11 things you should never skimp on to save money
Cutting costs is a good idea if it means getting spending under control, so you'll have more money to pay down debt, build savings or achieve other financial goals. But your cost-cutting efforts can backfire if you opt to pinch pennies on the wrong things.
There are several products and services that are worth paying a little more for because the cheaper alternatives could cost you additional cash in the long run. Here are 11 things you probably don't want to skimp on just to save money.
1. Auto Insurance
One way that people find themselves paying more over the long run is by opting for only the minimum amount of auto insurance coverage required by the state. It might make it cheaper to own a car, but if you get in an accident, you could end up forking over a lot of money.
"Paying for car insurance isn't exactly something that people enjoy, but skimping on your policy can really cost you down the road," said Neil Richardson, a licensed insurance agent and expert at car insurance comparison marketplace The Zebra.
For example, if you live in Texas and have just the minimum coverage for $25,000 in property damage but total someone's new truck that's worth $50,000, you could be on the hook for the difference, Richardson said. He recommends adding comprehensive and collision coverage (if you have a vehicle that hasn't depreciated significantly), uninsured motorist coverage and ample liability coverage.
"More complete coverage does not have to be more expensive," said Chris Long, an insurance agent and founder of Longevity Insurance Brokers in Denver, Colo. You can keep costs down by getting a discount for bundling multiple insurance policies — such as auto and home insurance — with one company. He also recommends asking your insurer about discounts for factors such as a good driving record or good grades earned by teen drivers.
2. Car Repairs
When it comes to car repairs, there are certain items you should never skimp on, said Nicole Firebaugh, manager of Preventative Maintenance Repair in Marion, Ill. First, you should do your research before buying any parts for your car to ensure that you get the right type for your vehicle.
"Putting the wrong types of materials in your vehicle can cause parts to go bad quicker or cause damage to other parts," she said. Additionally, you should check out the warranty on any product you purchase. "It might be an extra $50 to have five more years of a warranty, but that is five more years your part is covered. Just be sure that you research what the warranty actually entails, so that you do not get in even more trouble down the road."
Finally, don't avoid going to a mechanic just to save money.
"Even if you have seen the YouTube video or gotten advice from your local auto store expert, some things are better left to the expert," Firebaugh said, adding that many mechanics will provide a warranty for parts and labor, so you're covered if anything goes wrong.
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3. Homeowners Insurance
The August 2016 flooding in Louisiana offers a stark reminder that skimping on insurance can leave you financially unable to repair the damage from a natural disaster. Standard homeowners insurance doesn't cover flood damage; this type of policy has to be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program. Yet, only 21 percent of Louisiana residents have flood policies, according to the Louisiana Department of Insurance. So, those without coverage are left paying for losses from the recent flooding on their own.
Nationwide, just 12 percent of homeowners have flood insurance policies, according to a 2016 survey by the Insurance Information Institute. On average, a flood insurance policy costs about $700 a year, according to FEMA. That might seem like a lot, but it's a fraction of the average paid flood claim, which is $31,000. And if you don't live in a high-risk area, you could get coverage for as little as $137 a year, according to FEMA.
Standard homeowner policies also don't provide coverage for other disasters, such as earthquakes, mudslides and sinkholes, according to III. The organization recommends checking your policy to see which disasters are not covered. You might be able to add a separate policy to cover events such as earthquakes.
4. Home Repairs
If repairs need to be made around your home, taking the cheap option could be an expensive mistake. In particular, don't skimp on anything related to leaking water and water damage, said Justin Pritchard, a certified financial planner and personal finance writer for The Balance, an About.com brand.
"Water can cause rot and mold, and fixing those problems gets expensive," said Pritchard, who has first-hand experience dealing with water damage in his home. "In addition to fixing whatever gets damaged by water, you'll need to replace drywall, repaint and pay other finishing costs." If you ignore the problems, it could be hard to sell your home down the line.
To keep costs down, Pritchard recommends asking the contractor what tasks you can tackle in advance, so he doesn't have to charge for time spent doing things other than fixing the problem. Also consider buying high-quality materials for your contractor, he said. It might cost more upfront, but you don't want to use substandard materials that have to be replaced soon.
Above all, be wary of offers from contractors who show up at your door offering to seal your driveway, fix your roof or make other repairs at hard-to-resist prices. They could be scammers who use subpar materials or who take your money and run, according to the Better Business Bureau. Before hiring contractors, the BBB recommends finding out if the companies are insured and bonded, researching them at BBB.org and getting several quotes.
5. Renters Insurance
If you're a renter, you shouldn't try to cut costs by skipping on renters insurance. Mike Delgado, director of social media at the credit bureau Experian, said he made the mistake of not paying for renters insurance for years.
"I thought I was being frugal by not paying that monthly fee," he said. "And then someone broke into my garage and stole my not-so-frugal mountain bike."
Don't assume that your landlord's insurance policy will cover your personal property — it won't, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. However, a renter's policy will pay to repair or replace your items if they are damaged or stolen. And the cost is just $15 to $30 per month, according to NAIC.
Delgado said that if he had renters insurance, he would've paid only a small insurance deductible after the theft, and the policy would have covered the remaining cost of replacing his bicycle.
"Overall, I could have saved several thousand dollars by just paying 12 bucks a month," he said.
6. Safety Gear
When it comes to your safety, or your family's safety, opting for the least expensive products to provide protection might be downright dangerous. For example, properly made bicycle helmets that fit correctly can save lives and prevent brain injuries, said Julie Rains, road cyclist and founder of the blog, Investing to Thrive.
"I had friends who hit their heads on pavement at 15 to 20 miles per hour and walked away from crashes," she said, adding that it's best to buy a helmet from a bike shop where you can be fitted and shown how to wear it properly.
It doesn't have to be the most expensive, high-end version, which would likely be one designed for racing, she said. Instead, ask for a good helmet that is affordable — perhaps even last year's model that's on sale.
7. Hair Care
If you let price alone determine where you get your hair cut or colored, you might find that you've wasted money on subpar services.
"If that haircut goes south, you'll have to go somewhere else to have it fixed," said Beth Kessler, a stylist and owner of Parlor on Main in Bowling Green, Ky. She said her salon gets at least one call a day from someone asking to come in to have a bad haircut or color from another place fixed.
It will cost you both time and money to repair the damage — especially if highlights or color applied to your hair didn't turn out right, or if you colored your hair on your own.
"Color correction is going to cost double what it would cost if you had just made an appointment with an experienced stylist who specializes in what you want," Kessler said.
To find an experienced stylist, Kessler recommends asking friends with hair similar to yours who their stylists are, how much they charge and whether it's difficult to get appointments. You might be able to keep costs down if a salon charges extra for drying or styling your hair after a cut by opting not to take advantage of these la carte options, she said.
Mattresses can be pricey, so it's tempting to opt for a cheap version, said Joseph Hogue, an investment analyst and founder of the blog, My Work From Home Money. "But you're going to be there for a third of your day, and a good night's sleep makes all the difference."
Not only is it worth spending a little more for your comfort, but buying a good mattress also ensures you're getting a quality product that will last several years. A good, queen-sized mattress can cost at least $1,000, according to the mattress-buying website Goodbed.com. Timing your purchase right, though, can help you save money, Hogue said.
Look for mattresses to go on sale around holidays. Labor Day and Memorial Day are particularly good times to find deals. And go ready to haggle for an even better deal, he said.
If you spend a lot of time on your feet, it's worth buying a quality pair of shoes, said Brent Shelton, online shopping expert for FatWallet.
"Shoes made with quality materials will last longer and stay comfortable longer," he said.
Quality shoes are especially important if you're wearing them to walk or run for exercise, according to WebMD.com. With bad shoes, you could end up with injuries.
There are ways to keep the cost of quality shoes down, though. Do research and read reviews for the top-rated shoes for your needs, Shelton said. Then you can set up alerts for shoe brands and stores at deal sites such as FatWallet.com to be notified of sales and price drops, he said.
10. Grass Seed
If you want your lawn to look better but don't want to spend a lot of money, don't make the mistake of buying cheap grass seed, said Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, which connects consumers with lawn care professionals. The reason the price of some seed is so low is because 10 percent to 20 percent of it is of an unknown variety, he said. In other words, the seed contains weeds.
"Don't try to cut corners on the seed that you buy for your lawn," Clayton said, adding that you don't want to go through the hard work of sowing seeds only to end up with a weed-infested lawn.
"So do yourself a favor," he said. "Spend the few extra dollars on the quality name-brand seed, and you'll be grateful next spring."
11. Toilet Paper
Buying cheap toilet paper is like throwing money down the drain, literally.
"When buying the cheaper, single-ply toilet paper, most households will end up using more," Shelton said. "You'll be running out of it faster." That means you have to buy it more often.
Plus, cheap toilet paper is made with fewer fibers and might not hold up to the job, said Kendal Perez, a savings expert with Coupon Sherpa. This is one product that you want to perform well, she added.
Instead of skimping, opt for two-ply or three-ply toilet paper, which is more expensive but will save you money because you won't have to use as much, Shelton said. You can keep the cost down by buying in bulk — which will save you up to 30 percent, Perez said. Additionally, you should look for toilet paper coupons at sites such as CouponSherpa.com and stock up during sales.
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