15 Household Items You Should Never Skimp On

When my husband and I got married, one of the most daunting financial tasks we faced was figuring out how much money to spend on outfitting our first home. We were fortunate to have friends and family help us out, but the list of household items we needed seemed like it could have filled a Tolstoy novel. Even as a reformed spender, the tab started to grow uncomfortably large.

Whenever you’re making several purchases at once or simply on a tight budget, it can be tempting to skimp on some household essentials. A lot of those choices are based on personal preference. (The toilet paper you buy is your business, after all.) However, it’s wise to budget a little more money for certain household purchases. Buying a mid- or even top-tier product can add to your quality of life and even end up saving you money in the long run.

Spending extra money on some essentials is a lot different from impulsively purchasing the most expensive version on the rack without researching whether it’s the best choice for your needs. Plus, splurging on a few household items is only financially wise when you have the funds to do so — and have a plan for saving money elsewhere if necessary.

Let’s take a closer look at 15 household items you shouldn’t skimp on, including a dangerous vacuum at No. 9.

1. Basic kitchenware

Gordon Ramsay via Instagram

Keep your bloody knifes sharp! | Gordon Ramsay via Instagram

It’s common knowledge a sharp knife is actually safer than a dull one because sharper blades are more likely to chop your food without slippage or potential accidents. Purchasing forged steel knives allows you to keep your blades sharp, instead of repurchasing stamped steel versions that aren’t able to be sharpened when they grow dull. In the same vein, choosing high-quality cookware will last for years and perhaps decades if cared for properly.

Both of these items will cost you more up front but overall are more likely to make your time in the kitchen well spent. “The highest quality cookware and knives are meant to last a lifetime and are the most expensive,” Sue Perry, deputy editor of ShopSmart Magazine, told Bankrate. “Good knives and cookware make cooking more efficient and enjoyable. … It can be the secret ingredient.”

High-quality cookware can be made with a number of materials, including copper, stainless steel, or anodized aluminum. This guide from The Kitchn will get you started on which type might be best for you.

Next: You spend a third of your life on this product, be smart about it.

2. Mattress and bedding

woman waking up in bed

Quality sleep is important for many aspects of your life. | iStock.com/AnaBGD

The clichéd wisdom is you spend a third of your life in bed, so why not make it enjoyable? Regardless of whether you prefer to feel like you’re sleeping on a granite slab or a cloud, you should purchase a mattress with the quality to continue offering that like-new level of support. That typically means buying at least a mid-range mattress, even if it takes you into the four-digit price range.

It might feel painful to plunk down a few thousand dollars on a quality box spring and mattress, but you’re making a good investment in more ways than one. Not only will you feel rested, but that quality sleep often leads to more productivity and higher pay. It’s a known fact that successful people often have extremely healthy sleep patterns to boot, so purchasing a good mattress can also be a step toward success in other areas of your life.

In addition, there’s a case to be made for high-quality pillows and sheets. Pillows will affect your neck and head, ultimately leading to a night of restful sleep or one of tossing and turning to find the right angle for comfort. Spending a little more money on sheets that are at least 300 to 400 thread count will also keep you comfortable, while holding up without pilling through heavy use and multiple trips through your washer and dryer.

If you’re in the market for a new mattress, Consumer Reports offers a comprehensive guide on how to do so efficiently.

Next: Spending an extra dollar or so could keep you much safer.

3. Sunscreen

Young woman applying sunblock cream on legs

Spend that extra dollar or two on quality sunscreen. | iStock.com/fizkes

Not all splurges equal hundreds of dollars, thankfully. However, purchasing high-quality sunscreen should be a priority, regardless of the time of year. Typically, this only translates to an extra dollar or so at the checkout, but it will protect you and your family from unwanted side effects of too much sun exposure.

The quality and price of sunscreen is largely affected by its ingredients list — along with the brand name. Brand doesn’t matter when it comes to sun protection, but Consumer Reports found newer lotions with mineral ingredients don’t always protect as well. That report and information from the Mayo Clinic provide information about how to choose the best options. You don’t need designer sunscreen, but the cheapest options might not work as well.

Next: Do you like mold with your washing machines? 

4. Major appliances

Beautifully designed kitchen

Kitchen appliances are a worthy investment. | iStock.com/Jun Zhang

You want the oven, refrigerator, or washer and dryer set you’re about to purchase to last for several years, perhaps even a decade. With that in mind, it’s time to treat this like an investment instead of a one-time purchase. In most cases, new appliances will be more energy efficient than the older model you’re replacing. Looking for appliances with the government-backed Energy Star approval will clue you in to models that could bring down your electricity bill at the very least.

No matter which appliance you’re purchasing, it pays to do the research to balance your budget with overall quality and efficiency. In addition, know common pitfalls with certain models, such as the front-loading washing machines that are prone to mold build-up.

Next: This is already one of the cheapest remodeling project.

5. Paint

couple painting together a room in their new house

Paint can increase the value of your home. | iStock.com/LuckyBusiness

A fresh coat of paint is one of the cheapest remodeling projects you can have, and it can also increase the value of your home if you choose the right colors. Even though it’s cheap compared to a bathroom or kitchen remodel, a few buckets of paint can still set you back a few hundred dollars. You might be tempted to choose a lower-end brand, but this is one of those areas where price and brand can be indicative of overall quality.

As the site Don’t Pay Full explains, cheaper paints are often diluted with a number of solvents, which means it takes more coats to make the color look correct. Depending on the size of the project, you’ll end up paying more for additional paint gallons and spend more time standing on a drop-cloth than you would like.

The Family Handyman explains the differences in quality, and Good Housekeeping provides a number of recommendations for interior paint projects.

Next: A cheap tissue on a runny nose can quickly start to feel like sandpaper.

6. Tissues

hand pulling tissue out of box

Tissues can make or break how you feel when you have a cold. | iStock.com/Soraluk

A cheap tissue on a runny nose can quickly start to feel like sandpaper — an experience anyone with a cold will try to avoid. The difference will likely only be a dollar or two at most, but it will be appreciated when your tissues don’t tear or make your nose any redder than it already is.

One Consumer Reports article said that Puffs Ultra Soft & Strong outperformed less expensive versions and are $1.69 per 100 sheets. If you’re really looking to save money on your grocery bill, the site recommends going with cheaper brands of toilet paper or dishwasher detergent.

Next: Cheap furniture is cheap for a reason.

7. Essential furniture

furniture store

You get what you pay for with furniture. | iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

The key here is to decide what is essential to you, and choose your furniture accordingly. For most people, those essentials with include the aforementioned mattress, along with a quality couch. Websites and discount dealers make it easy to score a couch for $500 these days, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to last for more than a year or so.

Cheaper furniture is often made with plywood stapled together with some foam rubber tucked under the upholstery. “Unlike fashion, where you pay for style and name but not necessarily construction, with a sofa I think you are paying for quality,” interior designer Annie Elliott told the New York Times. Anything below $1,000 was probably made by cutting at least a few corners, she explained, though there likely won’t be major differences in models between $2,000 and $4,000.

As with all things, evaluate your life stage. If you’re moving frequently, purchasing the highest quality items only to have them get scuffed or nicked might not be the best choice. If moves are infrequent and you’re ready to have that living room set, however, it might pay dividends to put away some extra cash. Houzz offers some ways to evaluate the quality of furniture you’re buying, regardless of what the price tag says.

Next: Sometimes it’s OK to buy cheap tools, but know what kind of person you are.

8. Tools

set of tools on a wooden background

Tools that will last a lifetime are a good investment. | iStock.com

If you own a screwdriver for the sake of owning one, a cheap version is fine. But if you’re investing in a set for projects around the house or a new hobby, it’s worth it to purchase a quality set. “The high-end, best quality tools are the most reliable and durable,” Mike Casimiro, owner of Casco Construction Corp. in Colorado, told Bankrate.

Bankrate suggests holding the tools in your hand before buying them. If they’re too heavy or bulky, you won’t be able to use them well. In addition, purchasing tools with a lifetime warranty, such as Craftsman Tools from Sears, suggests their quality will hold up in even the toughest jobs.

Next: You should probably spend more than $50 on a vacuum cleaner.

9. Vacuum

Woman cleans with vacuum cleaner while baby sits on floor.

Your vacuum will see a lot of use. | iStock.com/Martinan

There’s very little point in paying for a nice home or apartment if you’re not going to keep it that way. The size and power of your vacuum will likely depend on how large your living space is, but know if you’re battling significant dirt from children, pets, or other sources, you’re going to want to invest in a vacuum to match the challenge.

Low-end vacuums can emit allergens and other spores back into the air with sub-par filtration systems. They could even be a fire hazard, thanks to cheap parts and design. On top of that, Consumer Reports is widely quoted as saying a “$50 vacuum cleans like a $50 vacuum.” You get what you pay for, and that’s just as true for a vacuum as it is for anything else. You don’t have to spend $400 on a Dyson to get the job done, but it’s worth doing some research to find at least a mid-range model that can keep up with the cleaning needs you have.

Next: This investment protects your other investments.

10. Door locks

Door lock

Don’t skim on the doors to your home. | iStock.com/tongdang5

When it comes to household spending, the locks on your front and back doors were probably low on your list. However, it can be argued those locks protect many of your other investments. Hardware, such as door handles and locks, can be surprisingly expensive, but in some cases it’s worth the cost.

“Among the most important things in a home are the front and back doors. You should never skimp on these two items,” veteran handyman Marcus Horner told Christian Science Monitor. “You would not believe how many people I see almost on a daily basis who replace doors with the cheapest they can find — and this is after they have already been broken into!”

Next: Homes without this are 300% more likely to be broken into.

11. Home alarm system

house

Having an unreliable alarm system is just as bad as not having one at all. | iStock.com/ irina88w

Don’t wait until it’s too late before investing in a good home security system. A reliable home alarm system is just as important as quality locks. Homes without security systems are up to 300% more likely to be broken into, SafeWise reports. However, having an unreliable system is just as bad as not having one at all.

So do yourself and your family a favor, and spend the extra cash. If you’re in the market for a new security system for your home, one place to start your search is PC Magazine’s list of the best smart home security systems. Don’t forget to tell your home insurance company about your new alarm system, you may receive a discount.

Next: Cheap toys and baby furniture could spell big trouble for you and your child.

12. Nursery items

parents prep baby items

Cheap toys and baby furniture could spell big trouble for you and your child. | iStock.com/gpointstudio

Resist the urge to let money rule your purchasing choices when it comes to items for your nursery. Cheap toys and baby furniture could spell big trouble for you and your child. Some plastic toys, for example, contain cancer-causing chemicals. These toys are often found at dollar stores, so don’t head there just to save a few bucks.

Poorly made baby furniture can also be a safety hazard. Every now and then, consumers are warned about recalls involving cribs that collapsed and injured or killed children. Being thrifty is great but not when it could put your family’s safety at risk. Keep on top of recalls by visiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission website and taking a look at its recalls page.

Next: Don’t forget about your fur baby.

13. Pet supplies

Chihuahua dog lying on the bed with white background.

Skimping on pet-related items could be a problem. | iStock.com/thisislover

Another family member you’ll want to keep safe is your fur baby. Skimping on pet-related items, such as safety gates, pet bowls, and some toys, could be a problem. If you want to keep abreast of the latest pet supply recalls, check the recall page on websites, such as the American Veterinary Medical Association. It also keeps a list of unsafe pet products on its Twitter feed, @AVMARecallWatch.

Next: Don’t ignore this part of your house.

14. Flooring

living room

When it comes time to sell your home, one thing potential buyers will notice is the floor. | iStock

Don’t go the cheap route when it comes to flooring. When it comes time to sell your home, one thing potential buyers will notice is the floor. Roughly 56% of respondents in a National Association of Home Builders survey said hardwood flooring, especially on the ground floor, is desirable. About 26% said hardwood flooring is essential. So if your floors look terrible and you plan to sell in the future, you’ll want to spend a little extra to have them redone.

Next: The ultimate tool in the digital age.

15. Home computer

man at work

When your computer is in top form, you can work more efficiently. | iStock.com/NakoPhotography

Another item it pays to shell out a few extra bucks for is your computer equipment. When your computer is in top form, you can work more efficiently. Being more productive will help you get your best work done. And it could even help you snag that raise and promotion. It’s important to have a computer that performs well. This is especially true if you work from home or if you work from the road often.

Additional reporting by Sheiresa Ngo.

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