8 Items Worth The Splurge and 17 Items That Aren’t Worth The Extra Money

Recently I asked my family, friends, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends, a question:

“What things are worth spending a little more money on and what things are definitely NOT worth the extra cost?”

I was surprised by some answers and some things fell into both categories. It was also kind of funny how some obscure things made it onto the list (peanuts in the shell? Kind of random!;)

worth the expense or not

It seems that what people determine to be “Worth It” and what items people deem “Not Worth It” is completely personal. It shows where a person’s priorities lie on life and what truly matters to people. The almighty buck makes the vote in the end.

(At the top of each list is my selection and then I added the Facebook and Twitter readers responses to each list because it was really cool to see what everyone said.)

Worth It:

1. Good toothbrush Taking care of your teeth can save a lot of money in the future. I’ve soaked my toothbrushes in vinegar in the part to try to give them new life (see this post), but I’ve changed my mind. This one is worth the extra expense (especially since its pretty inexpensive in the big picture).

2. Dental Floss I’ve noticed that the off-brand frays in my teeth as I floss and can have a chemical taste, which is completely gross.

saving money

3. Running shoes I get a lot of use out of mine and take good care of them so they last for many years.

4. Face moisturizer with sun block (at least 35) Nothings better at keeping your face looking fresh then regular sun block use. I figure, might as well do the sun block thing now then wish I did when I’m old!

5. Snapshot digital camera My mom has a digital camera and the battery always runs out quickly, also there is a major delay from when she presses the button to take the picture and when the pictures actually gets taken, this means that everyone’s already started to move out of the picture by the time the picture actually gets snapped. This is always a frustrating situation for her, and it turns out the cheaper option wasn’t the way to go with that one.

6. Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese I never buy this these days but I’ve had the store-brand version in the past and it just isn’t the same.

7. Sheets Buying linens is something I used to love to do. They even showed up on my “Wants and Needs” list as something I wasn’t going to spend money on (see it here). While I don’t go crazy for bed linens like I used to if they are truly needed then getting at least 250 thread count sheets are worth it so they don’t feel scratchy against the skin.

get out of debt planyeah, i bet those sheets are coozzy!

8. Whole-wheat bread Finding bread that doesn’t contain high-fructose corn syrup is tricky but I think it’s worth it for health reasons. Plus it’s easy to make a lot of filling (and fibrous) lunch sandwiches with the loaf which means the hunger will be held off for a little longer, and the urge to eat out will be lessened.

What Facebook and Twitter readers say is “Worth It”:

Professional photographs

Name-brand toilet paper

Good jeans

Skin care


Nice bras

Organic food for babies

Good stylist for cut and color


Home appliances

Anything that promotes well-being: nice clothes, a trip (I think this is a slippery slope… I could justify just about everything as being for my “well-being”)

Good suit for work

Groceries (This reader adds, “So eating out doesn’t happen”.)

Netflix (This reader adds, “It’s cheaper than 2 adult movie theater tickets”.)




Name-brand peanut butter

Peanuts in the shell


Converse (This reader adds, “While they’re a little more expensive they last forever”.)

get out of debt plan


Not Worth It:

1. Premium gas The regular gas seems to do just fine. Of course, I’m not a mechanic though so maybe it does matter?

2. Car Cars start depreciating in value from the moment they leave the lot. They always need maintenance and they are expensive. While they are deemed a “Need” in many people lives I don’t think they are worth the expensive.

get out of debt plan

3. New CD’s I get my fix for new music by checking out CD’s from the library. (related post here)

4. Gym membership While I like the gym I think I could do without it. (See this related post)

5. Fancy shampoo from salon I use the drug store brand and while my hair doesn’t always seem super “silky” the drug-store brand works just fine.

6. Liquid bath gel Using bar soap saves on packaging (environmental bonus with this one) and lasts a lot longer then it’s liquid counterpart.

7. Name-brand dish soap Definitely don’t notice a difference with name-brand to off-brand with this one!

8. Laundry detergent Perfect chance to make your own (see this post)

9. Name-brand air freshener Another DIY opportunity (see this post)

10. Name-brand paper towels Doesn’t seem to be an absorbency issue with the off-brand.

11. Expensive salon haircuts This is a controversial one. I decided to follow a reader tip and get a once yearly pro cut (to get a good fountain) and then cut my hair myself for the rest of the year. (have you seen this post?)

12. Thrift store shoes Usually the shoe has already formed to the previous owners foot. I’ve never had success in this area.

13. Thrift store mattresses Too worried about bed bugs!

14. Name-brand oats The off-brand seriously tastes just as good as the name-brand. This was a controversial item when I brought this question up with my family, but I just can’t put it on the “Worth It” list. (see this related post). My dad insisted that the steel-cut oats were worth the cost. Haven’t tried those compared to the off-brand yet. Have you?

15. Toilet paper This was also a controversial and touchy item. As long as the toilet paper is two-ply I get the cheapest I can find. I can’t see paying extra for something that going to be getting thrown right out. On another cheapskate note, would you consider using re-usable toilet paper like this family? you have to check out this video!

16. Name-brand or expensive olive oil I’m not enough of a foodie to notice the difference.

17. Expensive hotels while traveling We chose hostels if possible or the cheapest non-grimy hotel we can find. It’s just a place to sleep. I’d rather save the money for something else.

What Facebook and Twitter readers say is “Not Worth It”:



What do you think? What should have been included in the lists that wasn’t? What is worth the splurge to you and what isn’t?

P.S. Ready to get out of debt ASAP? Check out the Spending Fast Bootcamp! SpendingFastBootcamp.com


25 thoughts on “8 Items Worth The Splurge and 17 Items That Aren’t Worth The Extra Money

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  1. Senora H-B

    I disagree on the bath gel, but that's only because I can't keep my husband from using my bar soap (even though he insists that I buy him a specific brand).

    One of the best changes I've made in my journey to frugality was cloth napkins. They're not very expensive if you make your own, and you can easily find them on clearance. They seem so luxurious, but they have saved me so much on paper napkins and filling the trash. Good quality dish towels are also lumped in here – I use them for almost everything, saving us a lot of paper towels in the long run.

    I can't stand off-brand mayonnaise. I hardly use it, but Hellmann's is the only way for me to go. I also buy Doritos instead of off-brand flavored chips. They're a splurge, but they taste SO GOOD.

    I agree with readers on make-up and nail polish not being worth the splurge. I have a few expensive items, but for the most part my daily routine is made up of off-brand and drugstore items.

    I completely agree with you on shampoo/conditioner. I use Suave and TreSemme and my hairdresser can't tell the difference. Haircuts, for me, though, are worth it. I'm so scared to try cutting my own hair, especially while I'm growing it back out. I do trim my own bangs though!

    Every day shoes are NOT worth scrimping on. Any shoe that I have to wear for more than 8 hours needs to be comfortable and long-lasting. I definitely shop sales and TJ Maxx, but my comfort and foot health are just not worth crappy shoes. Fancy-pants, one-off shoes are a different story. I have lots of cheap flats and dress shoes because I only wear them for a few hours a week.

    I could go on and on and on…. :)

  2. Ashley

    I agree on shoes! I walk nearly-everywhere within a 3 mile radius and I've destroyed Payless/Target shoes. Sometimes I'll still be a sucker for them, but! I'll buy insoles. PS Insoles make shoes more comfortable and extends their life a little. As a former devout Chuck Taylor wearer–those shoes last about 6 months. They're a total waste of money if they cost more than $20. 6pm / Rue La La / Glit Groupe has really good deals for shoes so I keep an eye out for my favorite brands (puma, asics, clarks, hunter, bass) when I need/can afford to get a new pair or two.

    Oats! If you can buy them in bulk, they are almost always cheaper. Like half-the-price-per-pound cheaper. I preach it as often as I can! I live in Philadelphia and buy my oats at Nuts To You for $.99/lb. They're the same price at Whole Foods. (The standard Quaker Oats container is usually at least $2/lb!!)

    Oh and beans! Less sodium and it's really not that much work if you start with dry. Having a weeks worth of beans for less than $2 is totally worth the effort. (Soak beans for up to 48 hours, drain & rinse, put in a pot and cover with cold water, boil for an hour or so. Done.)

  3. Brittany

    My thoughts on people's choices…

    Good bras are an absolute must! If it's something you're going to wear every single day then it's got to be good. Otherwise you're just throwing money away if you're buying a bra that falls apart or stretches and doesn't stay supportive.

    I make and sell my own bar soap and it makes me feel good to know 100% what I am slathering on my skin every day! My soap rocks! I also use the exact same bars to wash dishes with. Cheap and works great! http://prosoappropaganda.etsy.com (I hope it's okay to share since it's on-topic.)

    Cars, yes and no. I own my car, but I am a bike commuter about 90% of the time. I just don't drive if I don't have to. I am an outdoor enthusiast so I do need something to carry my kayak on, stuff full of camping gear, and know that I can drive hours into the woods and it's going to be reliable.

    Paper towels. Paper towels are not something that is a necessity, period. We gave up paper towels over a year ago and there are very few times where I think, "Boy, I sure wish I had a paper towel." We took a few old t-shirts that couldn't be donated to Goodwill and cut them into napkin-size pieces and just use those, then throw them into the wash when they're gross. It blows my mind at how wasteful people are with paper towels. Use once and throw away? Not my style.

    Hair cuts? I have a short, pixie cut and have been cutting my hair for over a decade and I get compliments on it. I think people with long hair have it easy, as far as trims go! I don't get why people wouldn't do it themselves! When I bleached or colored my hair I would buy the ingredients at Sally's Beauty and mix it up myself, as well. Bleaching your hair is EXPENSIVE at the salon (I've paid between $75-$120 and then figured out how to do it myself, thanks to Google) and I was doing it for less than a dollar a time. Seriously.

    Toothpaste. Seriously? No! Make your own! I talk about it here: http://www.prosouppropaganda.com/2011/12/making-toothpaste-at-home.html Super cheap and way better for you than the fake stuff.

    I totally agree with Ashley about the dried beans vs. canned! WAY cheaper, more eco-friendly, no BPA in the can lining, etc. Just. Better. Stuff.

    It's interesting to see what everyone thinks is a necessity or not! :o) There is so much out there that is DIY-able that people don't think about, too, that would make their "necessities" cheaper.

  4. Crissy

    Unfortunately, I'm allergic to a lot of things, so I have had to pay premium for most toiletries…until I discovered using baking soda instead of shampoo and raw apple cider vinegar and coconut oil instead of conditioner. It works well. My scalp and hair haven't been this good shape since I was an Aveda addict, and I can argue that it works better because this system is free of whatever strips your hair and scalp of its natural oils. I bought a special edition magnum of Moroccanoil last February ( I am still not halfway through the bottle) and that serves as a styling aid. I have wavy hair, but this entire system seems to relax it, while not stick straight, but tolerable and full of volume.

  5. Kalliope

    Regarding premium gasoline – it's designed for certain kinds of cars. I actually looked this up recently because my 1994 sports car that I bought last year indicates that you should only use premium gasoline. I'm quite the cheapskate, so I looked it up so I could understand the difference. Higher octane gasolines have a higher resistance to ignition, and sports cars are designed for a delayed ignition sequence (total layman explanation). So, if I put low octane fuel in my car, it really could mess up the firing sequence. With newer cars, they've designed the internal computers to make up for general human error on this matter, but my car is old. Plus, the premium gasoline costs an extra $3/tank, and when I'm already paying $45 to fill up, it's worth the extra few dollars to keep my car running smoothly. :)

  6. Anna Newell Jones

    Love the cloth napkin idea Señora H-B. I always feel wasteful with the paper products for both cost & environmental reasons.

  7. Kalliope

    So also, it should be noted, that if you're buying premium gasoline for your NON-sports car, you ARE wasting money. ;)

  8. Jenny

    My husband was disappointed to find out that our Honda Odyssey doesn't fit into the "sports car" category. But at least we're saving money on gas ( well… Sorta.) :)

  9. American Debt Project

    I love this list with one exception: Trader Joe's does a mean macaroni and cheese! But I never really ate Kraft Mac n Cheese (actually I never ate mac n cheese till I was like 25) so I may not be a connoisseur.
    One other question- what font am I writing in? It is absolutely gorgeous! Thanks!

  10. Rich

    Re: gasoline, a car meant to run on higher octane gas (even mid grade) will have incorrect ignition timing if you use lower grade gas. As a result, the fuel will ignite before the piston reaches the peak of its stroke and the engine will "knock". Over the life of the engine, this will cause premature wear. However, unless you are keeping the car forever, it probably won't be a problem. Full disclosure: we buy the cheap gas (most of the time).

    If my wife read this blog, she would agree that good, comfortable. bras are worth the money. I just care how they look. Just being honest :)

    Our big splurge? An upcoming vacation to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Some things just need to be celebrated.

  11. Anna Newell Jones

    Hi Rich, thanks for the added info about the gas; it's helpful. Also like that you're celebrating your 25 year anniversary (Congratulations! – that's huge!). It's so much about having priorities in the right place so you CAN have some freedom to TRULY enjoy life.

  12. Rich

    Thanks Anna. Yes, wow; 25 years. It has gone quickly (mostly).

    As you say, the goal is the freedom to truly enjoy life. I look forward to the end of our debt.

    Our vacation (the first in 4 years) won't be huge. No Hawaii or Europe trip. Italy will have to wait. Our current plan is a train ride from Denver to California (always wanted to do that ride), a ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train (we're foodies) and then some time spent lounging around wine country. Alternatively, a trip to Quebec City. That's as much planning as we have done so far.

  13. Wren

    I have an Acura and tried to use the regular gasoline to save a few bucks but my car gets horrible gas mileage with it and it ended up costing me more. So only 93 octane for me! As far as dish-washing liquid, toilet paper, paper towels and laundry detergent, body wash- I always buy the name brands and with coupons there is no reason to sacrifice when you can get it for the same price if not cheaper than the store brand.

  14. Sarah

    You can use conditioner or shower gel instead of shaving cream. You already have it in your shower, and you avoid aerosol cans!

  15. Anna Newell Jones

    That's a good one Sarah! I never considered using it consistently (usually only use it when I run out of shaving cream), but super soft legs after!

  16. Sasha

    I’m a little sad books lead the don’t spend on list. If you want you’re favorite series to continue and its not a bestseller I recommend buying those new.

    For soap, I actually think body wash over soap saves. Because you don’t need to clean your tub as often or buy a special soap scum remover. I convinced an old roommate to switch by showing him the tub used by two peopleusing bar soap after a week and the tub used by two people using body wash. the former was coated in a layer of soap scum and took special products and an hour of scrubbing. Plus if it leaves so much residue on a tub I don’t trust what it is doing to my skin. But Dr Bronners is usually cheap and can be used as shampoo, body was, etc.

    1. Anna Newell Jones Post author

      That’s really interesting about the soap Sasha! I had never heard that theory before. I suppose it’s one of those “there’s no free lunch” situations and it comes down to, which is the lesser of the two evils?

  17. Stefanie @ The Broke

    What a great list. I bought my first set of nice expensive sheets this year and they are TOTALLY worth it. Of course I could only afford one set, so I have to wash them immediately anytime I want to change my sheets.

  18. Hannah

    Hey Anna,

    This is a great list, thank you! I appreciate the fact you’re talking about things that are worth splurging on as well as areas to cut back. I’ve definitely made the mistake in the past of cutting back and buying cheap *everything*, and learned the hard way that it’s counter-productive.

    I would add coconut oil to the splurge list. I use it for moisturiser, shaving cream and make-up remover, and sometimes as face-wash and deep conditioner too. It’s also yummy for cooking :) A jar runs between the equivalent of about $10-$15 in the UK, but it lasts for ages and simplifies life!

  19. Dawen

    To chime in on the gas thread, the manual for my 1980 Chevy says it also depends on altitude. So if you’re high up, you’re probably better off with the midgrade for the health of your engine. I assume this is because the air’s thinner so there’s less oxygen.

    But the altitude thing is actually pretty high and I think, in America, you’ll only run into the problem if you live in like Colorado or something.


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