30 Cheap Choices That Can Cost You in the Long Run

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CHEAP TRICKS, PRICEY CONSEQUENCES

We are a society that loves being cheap. Walmart built an empire on being cheap. Outlets including Amazon, Overstock, and eBay wooed U.S. consumers out of stores and online by being cheap. Airlines built an entire fee-based system around it. Yet being cheap doesn't necessarily mean being smart, and paying less doesn't always mean getting more value for the money. Here are just some examples of goods and services that are worth the extra price.
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BUYING BARGAIN BRAND PAINT

Congratulations, you bought the cheapest paint in the store. Now you're going to use almost twice as much of it to cover a wall. Bargain, generic-brand paint with a great price is almost always thinner and, as the DIY Network points out, while costlier paints use titanium that gives more coverage with one coat, cheaper paints use clay, which gives you brush marks, roller marks, and blank spots. Spend a little more and do it in one coat.
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USING AN INEXPENSIVE LAPTOP

By some reports, users spend 27 minutes a day on their laptops. In three years, that's 450 hours, which is more time than most of us will spend reading, relaxing, or exercising. If your using a subpar laptop, you’ll be spending a lot of that time waiting for video to load, correcting wonky typing, looking at a muddy display, or recharging a constantly underpowered battery. Consider something better than a base model.   

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OPTING FOR A CHEAP LAWYER

A lawyer has your business, assets, family's future and, sometimes, freedom in their hands, Amy Rees Anderson notes in Forbes. A cheap lawyer may get the job done -- or leave you regretting the choice to be cheap forever.
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CONTINUING TO USE INCANDESCENT LIGHT BULBS

You can keep buying incandescent or halogen bulbs if you'd like, but you're wasting time and money. A $1 incandescent bulb lasts 1,200 hours, requires 21 changes in 23 years, uses $180 worth of electricity and costs a total of $201 over a 23-year lifespan. An LED bulb, on the other hand, costs $8 or less, lasts 25,000 hours, uses $30 of electricity over that same 23-year span, and doesn't need changing. Yes, $8 is more expensive than $1, but $201 is a lot more costly than $38.

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CLEANING WITH GENERIC DETERGENT AND CLEANING PRODUCTS

Eyeing generic or dollar-store cleaners for home and laundry? Be warned that the cheapest detergents are underperformers that have trouble dissolving, leaving clumps of detergent in clothing. Meanwhile, the lowest-cost window cleaners often leave streaks instead of clear windows -- though many DIY experimenters swear by a mixture of vinegar, liquid soap, and water.

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WIPING UP WITH CHEAP PAPER PRODUCTS

Generic paper brands will cost less and can be bought in bulk, but are generally less absorbent and contain fewer fibers. As DailyFinance discovered, this means using more paper towels or toilet paper to do the same job as a better brand.
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USING FLIMSY GARBAGE BAGS

Ever have a cheap garbage bag just fall apart while holding a week's worth of trash? If so, you likely started spending a little more on commercial bags or stretchy household versions. The rule of thumb dictates that if it's worth more to not have to clean up garbage to save a few cents per bag, go with the stronger option.
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MAKING DINNER WITH GENERIC PASTA SAUCE

Honestly, this is something you should be making at home for far cheaper than you're buying it by the jar. But if you are stopping off for a quick jar of sauce to go with that night's dinner, shouldn't it at least taste as if you used some real ingredients? Consumer Reports' Consumerist called generic pasta sauce "akin to pouring ketchup on your spaghetti," and when that costs $2.70 for 25 ounces and Classico is $3 for 24 ounces, it doesn't cost all that much to trade up.

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SKIMPING ON A GOOD SOFA

You should spend $1,800 to $2,000 on a durable sofa, rather than less than $1,000 on a lesser model, according to ValuePenguin. Why? Because a sofa with a hardwood frame, polyurethane foam cushions, and non-detachable legs will last 25 years compared with just five for the cheap one. That's $40 a year for quality vs. $200 a year for a stopgap measure.
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RIDING A DISCOUNT BICYCLE

There are incredibly durable bikes for less than $1,000, Bicycling.com notes, and excellent commuter bikes from $300 to $450. But try to get a deal by going to a discount store and you may pay the price in poor assembly, improper sizing, cheap parts, and a lot of extra weight.
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SLEEPING ON A LOW-COST MATTRESS

You spend a quarter to a third of the year sleeping -- and could do it on a $600 to $1,000 mattress that could last 10 or more years or on one costing little more than $100. As an everyday mattress, that likely isn't going to pass muster. Do your sleep and overall health a favor and save the cheap mattress for the guest room.
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RISKING YOUR EYESIGHT WITH CHEAP LASIK SURGERY

You're meddling with one of your senses to ditch contacts and glasses. That's fine, and many people take the same approach, but you don't want to go cheap with your sight on the line. While the Mayo Clinic says vision loss from Lasik surgery is rare, dry eyes, glare, halos, double vision, astigmatism, and clouded vision doesn't sound good either.
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GETTING PERMANENTLY INKED WITH CHEAPO TATTOOS

Professional, licensed tattoo artists are generally a safe bet, but quality can be an issue between price points. You're letting a person put ink under your skin, and any slip in sterilization or attention can result in allergic reactions, skin infections, diseases, and MRI complications. Going extremely cheap with unlicensed home tattooing only increases the risk.
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WEARING LOW-QUALITY SHOES

If you're on your feet for a long time each, buying cheap footwear that's uncomfortable or that you have to keep replacing doesn't make sense. When you have places such as Zappos that do free returns or L.L. Bean and Keen with generous product guarantees, the additional cost of their shoes offers a bit more comfort and peace of mind than the lesser shoes you were eyeing at the strip mall.
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RISKING IT WITH CHEAP CONDOMS

Those condoms in the club bathroom with the wacky names and textured features? Yeah, those aren't going to do much to protect you. As the FDA points out, cheap novelty condoms are designed only for stimulation, not pregnancy or disease prevention. Even expensive condoms may not be right for the job, though -- so always read the labeling, make sure condoms are made of latex or polyurethane, and state specifically that they are designed to help in ways that matter.
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TRAVELING TO GET DISCOUNT PLASTIC SURGERY

Hey, did you hear about that country you can visit for a cheap facelift and tummy tuck? Yeah, well, it turns out that medical tourism might cost the U.S. health care system more than $1.3 billion annually to fix complications and infections from cheap surgeries. The official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons broke down the results from 42 patients over three years: 30 developed infections, 11 had abscesses, eight had incisions reopen, 20 were hospitalized, and 13 required additional surgery. Fixing those "cheap" procedures cost an average $18,000 each.
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SURFING ON SOMEONE ELSE’S INTERNET

You'd think everyone with high-speed Internet would've learned to lock down their Wi-Fi by now, but there are plenty of people letting neighbors coast by on their bandwidth. Not only is this bad for the subscriber, but the person getting "free" Wi-Fi is exposing themselves to malware, fake hotspots, potential identity theft, and more. No, you may never get caught stealing Wi-Fi, but the consequences of jumping on an unsecured network can be far worse.
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CRUISING AROUND ON BUDGET TIRES

Consumer Reports has already issued warnings about low-grade Chinese tires that have lifespans roughly three times shorter than name-brand competitors. Even if you go with a known manufacturer, however, don't try to go cheap in other, more dangerous ways. For example: No, an all-weather tire won't be as safe for winter driving as a good set of snow tires.
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DRIVING AROUND TO FIND CHEAP GAS

We've gone over this one before, but it makes no sense to burn a whole bunch of gasoline to go out of the way to pay 6 cents less by the gallon. It's great to use GasBuddy or similar app to find cheap gas nearby, but going 15 minutes out of the way to save a dollar isn't worth the time or money.
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DOING YOUR ALL OWN CAR REPAIR

There are plenty of automotive fixes you can make on your own, and some a friend might be able to help out with. But this isn't the '70s, and cars are now very complicated machines that may require professional service. Even an unseemly professional or pushy insurance company can turn a cheap repair into a nightmare. Do the homework and find a trusted mechanic, even if that shop isn't the cheapest.

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GETTING A "FREE" DEPARTMENT STORE MAKEOVER

A makeover is a delicate process that even "America's Next Top Model" doesn't always get right. Yet each day, women entrust their faces to beauty store or department store sales associates with questionable certification and widely varying levels of experience. Since a "free" makeover is typically just a ploy to sell more products, do yourself a favor and look into the makeup counters and professionals near you to see if they're worth the price.
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BUYING CHEAP PRESCRIPTION EYEWEAR

Cheap glasses are a gamble on size and prescription and don't necessarily match the quality from more knowledgeable outlets or optometrists. Even fans of cheap online glasses note that not every service is equally reputable. While Consumer Reports lauds the quality and price of glasses at Costco, Kaiser Permanente facilities, Walmart, and ZenniOptical, consumers need to be cautious and adjust expectations when going cheap.

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HIRING AN INEXPENSIVE BABYSITTER

Admittedly, the price for babysitting is whatever the market will bear. There are some ways to skirt the cost, but the best bet is to either pay what a trusted sitter offers or scan Care.com, UrbanSitter, or similar sites for sitters that meet your financial needs. If the sitter's costs and ratings don't align, just weigh the cost of a better sitter against the benefit of keeping a child safe.
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FIXING YOUR HOME WITH CHEAP CONTRACTORS

Plumbers, electricians, builders, drywall hangers: All come in handy in a pinch, but can leave a huge and costly mess if the wrong one does the job. Before hiring the cheapest, the National Association of Realtors suggests considering reviews of their work, the time it takes them to respond, the timeliness of their references, their timetable, materials costs, stance on permits (it should always include them), and even their sense of humor. If the cheap contractor fails any part of that sniff test, consider someone a bit more costly who can pass it.
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BUYING BARGAIN-BASEMENT APPLIANCES

An appliance is supposed to be a durable good that lasts for years. If it's cheap but not reliable, you're just setting yourself up to buy a new refrigerator, washer, or even toaster sooner than should be needed. This is exactly why ratings of appliances and appliance stores exist, so dig in and research.
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OPTING FOR THE CHEAPEST HOTELS

As if travelers didn't know, budget hotels should be approached with caution. Yes, the general cleanliness of budget hotels often leaves something to be desired, but be wary of how budget services sell packages with reputable hotels as well: While some promise an incredible price, make sure taxes and fees are included in the price they're pitching.

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GETTING STUCK WITH LOW-QUALITY ACUPUNCTURE

If someone sticking needles in you isn't enough motivation to see if they're licensed and certified, perhaps the potential for brain injury, lung damage, or even death will prod you along. While those outcomes are rare, acupuncture comes with more common risks that include the use of under-sterilized needles, needles not made of surgical steel that can cause allergic reactions, and even needles left in after treatment.
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PURCHASING LOW-PRICED WORK CLOTHES

Work clothes are used too often to just keep buying them regularly. While you can get them cheaply and in bulk at club stores, retailers including Patagonia, Duluth Trading, L.L. Bean, Woolrich, Pendleton, Tom Cridland, Thought, and American giant all guarantee their goods for life.
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TRYING TO SKIMP ON PERSONAL TRAINING

To really cheap out on personal training, ditch it altogether and go to the gym on your own. But if you really need help, stop dithering with that free personal trainer app and either find a trainer online who fits your financial needs or take advantage of a gym's personal training sessions.

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CUTTING CORNERS WHEN MOVING

Moving isn't easy, but neither is convincing friends or family to help. Nor is it easy to decide to stop using your blankets as furniture pads and your back instead of hand trucks and dollies. There are hire-a-helper sites that can give you a hand, but we'd suggest looking into the rental prices for moving supplies from U-Haul or other providers. They're less than you'd think.

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