13 Times Cutting Corners Will End Up Costing You

Car on lift at auto repair shop

By all means, shop around for a fair mechanic. But skipping scheduled and routine maintenance on your car can be costly. Photo: Sean Freese

Over the years, I’ve learned that being frugal does pay off. But sometimes, it just doesn’t pay to be cheap. (I’ve spent thousands of dollars to figure this out. Please don’t do the same.)

There was a time when I attempted to save every extra dollar that made its way into my bank account. Did the account balance grow at an exponential rate? Of course. Did I derive any major benefits from it? Not quite. Instead, I was resorting to extreme measures to save money, and following a deprivation budget.

In an effort to ward off this bad habit, I decided to live a little, but with tight restrictions. This meant obtaining all the little extras at a fraction of the cost, regardless of quality. I hardly did any research; if the price was right, I was sold. And as you’ll see as you keep reading, my efforts backfired almost every time.

Here are some instances where cutting corners may come back to haunt you:

1. Bargain Hunting for Gas

I’m definitely a fan of using GasBuddy or any other money-saving app to locate the lowest per-gallon rate, but I usually don’t take advantage unless it makes sense.

For example, if you can save five cents per gallon on fuel at a station that’s 15 miles away, is a savings of $0.75 actually worth the gallon of gas it will take you to get there and back? Nope, and it’s a waste of your own time to boot. So the next time you’re tempted to hop in your car and head across town for a cheaper fill-up, do the math first.

2. Buying a Low-Quality Mattress

If you actually get eight hours of sleep each night, that means you spend one-third of each day in bed; you may as well be comfortable there. More likely, you’re getting six or seven hours, or even less, and every minute you spend tossing or turning is cutting into your beauty rest.

And while the cheapest mattress in the store may seem to be just fine, it could result in frequent visits to the chiropractor later in life — or worse. Lack of sleep can have wide-ranging negative effects on your life. Drowsy drivers are more likely to be in an accident, and not getting enough sleep can slow down your cognitive functions, impair your memory and judgment, dampen your sex drive, and make you more at risk for health ailments such as heart disease or diabetes.

Is all that really worth the few hundred bucks you saved on that cheap mattress?

If you can’t afford a quality mattress just yet, head to your local Walmart or Target to pick up a memory foam mattress topper. That might make your sleeping experience a bit more comfortable until you save up enough for a better night’s sleep.

3. Skipping Insurance

Planning to skimp on your auto, life, or medical insurance, or ditch them altogether in an effort to pocket the premiums? Good luck with that.

If you’re at fault in an auto accident or are hit by an uninsured motorist, do you have the funds available to cover medical expenses and damages to the vehicles and people involved? ‘

And if your days on earth ended tomorrow, would you leave enough money behind to cover funeral and burial costs, your outstanding debts, and the hefty costs associated with raising your children?

Or what if you fall ill, and must be hospitalized for an extended period of time? Are you prepared to handle the exorbitant medical bills and live without an income for an extended period of time?

These are just a few questions to ponder — and as you do, it should become clear that the potentially devastating risks of not carrying enough insurance usually outweigh the cost of the premiums. And a high-deductible plan can be just as risky if you don’t actually have the cash on hand to take care of the expense should an unexpected emergency arise.

4. Furniture

One evening after a grueling day of work, I flopped my rear end down on the love seat — and quickly hopped back up! Why? A sharp object poked me right in the buttocks.

I initially thought it was the edge of a toy the boys had lodged between the padding, but after further examination, I realized the pieces holding the seat together were now exposed. Ouch!

Like mattresses, most Americans spend a good deal of time on their couches. Pinch pennies somewhere else if you must, but don’t skimp on the focal point of your family’s comfort.

And if you plan to buy furniture at a garage sale or secondhand shop, proceed with caution. Not all are bad, but you run the risk of inheriting a wonderful set of bed bugs. A close friend of mine scored what she thought was the deal of a lifetime on a beautiful set of furniture. But she got a nasty surprise the following morning: Her skin had taken a beating from the bed bugs who were feasting on her flesh throughout the night.

5. Food

I used to wonder why all the healthy food items were so darned expensive. But when my physical health went on a downward spiral, the first thing the doctor recommended was an adjustment to my diet.

I definitely didn’t want to hear that, since most of the items I was able to buy cheaply were processed foods. However, it was the only chance I had at getting my gastrointestinal issues in check. So, I ditched the coupons, which were actually costing me more than they were saving me, avoided the dollar menus and fast-food chains, and started making more health-conscious choices.

Fast forward a few years later and I’m in much better health, and my wallet hasn’t taken a beating from food costs. I found plenty of ways to save money on good, healthy groceries.

6. Winter Coats

During those extremely frigid months, you simply can’t avoid wearing a winter coat. But what really sucks is if you have to replace it mid-season, when prices are at their highest, because the seams are unraveling, the zipper has broken, or the washer gobbled it all up. Buy a good quality coat on clearance at the end of the season so you’ll have it for next winter — and many more years to come.

7. Electronics

I’m all for getting the best deal on anything and everything I need or want, but this strategy doesn’t always work with electronics.

Two years ago, I was on a mission to find kid-friendly, cost-efficient tablets. So, I headed to Walmart.com and found two tablets priced just right. They arrived a few days later in bubble wrap, and the kids couldn’t wait to hop online and play. All was well for a few days, until one of the screens began to distort the images and the other one stopped working completely.

Long story short, I ended up buying the higher quality tablets, although they cost me a little over $50 more, and they’re still in stellar shape.

And it wasn’t until I ventured into the world of self-employment that I discovered the significance of purchasing a high-quality laptop. Prior to that point, I would go for the cheapest item on the shelf and wonder why I was getting the blue screen of death after only a year or so.

I could go on and on about my failed attempts at cutting corners to save on electronics, but all you need to know is that it always ended up costing me big-time! So do your research, shop the sales, and invest your money in high-quality products; you’ll be glad you did.

8. Tires

Thinking of buying used tires? You may want to think again. You’d think all used tire shops had the best interest of their customers in mind when putting these items on the market, but they sometimes don’t; it’s all about the almighty dollar bill. Sad, considering the safety of drivers and their passengers are on the line, but that’s another story.

If you decide to risk it all for a set of low-cost tires, your wallet may breathe a sigh of relief — until you hit a pothole and end up stranded and in need of replacements. So before you buy used, examine the tires carefully to ensure they are free of surface defects, including uneven wear, cracks, and worn patchwork.

I understand desperate times call for desperate measures, but it’s much wiser to go with a new, economical set of tires from a reputable auto shop or the dealership rather than take a risk that could be rather costly in the long run.

Another note: Worn tires are just as risky, so don’t test your luck by putting off buying a new set. I’ve run across far too many fatalities on the highway that were a result of tire blowouts. It’s definitely not worth it!

9. Flimsy Footwear

Crappy shoes just aren’t worth the savings. They can cause major damage to your back and heels, not to mention the discomfort you may experience.

Several years ago, I used to work in retail, which meant standing on my feet all day. Although my mother had warned me about cheap-but-stylish shoes that lacked support, I blew her off. Maybe I should have listened, because now, I’m left with no choice because of all the damage those shoes did to my heels and the soles of my feet. If I don’t wear supportive shoes during the day, my feet ache all night long.

10. Relying Too Much on Daily Deals

There’s no doubt about it; the benefits of most daily deals outweigh the costs, if you’re smart about your purchases. But what happens when you get your hands on a deal full of restrictions or with a limited window of opportunity? Well, if you don’t use it, you lose it — and you might as well flush your hard-earned cash down the toilet.

You also run the risk of overspending. During my days as an accountant, my officemates and I used to look forward to the daily deals on local dining; it gave us a chance to get out of the office each day without feeling guilty about it. But it also created major dents in each of our wallets since, most of the time, we’d get hooked on the cuisine, and continue to visit long after the promotional period had ended.

11. Putting Off Doctor’s Appointments

It’s sad how rarely people take time out of their busy schedules to tend to their health care needs. After all, isn’t that what insurance is for? It’s easy to put off check-ups and well visits (and the annoying co-pays), but paying regular visits to your doctor and dentist can help them catch big problems early on, while they’re still small. Detecting and correcting health issues early can save you thousands of dollars, and maybe even your life.

I’m just as guilty of it though. Last month, I headed to my primary care physician’s office for a routine medical checkup, and when he walked into the room, he looked as if he spotted a ghost. That just goes to show how rarely I go in for well visits. But it’s worth it for me, since routine bloodwork can sometimes detect minor issues early on, before they become major ones.

12. Skipping Scheduled and Routine Auto Maintenance

If you have a fairly new car, there is likely a maintenance schedule you’re supposed to follow every 15,000 miles or so. It’s not particularly cheap to do, so it can be tempting to skip it — especially when your car is running perfectly fine. But skipping scheduled maintenance can void your warranty, not to mention put added stress on your car.

Likewise, your car probably doesn’t ask much from you in terms of regular maintenance: Change the oil every few months, replace the tires and brake pads every few years, and get an annual inspection. But neglecting or putting off these small repairs can have dire consequences and lead to more serious damage and much costlier repairs.

When you’re at the dealership, don’t ignore the writing on the wall or it will come back to haunt you. Think of it this way: If you never gave your body a rest, failed to visit the doctor when you were ill, inhaled toxic fumes without detoxing for an extended period of time, and frequently skipped meals, what would happen? You would eventually shut down — and so will your car if you drive it until the wheels fall off without giving it a bit of TLC on occasion.

13. Shoddy Contractors

As the old saying goes, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” But when you live for a deal, like I usually do (although I hate to admit it), this nugget of wisdom goes out the window on occasion.

When I was looking to have the flooring replaced in our home several years ago, getting the best price was heavy on my mind. When a friend recommended a contractor who had the lowest prices in town, I couldn’t wait to meet him. The initial meeting went well, but when it was time to get started, all hell broke loose. Not only was he extremely untimely each day, but the supplies he recommended were inferior and it showed immediately following installation. What a waste of time and money!

Bottom line: When you cut corners, you’re simply setting yourself up for short-term gain, but long-term pain.