Have you ever bought something that you totally regretted?

Of course you have–we all have, probably more than once.

A while back, I purchased a pair of pants that were on sale. When I tried them on, they didn’t fit the best, but they were on trend. I debated whether I should get them. Then, I saw the price tag. Only $7! What a great deal right? I went to the counter and paid for them, brought them home, and hung them in my closet. And that’s where they remained for an entire year! There were a number of occasions where I considered wearing them and always decided not to because of the way they fit. I ended up donating them without wearing them a single time. Did I really save money on my cheap $7 pants? No! I was a sucker for a sale that ended up being a complete waste of money.

Lesson learned: Just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean that you are saving money when you buy it. In fact, in many circumstances, you can save a lot of money by purchasing more expensive, high quality items that will last for a long time.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should always pay a premium. There are some things that just aren’t worth paying more for, and savviest shoppers know the difference.

Here’s my list of guidelines for where to save and where to splurge:

SAVE: FAST FOOD

Hitting the drive through can be a really tempting prospect, especially after a long busy day. I don’t know about you, but dinner at my house can be a bit chaotic. From meetings and kids sports, to church or a girls night out, it can be tricky to take time to prepare a nice dinner for my family. I’m all about finding the easiest solution for dinner. And while fast food seems easier, honestly, by the time I’ve driven to the drive through, ordered, and gotten our food, I’ve already spent a minimum of 15-20 minutes. There are tons of meals I could have thrown together at home in the same amount of time or less that not only cost a fraction of what I’d pay getting fast food, but also much healthier. So, save on fast food and opt for something fast at home. (And if you need ideas, check out Ruth’s 10 Meals in an Hour, featuring 100+ easy recipes, printable shopping lists, step by step instructions, and more).

SPLURGE: EXPERIENCES

While you’re saving money on fast food, you should be splurging on experiences. Research shows that experiences provide a longer-term impact on our happiness than things do. So, go sky diving. Take that trip to Paris. Get to the beach. These are splurges that you’ll never regret.

SAVE: TRENDY CLOTHING & T-SHIRTS

T-shirts and trendy clothing items are things that you should save on. Not to say they don’t have their place, i.e., it’s not that you should NEVER buy them, rather, you should buy these things on sale, second hand, or otherwise on the cheap and make sure they are items that you will actually wear before you buy them. One way I like to do this is to delay gratification—if I see a trendy piece when I’m out shopping, I’ll wait a week or more. If I still want it, I’ll go back to get it, but a lot of times I realize that I can definitely live without it.

SPLURGE: PROFESSIONAL CLOTHING & JEANS

Unlike trendy clothes and t-shirts, jeans and professional clothing are things you should splurge on. This is true because  you’ll have these pieces for a long time. Jeans and professional clothes tend to be more classic and can get through all kinds of trends since you can accessorize them with cheap trendy pieces.

SAVE: TOILET PAPER

Have you ever had the feeling that you were flushing money down the toilet? Well when you spend money on expensive toilet paper, that’s exactly what you are doing! What kind of toilet paper we use was constantly on debate between me and my husband. I try to compromise a lot in marriage, but this is one area where I hold my ground. Because literally, when you use that toilet paper and flush it, it’s gone forever. And it’s not like a happy experience that you’ll be remembering with fondness over the years. Just get the cheap kind! After a while, you won’t even notice the difference. The best way to shop for toilet paper is by checking the unit price rather than the cost of the packaging. My husband and I have finally agreed on Costco’s brand (Kirkland) toilet paper. It’s cheap for me and comfortable for him.

SPLURGE: PRODUCTS & SERVICES THAT SAVE YOU TIME

Rather than wasting money on toilet paper, you should splurge on products and services that save you time. Time is money after all. A good example of this would be paying someone to help clean your house or fold your laundry so that you can get more work done or spend more time with your family doing things you enjoy (if you can work it into your budget, obviously).

SAVE: GROCERIES

Groceries are an area of our budget that can easily get out of control if we aren’t careful. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to save money on groceries. Simply scour your local grocer’s ads and commit to only shop for things that are on sale. Better yet, pair those sales with manufacturer or in store coupons to maximize your savings. On top of that, you can use cash back rebate apps such as Ibotta to save even more money on groceries. Each of these things take almost no extra time at all, are free, and will save you tons on groceries.

SPLURGE: HEALTH

If you must splurge, splurge on things that improve your health, like at home workout equipment, fitness apps, or a gym pass. I would also include in this list, actual medical care like periodic visits to your primary care physician, dentist, and dermatologist. It is so much cheaper to catch health issues early than to wait until you have symptoms that must be treated!

SAVE: MAKE UP

I have tried almost every brand of makeup under the sun, from the most high end, to the cheapest supermarket products. And one thing I’ve found, is that it’s really easy and unnecessary to throw tons of money at makeup products. If you want recommendations on specific products, check out my list of the best cheap makeup products. For even more makeup and styling tips, our Beauty Made Simple cheat sheet will save you money and help streamline your routine!

 

SPLURGE: PRODUCTS AND SERVICES THAT MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON OR HELP YOU MAKE MONEY

An area where it’s ok to splurge—products and services that either make you a better person or help you make money. Self-help books and courses that make you feel and do better will not only improve your life, but often can make you more marketable, i.e., a better employee/business owner. Likewise, products and services that help you make money (like Elite Blog Academy, which teaches you how to successfully make money blogging) are really better viewed as investments and are almost always worth the splurge.

SAVE: KIDS CLOTHES AND TOYS

Kids clothes and toys are things that generally don’t last, at least not if they are well loved. There’s no sense in splurging on brand new toys when you can find great deals on clearance racks and by scoring second hand stuff. For how quickly kids grow and how quickly they can change their minds about what toys they like, clothes and toys are definitely an area where you should save.

SPLURGE: CHILD CARE

An area you should splurge when it comes to your kids is on child-care. Whether it’s baby sitting on the weekend while you and your partner go on a date, or a nanny, pre-school, or day care, child care is one area where I am A-OK with splurging. I need to know that my kids are not only safe when I’m gone, but that they aren’t rotting away in front of a TV or doing things I wouldn’t approve of. Finding the most expensive child care doesn’t necessarily solve the problem, rather, carefully vetting out the person or people who will be watching your child is what’s most important. Generally speaking, however, you’ll get what you pay for when it comes to child care.

If you want to make the most of your money, you have to be careful about what things you should save on in order to afford the things that you should splurge on. Remember, just because something is cheap doesn’t mean that you are saving money when you buy it. About 10 years ago, I bought a jacket for $80. That’s right, I paid full price for an expensive jacket. But guess what? I wear that jacket at least once a week in the fall and winter and have done so for 10 years! It is still my favorite jacket in my closet. So even though it was expensive, it was an appropriate splurge because it helped me save money in the long run. In addition to the items included in this list, look for purchases like my jacket and think long term when you are deciding whether to save or splurge on something.

Have you ever wondered why some people are always broke while others seem to thrive, even on the exact same income? It’s most likely because the ones who are thriving have developed 5 essential habits when it comes to money. And if you are struggling to make ends meet, these might just be 5 habits you need to put in place! Get our 5 Habits of Budget Savvy People Cheat Sheet to discover what you’re doing right…and what you might still need to work on. It’s free, but only for a limited time! GET IT HERE

What are some things you strive to save on? What things are you willing to splurge on? Drop a comment below!

Amber Masters
Amber Masters is the creator of Deeply in Debt, a personal finance website that provides simple solutions for people with big debt (i.e. tons of great debt payoff and money saving tips). She has paid off over $240,000 of student loan debt and has been featured on CNBC, ABC, and even HGTV. She’s also a wife, mom, attorney, blogger, small business owner, road biker, runner, and mini-cadberry egg enthusiast.
Amber Masters