Let's face it: A deal isn't a deal when you get a product that just doesn't function as it should. Sometimes it's tempting to skimp on common household buys, but spending a little extra can pay off in quality and ease of use on items that see daily or near-daily use. These 20 around-the-house buys can be well worth a small splurge in the long run -- and the short term, too.
If you do a lot of ironing, a smooth-gliding steam iron will be worth the investment. You don't have to spend a ton, but there's another reason not to go as cheap as possible: Some of the least expensive irons don't even have an automatic shutoff, a crucial safety feature, Consumer Reports warns. The Black and Decker Digital Advantage Professional Steam Iron D2030 is one of Amazon reviewers' favorites, and it's under $50.
Saving a little bit of cash isn't worth long nights of tossing and turning on scratchy bed sheets that disintegrate in the washer, but that doesn't mean you have to buy the finest Egyptian cotton. Cheapism has found plenty of great options under $90. One of our favorites, especially as cooler weather approaches: Amazon's Pinzon Signature 190-Gram Cotton Velvet Flannel sheets.
If you think you can get away with a cheap aerosol fire spray for your kitchen, think again, warns Consumer Reports. These products have short shelf lives, no pressure indicator, and may even help spread a grease fire, experts warn. Spend a little more and get a real fire extinguisher like the Kidde PRO 210, which is rechargeable and good for all kinds of household fires.
Cheapism recommends several inexpensive hand mixers for occasional use, but if you do a lot of baking, experts say you can't go wrong with a quality stand mixer. The Kitchn says the splurge is worth it for anyone who often deals with thick doughs. The gold standard of the stand-mixer world is the bulletproof KitchenAid Artisan, which boasts 10 speeds, a 5-quart stainless-steel bowl, and enough colors to coordinate with any kitchen.
A dull, unwieldy knife can make cooking a dangerous chore when it should be a pleasure. A well-made chef's knife should feel good in the hand and last forever with proper care. At Cheapism, we like the Wüsthof Classic Chef's Knife, which features an extra-wide, no-stain 8-inch blade. "If I only had one knife, it'd be this one," raves one Crate & Barrel reviewer.
Most of us have experienced rough, scratchy toilet paper firsthand, so this one doesn't need a lot of explanation. Good Housekeeping recommends spending a bit more on 2-ply Charmin Ultra Soft, saying it has an ideal combination of softness and durability. Reviewers agree that it feels good and won't fall apart mid-wipe like some store brands.
No, they won't be wiping your most delicate regions, but experts have found that pricier brands tend to absorb messes much better, without disintegrating in the middle of a messy cleanup. Loyal users swear name brands including Bounty Select-A-Size and Viva Vantage Choose-A-Sheet are worth the price premium compared with cheap store brands.
Here's another household staple where paying a little more can make a world of difference. Name brands like Puffs and Kleenex have outperformed store brands in both softness and strength during expert testing, so they might be worth the small splurge if you've got a house full of runny noses. Reviewers particularly love Puffs Plus Lotion. If you don't want lotion, Good Housekeeping says Kleenex Ultra Soft tissues are hard to beat.
Cheap paint is cheap for a reason, experts say. According to Apartment Therapy, the bargain-basement stuff is less concentrated and durable than pricier formulas. Practically, that means you'll need more coats of the cheap stuff, and it will need a lot more touch-ups in the future. For a good balance of quality and value, Home Depot shoppers recommend Behr Premium Plus Ultra, which has a built-in stain-blocker and primer.
Don't overspend on the guest room. A good, cheap mattress will suffice there. But for your own mattress, pay a little more -- within reason. According to Sleep Like the Dead, owners are most satisfied with mattresses between $700 and $1,800. Over the $1,800 mark you'll get a touch more durability and thickness, but owners aren't any more satisfied than they are with mid-range mattresses. Shoppers are happiest with direct-to-consumer foam mattresses like Casper and Helix. If you prefer innerspring, try Saatva.
Don't splurge on your mattress only to forget that a pillow is just as crucial. Cheapism has found plenty of great pillows under $30 that can keep your head and neck happy. One good all-around pick: The down alternative Lauren Ralph Lauren Logo Pillow, which comes in medium, firm, or extra firm fill levels to keep you happy no matter your sleep style.
Those dull, cheap razors just aren't worth the razor burn, nicks, and cuts. Razors can be notoriously expensive, but they don't have to be. Cheapism has recommended the Dollar Shave Club, where $5 will get you a well-reviewed six-blade razor, and $9 a month gets you four replacement cartridges. For a big-box or drug-store option, the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 5 for men and Schick Hydro Silk for women both earn raves.
Gotta have your coffee on the morning commute? Then invest in a travel mug that will keep it piping hot, and just as importantly, off your natty office attire. Amazon reviewers have an almost cult-like love for the Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug, which they say will keep a drink at the right temperature for hours. If you're looking for something a little less pricey, the Contigo Autoseal West Loop also has a large fan club.
Speaking of coffee, here's one small appliance java devotees won't regret spending a little more on. Owners love the Ninja Coffee Bar Single-Serve System, a pod-free way to brew a classic cup of joe and specialty drinks, too. Not impressive enough? The Moccamaster KBG churns out unfailingly flavorful coffee fast, owners say – and it's built to last a lifetime.
Unless you're truly diligent about brushing, an electric toothbrush could make your next trip to the dentist a little less painful. Electric brushes can deliver thousands of strokes a minute compared with a few hundred by hand; they also may be better at banishing plaque and gum disease. One cheaper option that owners love: The Oral-B White Pro 1000 Power Rechargeable Toothbrush. A worthy upgrade? The Philips Sonicare FlexCare+, which has five brushing modes and comes with a travel case.
Rice lovers swear a good rice cooker is a worthwhile splurge in a well-stocked kitchen. Sure, you can cook rice on the stovetop, but it requires babysitting to make sure it doesn't burn. A rice cooker, on the other hand, turns out perfect grains every time. If you're sticking mostly to white rice, Cheapism has recommended a simple cooker like the Aroma ARC 150-SB. If you're a real aficionado, owners swear by micro-computerized cookers like the sophisticated Zojirushi NS-TSC10.
Like sheets, buying a good bath towel doesn't need to bankrupt you. Still, a thicker, more absorbent, more durable cotton weave is worth a small step up in price (unless you like drying off with a thin sheet of sandpaper). Target's Fieldcrest Luxury Solid Bath Towels earn a lot of praise for softness and absorbency at a reasonable price.
KITCHEN TRASH BAGS
We're all guilty of it -- stuffing our kitchen trash cans as full as we can get them to avoid a trip outside. But if the bag strains and splits when it's finally time to drag the garbage to the curb, things can get messy in a hurry. Glad's 13-Gallon Drawstring Tall Kitchen bags are a little pricier than competitors', but they're the gold standard when it comes to durability, Good Housekeeping says.
FOOD STORAGE CONTAINERS
Spend a little more on these if you don't want to replace them constantly. Flimsy plastic containers will warp, crack, and leak -- plus they can retain stains and odors. Reviewers say a glass set like Glasslock Assorted Oven Safe containers is great for home use. If you need something lighter, Rubbermaid's Easy Find Lid set is still sturdier than others, and it's shatterproof.
No, the typical homeowner doesn't need professional-grade tools. But as Popular Mechanics cautions, the cheapest tools can cause more frustration than they're worth. Reviewers say Craftsman tools strike a good balance between price and quality, and recommend this 83-piece Evolv Homeowner Tool Set for anyone who needs a complete set for various household jobs. If you don't need a complete set, Cheapism also has some individual recommendations, like this sturdy Channellock wrench.