Brad Tuttle, a blogger with Time.com, asked a number of people involved with frugal living what things they would and would not spend money on. It's an interesting question. He's running the answers on his blog.
I like the question. Being frugal, at least to me, doesn't always mean getting the cheapest item possible. It's a matter of balancing the cost of the item, the quality of the item, and the level of quality you need for your use. So here are the answers that I came up with.
Where The Dollar Stretcher looks for savings:
Anything disposable. If you're going to use it once or twice and then trash it you don't need quality. Throwing away the fewest dollars seems to make a lot of sense.
Generic foods. Frankly, I don't care which brand of instant oatmeal I eat. The cheapest is just as good as the name brand. There are many grocery items where the generic is a great way to save some money. No need to pay for name brands' marketing efforts.
Utility bills. I can't see spending any more than necessary for utilities. It seems silly to let lights burn needlessly or air conditioning escape to the outside. I don't know if the power company has an award for their best consumer, but even if they did, I don't want it.
Play clothes. For daily living I just want practical. I don't need the latest styles or designers. Clothes for work and play should be functional. So I look for good quality and the lowest price I can find.
Status items. Fancy watches, club memberships or having the latest toy really doesn't interest me. Spending to get others to think better of you seems like a foolish activity.
Where The Dollar Stretcher is willing to spend a little more:
Tools. Specifically those that are needed for my job or that are used frequently at home. Nothing worse than having an inferior tool break at a critical time. And, in this case there's a reason that some tools are cheaper than others.
Cars. I admit that I'm a car lover, but that's not the reason. By spending a little more when I buy, I get a car (if used) that's more reliable and will need fewer repairs. I'm also willing to pay a little more for a car that has the options that I want. That way I won't be tempted to replace it in a few years to get the options that I don't have on my current ride. In both cases, spending a little now will save me more later.
Dress Clothing. Fortunately I don't have to dress up too often. So a good quality suit or sport jacket can last me for years. Buying a timeless style and good quality makes sense. It's also a good motivator to keep me from gaining weight so I can still wear the clothes already in my closet!
Education. In almost any form. For myself and for my kids. College, continuing education, books that can help my career, anything that helps me learn more about myself, my work and the world around me. This might not be true for everyone, but if you look at life as an adventure, you'll want to keep asking questions and looking for answers.
Memories. The truth is I'm sentimental. So spending a little to make, record or remind me of good times is worthwhile to me. Hard to put a pricetag on a good memory.
You might want to come up with your own lists. It's a good way to challenge how you think about spending money. If you do, I'd love to see what you think. Just send me an email with your conclusions.
About the Author:
Gary Foreman is the editor of The Dollar Stretcher.com and newsletters. Not only does the site host thousands of articles on various ways to save money, but you'll also find a vibrant forum where people share their dollar stretching ideas. You can also follow Gary on Twitter.