginable bodily fluids. I'm much older and wiser now and would much rather have comfortable accommodations without worrying about how clean the sheets are. Just be sure to stay away from the minibar.
- Healthcare. Your health is important. When something goes wrong, you want to have the best team of medical professionals at your side. We live in an unfortunate time when health care is a luxury for many Americans, and I've seen firsthand what can happen to someone who's uninsured. I have an uninsured friend who was hit by an out-of-control taxicab while she was simply walking down the street. Fortunately, her injuries were minor. Unfortunately, the hospital charged her an arm and a leg to get her checked out.
- Experiences. Most people don't say: "I will never forget that entertainment system I bought." Instead, they're more likely to say: "I will never forget that time I went hang gliding in the fall and saw a forest of leaves change color from hundreds of feet in the air" (this is a thing I say). The point is, experiences like going to watch your favorite band headline a concert or visiting your sister who just moved to Switzerland are worth the dollars that they command. You can sit on a pile of money at home alone, but when you look back at your life experiences, you may not have anything to remember if you don't have any good experiences to recall.
- Kitty litter. This last one was suggested by a friend since I currently don't own any pets. She swears that paying more for good kitty litter has saved her house from smelling terrible. I'm not sure if this is true — cat lovers all over the Internet have a thing or two to say about which kitty litter brand is best — but the lesson here is really that it's worth it to spend money to take care of your pets since they're practically members of your family.
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