Working as a professional organizer, I see both sides of the purchasing problem—homes cluttered with over-priced items—and the frustration caused by inferior products bought in a misguided attempt to save money.
Before you buy another thing for your home, use these guidelines to determine where it makes sense to spend, and where you’ll be just as satisfied if you skimp.
Spend more if… you’ll use it for years. It pays to spend on items you’ll have for a long time: couch, stepstool, or vacuum cleaner. Over the lifetime of the object, the additional cost is negligible.
Skimp if… it will be out-of-date soon. A new tech gadget will be cheaper in a year; skimp on pillows and curtains, if you change décor often.
Spend more if… quality matters. A dull knife is makes cooking a chore. The flimsy drawers on a shoddy file cabinet or dresser will annoy you every time you open them. Pay more for ease-of-use.
Skimp if… you’re not really sure how much you’ll use it. If you’re not a budding chef, opt for the $40 mixer, not the $400 professional model—until you’ve whipped up several soufflés.
Spend more if… it makes your life easier. Invest in great, lightweight luggage if you travel often; in pull-out shelves that streamline your space; a clothes steamer that make mornings a breeze.
Skimp if… it’s likely to break, get dirty or wear out. Skimp on expensive wine glasses (use the money you save to buy better wine)! Got kids or a shedding pet? Forgo expensive furniture. Towels and linens don’t last for years, so go for cheapies since you’ll be replacing them often.
Spend if… it ultimately saves you money. Get the snazzy coffee maker with individual pods if it weans you from a $5 a day latte habit. When comparing products, consider the cost of maintenance and replacement parts. Rechargeable batteries cost more up front, but save you money in the long run.
Ultimately, remember that price doesn’t make an item more valuable—it’s where it fits in your life. Inexpensive dinner plates work just as well as fancy ones. And there’s a reason IKEA’s $50 Billy bookcase is the world’s best-selling bookcase.
This article was written by Lisa Zaslow and originally published on September 16, 2011 at dailyworth.com.