Updated on 02.20.09

When You Go Too Cheap

Trent Hamm

Several days ago, my mother related to me a horror story about a particular dinner she’d prepared for herself and my father. She had purchased some extremely cheap frozen chicken breasts from a local discount grocery store at a price she just couldn’t pass up, but when she brought them home and actually prepared them, in her words, they were “inedible.” She not only threw out the chicken breasts she’d prepared, she tossed out the frozen ones, too. They were “not fit for human consumption,” in her words.

Recently, my wife and I tried out a small package of a new brand of toilet paper (new to us, anyway). It was extremely inexpensive, so we figured that even if it wasn’t nearly as good as our typical toilet paper, it was still a significant savings. Not quite. I went from using five or six squares in the bathroom to using at least twenty, plus I was still left feeling unclean. Not a good deal – in fact, we’ve already switched back to our regular brand.

I’m the biggest advocate you’ll find for seeking out the best deal you possibly can on most of the things you buy. Comparison shopping is a powerful tool. Most of the time, buying generic is just as good as buying the name brand. The grocery store flyer truly is your friend, as is making a good shopping list.

That doesn’t change one simple fact: sometimes, when you buy the bottom dollar item, you suffer for it. Sometimes, you wind up with an item that’s simply unusable, like my mother’s experience with the chicken breasts. Other times, you wind up with an item that’s so poorly made that it ends up costing you way more per use than you might have ever believed, like my own experience with the toilet paper.

Obviously, you want to avoid these traps. When you wind up with such a suboptimal product, you’ve essentially undone the benefit of bargain buying – and quite often, it ends up costing you more money than simply buying the name brand. In fact, this is an argument that many people make against generics and bargain items – if it’s not of the quality you need for your use, then it’s wasted money.

What can you do if you go too cheap and wind up with a lemon on your hands?

Just sample new things. If you’re trying out a new brand, don’t buy it in bulk. Instead, buy a small package of the item and make sure that you like it before you purchase the bulk package. This saves you from a situation where you have 36 rolls of unusable toilet paper.

Call the manufacturer. Whether or not the item is a “generic” or it’s a name brand item, you can still find a customer service number and let them know that there were problems with the product. Even with generics, you’ll sometimes get coupons or vouchers that you can use to get free replacements (if it’s just a defect in that item) or, sometimes, on other items.

Find alternate uses. If you find that the item isn’t usable for the purpose you intended it for, seek out alternate uses for it. Save the toilet paper rolls for camping season, where toilet paper makes great tinder for a camp fire. Food is a bit trickier, but some food items can be used as compost, for example.

Keep track of the “bad” brands. Trying an item, discovering it’s bad, and moving on to another one isn’t enough. You should keep track of brands that you’ve discovered aren’t up to snuff and avoid them in the future. In other words, instead of knowing the brands you prefer, keep track of the brands you prefer to avoid.

Grocery bargain hunting can save you a lot of money, but sometimes you wind up with a lemon of a product. How you handle that lemon makes all the difference when it comes to long term success. Good luck!

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  1. Adrienne says:

    One comment on “bad brands” – if the bad brand is a generic store brand you shouldn’t keep away forever. Stores frequently change suppliers for their generic items. What was a bad product one year can be a terrific one the next.

  2. Nick says:

    This mantra also applies to larger priced items. I recently went shopping for a new computer monitor. I needed something big. I could have easily spent a couple hundred and gotten something cheap, but instead I opted for something that cost a bit more but got excellent reviews and has a big name behind it. The same can go for cars or appliances. Paying a little more up front might mean more savings in the long run not having to pay for broken down items.

  3. Johanna says:

    Price isn’t always a measure of quality. The blender I have now cost me $60, and it’s considerably inferior to the one I had in grad school that cost me $20.

    But a good rule of thumb I’ve heard is, never buy the cheapest version of anything. It’s usually better to buy the second cheapest, if you really want to save money. The reason is that if the cheapest brand can mark up their prices and still be the cheapest, they’ll do it, because they won’t lose any business from people shopping on price alone. So the cheapest brand is more likely to give you even less than what you’re paying for, whereas the second cheapest is more likely to give you a decent, usable product for a good price.

  4. KC says:

    I’m a brand specific person. If I find something I really like I stick with it. But I try to get it as inexpensively as possible (coupons, sales, buy in bulk). I could probably save more money if I’d try lesser expensive products, but like you said the savings aren’t always worth it.

  5. Maureen says:

    I think your mom would have been within her rights to return the chicken that was “not fit for human consumption”, Perhaps it had spoiled. The store needs that sort of feedback too. For years I refused to buy the meat at a particular store because I didn’t trust their refrigeration.

    You could use the inferior toilet paper for craft projects like paper mache.

    Food makes pretty expensive compost. If it is edible and still packaged, but just not to your liking, perhaps it could be donated to a food bank.

  6. Jimbo says:

    What is this new-found obsession with toilet paper – please, TOO MUCH INFORMATION!

  7. Valerie says:

    Heehee @Jimbo! Go over to the Dollar Stretcher fora, dear, and search for toilet paper. Folks are USING OLD RAGS for tp and then WASHING THEM.

    You have not begun to plumb the depths of frugalmania!

  8. In the case of those chicken breasts, I would have saved them to use as fertilizer under some of the trees I plant each spring. Native Americans used to bury a fish under each and every corn plant they raised. Fish were abundant back then, and I’m sure they had *amazing* (no pun intended) yields on those corn crops.

    A single chicken breast would go a long way towards helping a tree or a berry bush grow for the first few years of its life. At least you’d get some value out of it that way.

    I plan on doing this with some frozen fish I bought just before the whole melamine in fish feed story came out. They’ve been sitting in the freezer a long while now. We’re planting several fruit trees and berry bushes this year. I’m trusting that the melamine (if there is any in the fish in the first place) won’t hurt a fruit tree, and anyway, we won’t get any fruit from it for few years.

  9. DollarDream$ says:

    You wrote :
    Not quite. I went from using five or six squares in the bathroom to using at least twenty, plus I was still left feeling unclean

    You had to write the last part – I was still left feeling unclean!! Why did you go in such detail?! We get the point!

    In my defense – I was reading your blog while eating my oatmeal :(


  10. Ellens says:

    I consider myself to be frugal, and we’ve managed on one salary for 12 years now with 3 children, one of whom is special needs. I think a comment that should be mentioned here is you can truly be too frugal. Like when I use a few dollars of my discretionary allowance to buy a much-loved magazine and a “more frugal” friend reminds me that I can get it at the libray (which I wouldn’t be able to for about 6 months), or I buy a soda and am told its an unnecessary purchase. Or when I’m told about the really cheap local food co-op that loves to give great bargains on nitrite-soaked poor-quality meats. I figure if THEY want to feed it to their family, that’s fine. It especially irks me when the too-frugal don’t spend enough to buy a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet for themselves and their kids. Food is one thing people try to find the lowest possible bottom line on, but then sometimes go too far. At our house we cut back on lots of things, but we have good, balanced, hot meal every evening.

  11. I appreciate the advice you have given in the past regarding starting from the bottom up.

    To begin by purchasing the cheapest brand (or no-name-brand) of a product until you find what works for you is a piece of advice that has the potential to save families thousands of dollars over the course of their lives!

    That being said, this article must needs be mentioned in the same breath as the former concept! Otherwise, like Trent, you could find yourself eating rank chicken with a dirty butt! ;-)


  12. BirdDog says:

    I consider myself a fairly frugal person but I guess I’m not. You actually count how many squares of TP you use? Like several of the above folks, TMI!!

    P.S. You can return about any store brand product and get a complete refund no matter what the reason.

  13. Joe says:

    There is some sense to the “You get what you pay for” motto. I think I’m also with others here when I say I hope I’ve read the last of the TP use
    in your household.

  14. GC says:

    pets really love chicken breasts that aren’t fit for human consumption. I’ll bet a neighbor’s cat or dog would have lapped that right up.

  15. Daniela says:

    If this is going to turn into a blog about your toilet paper habits…..ew.

  16. Esme says:

    The ‘OMG you’re talking about your TP habits! Yuck!’ comments have given me my belly laugh of the day. Go over to ‘No Impact Man”s or ‘Crunchy Chicken”s blog and check out the topic of TP there. This is nothing, people. Nothing!

  17. Joseph Tanner says:

    Reminds me of being in the army. During basic training we were apparently using too much toilet paper. One of the fellow trainees (who fancied himself somewhat of a leader, but wasn’t) said he only used one sheet and would be willing to demonstrate how it could be done. No one took him up on his offer. My solution? Duck into the restroom next to the cafeteria (yeah I know, they’re called the latrine and mess hall), stuff some rolls in the huge pockets in my uniform, and go back to the barracks.

    Anyways…I often try a different, cheaper version of a product. I do my best to suffer through it if it turns out to not have been a good purchase. In the case of foodstuffs like sauces, pancake syrup, etc. one can always mix half of the known good stuff with half of the nasty yuckiness that was on sale.

    Even if you try it once and toss it out, you’ll probably still save money over the long run. Sure it may take tossing out five boxes of generic cereal, but if that sixth box does the trick, and saves $1 a week, that’s $52 a year.

    BTW, try to not throw away food that doesn’t taste good to you, unless it’s actually gone bad. Compost is one idea. You could also just go ahead and fix some up and give your “leftovers” to someone who really needs it. If you try some cereal and are going to toss it, ask someone if they want it. Tell them you tried a different brand, don’t care for it, but maybe they’d like it? I just hate to see food go to waste.

  18. I just wrote an article about this on my website. In it I discuss the benefits of buying quality over always searching for the cheapest alternative. Though there are definately times which it is better to go the cheap route, there are often more times when it makes more sense to go with quality as it will save you money in the long run, not just the short term.

    Good article. It was fun to read. Is the 20 sheets an estimate or an exact count?

  19. Julie says:

    There are certain products that you should never pay bottom dollar for, and meat has to be one of them.

    Real meat is produced in free-range, sustainable farms by ethical farmers. Unfortunately, raising animals for food is an expensive process, so healthy meat will cost more; sometimes a lot more. But it’s worth it when you consider the alternative.

    The only way to produce cheap meat is to raise animals inhumanely, in huge numbers in the smallest space possible, feeding them waste products, pumping them with antibiotics and hormones. Cheap meat comes from animals that have been raised under cramped conditions that would make you retch when you walk in the stall. Then, when the animal is killed and butchered, the cheap stuff gets injected with hydrolysed protein and water to fill it out, so that up to 30% of the weight is water.

    Ask yourself, for the sake of a few dollars, are you really willing to compromise your ethics and the health of your family?

  20. kit says:

    Looks like Mr. Sethi caught wind of this and wants a throwdown.

    Personally, I think his blog’s audience is too different for it to be a real challenge. I think he attracts the sort of people who are into chest puffing because their belittling of a customer service rep ‘got them a good deal’ whereas you’d advocate that we don’t need the deal to begin with if we just figure out how to do without.

    I find his tips to be useless – I don’t waste time looking for a deal on car insurance because I don’t have a car, among other things that don’t apply to my life. I’m not starting out by trying to reduce typical yuppie 20something high expenses, I’m a 20-something who wants to build frugal habits for life.

    I do agree that there are certain things I choose to splurge on. As much as I love the $1/day food challenge that was done last year, I choose to learn from their work (hello, homemade flour tortillas!) and keep buying greens and other produce. I choose to ride a nice utility-oriented bike. I really like my iPhone but can cheap out on the plan since I rarely use it to talk. I choose to spend money both on supporting my local YMCA and using the gym there. I choose to buy coffee in my favorite coffeeshop because I like spending time there. In a real pinch, all of these things would go but I know what makes me happy to spend money on otherwise. Thanks for helping me trim the fluff so I know these things.

    While I’d be fascinated to see what would happen if you took him up on the challenge, I’d be pretty wary of the results. He’s doing it in a pretty closed fashion through his pay-for-tips website so there might not be much transparency and honestly it’s just silly.

  21. Mini Site Templates says:

    I’m glad you wrote this LOL going cheap most of the time doesn’t pay off in the end because it either breaks fast and you have to purchase a new one or it doesnt work like you want, so buy quality products first and watch it last.

    thank you

  22. Saver Queen says:

    *Great* tips.

    I love your suggestion of using what you can from the product. For example, I probably would have saved the chicken to make stock or pet treats if possible.

    One of my peeves is when clothing falls apart too quickly, and unfortunately this seems to happen both with expensive and inexpensive clothing. From now on I think I am going to look at the materials and start analyzing which types of materials hold up better. Anyone want to weigh in on this?

  23. Jason G says:

    Why are people so freaked out by a discussion about toilet paper? Are we really that juvenile? I understood exactly what Trent was saying without being “grossed out”. Stop getting lost in the details and get the point of the post!

  24. Saver Queen says:

    Esme & Valerie – can you please supply the links to these blogs with the sections on TP? you’ve peaked my curiosity.

  25. Saver Queen says:

    Julie – you’ve named some of the reasons why we’ve recently switched to organically and humanely raised meat by a sustainable farmer in our area. but as a side benefit, i can’t believe the difference in TASTE. Since we eat very little meat, we are finding it well worth it.

  26. Carmen says:

    Good post, although the detail regarding personal use of toilet paper (again) turned my stomach (again.)

    To the person who assumed this was because we are juvenile, that is not (necessarily) the case. For me personally, I interpret what I read via pictorial images in my head. I don’t control this, it just happens. And where strong odours are concerned, my stomach can then turn and actually make me feel sick.

    I am quite sure this would not be Trent’s intention, so I feel obligated to mention this fact now, since I ignored it on the previous recent post also mentioning toilet paper. It’s vulgar and makes me feel ‘disgusted’. And would ultimately make some people stop reading.

  27. Nate says:

    “…I was still left feeling unclean.”

    This is an example what I call Midwest earnestness, which is all over this blog… And a big reason why I like to read it.

    Plus I suffer from it myself – the earnest part, not feeling unclean.

  28. Kevin says:

    Saver Queen: forgive me, but it’s “piqued” not “peaked”

  29. liv says:

    “You get what you pay for is so true”…

  30. liv says:

    Oh yeah, if there is a Simple Dollar vs. I Will Teach You to be Rich challenge, what happens if you read both blogs? hahahaha.

    Personally, I pick out tips from both blogs (and others). Some of both posts can be stupid, most are helpful…bashing everyone’s own types of tips is ANNOYING…let everyone do what works and why do you have to be typecasted to a certain audience when you read these? The point is to do what you can to save more money and in Ramit’s case, make more money too…

    The only times I am pissed when I come to this blog are the times where I find I’m targeted for having things like Netflix, and choosing to buy books instead of using the Paperback Swap (lately, I’ve just been borrowing one from friends and family)…then I see other people have their own frugal tips and books, but Trent says that their tips are a waste of time, then comes out with his own book like his aren’t a waste of time to others… just because I choose to be frugal about some things in order to finanace whatever else I want, doesn’t make me a superficial person…life is too short to have to sacrifice ALL your wants and I don’t have to feel compelled to live without anything if I have the means to save for it and those means could come from tips off any blog…even this one or Ramit’s.

  31. Karen M says:

    In the past few years, I have switched from buying cheap meat to buying organic and free-range meat whenever possible. The trade off has been that we only eat meat (at home) about twice a week now. I feel that we are healthier for several reasons. One, we are eating more vegetables. Two, we are eating “healthy” flesh when we do consume it. And three, we are now thinking more about all our food choices, including the indulgences like sweets. And like Saver Queen, I think the meat just plain tastes better.

    And, Saver Queen, I am with you on the clothing thing, too. I would rather spend $100 on a really good quality sweater that I will wear for 10 years, than have five $20 sweaters that will fall apart in six months. Frugality is also about quality versus quantity everywhere.

  32. Ryan Loos says:

    You have to try the generic brand to see if you like it, and if you don’t then lesson learned. Most of the generic brands are in the same factory write along side of the name brands.

  33. Kate in Canada says:

    If you really want to know whether a garment will give you lasting value for the price, turn it inside out and check to see how it’s put together. If the seams are all finished nicely, there are no fraying edges anywhere, the stitching around the armholes/sleeves, zipper & pockets is smooth, tight & even with no puckers, it’s probably going to hold up well for quite some time. Cheap/shoddy construction = a cheap, fall-apart-quickly garment no matter what the price tag says.

  34. friend says:

    This post puts a new meaning on “bottom” dollar. Perhaps you need a spinoff web site to discuss TP!

  35. Anne says:

    I’m not sure if it was in the Tightwad Gazette or another PF blog but someone has done a pretty good analysis on the cost of generic/off-brand experimentation. The conclusion was that the savings generated by the “winners” you found far outweighed the money lost on the occasional dud. The analysis was, however, just for food/paper/personal care products. I tend to agree that electronics are a different game entirely.

  36. Kel says:

    There you go talking about TP again.

  37. Jen says:

    I agree that high quality, free-range meat is best for many reasons! Buying in bulk will make the price reasonable. Last fall we purchased 1/4 beef, 1/2 pork and 10 chickens from a local farm for about $3 per pound. You can’t beat that price for filet mignon, and all the other great roasts and steaks we received. Everything is so lean and tastes amazing.

  38. K says:

    I will repeat that nearly every store brand company has a money back guarantee for any reason, if not double money back. There is really no risk in trying something new.

    I have noticed varying degrees of quality of store brand items. But in general, I found that certian brands or stores tend to be either very good or very bad. For example, I have never found a generic item at Wegmans or Aldi that I didn’t like just as much or more than the name brand. Most generic medications and pharmacy items are identical – just read the label. If you are looking for generic potato chips, for example, and you don’t like one grocery store’s brand, that doesn’t mean you have to go to the name brand. Just try another store.

  39. Michele says:

    Beyond toilet paper, there are other ways that going cheap can not only be a waste but actually end up costing you more in the long run or become dangerous. People may not get a flu shot (not because they are against them but in order to save money), or they don’t change the oil in the car. These choices can have expensive consequences down the road. Others may opt out of buying a car seat or a smoke detector to save money, when instead they risk their lives. The saying “Penny Wise Pound Foolish” comes to mind. I think it’s okay to be cheap, err frugal, as long as we still make wise choices.

  40. Cathy says:

    Your mom could have taken the chicken back to the store. We once bought a crab from Safeway that was off. We took a sniff and decided not to eat it. They gave us a new fresh one, no problems.

  41. Jim says:

    The details on toilet paper usage is Too Much Information (TMI). Talking about it more than once in recent articles is almost comical.


  42. NYC reader says:

    @K (#32)

    I’m with you on Wegman’s, their house brands are great. And the supermarket itself is a treat to shop in; clean, lots of great produce, excellent customer service. Unfortunately I think they are only in PA and western NY state.

    Most stores will take back store brands that you don’t like, no questions asked. And nearly all will take back spoiled items, sometimes you don’t even need to bring back the yucky items themselves, just the receipt.

    I bought a two pound bag of haricots verts (French green beans) at Costco and the entire bag turned to slime within two days. I dumped them, and complained at Costco the following week. They gave me my money back, no hassle at all.

    Other uses for that TP that Trent didn’t like… maybe he could use it to blow his nose instead of using Kleenex. He could TP his neighbor’s trees if they complained about his outdoor clothesline. He could wrap his kids up like mummies for Halloween instead of buying costumes. Throw it out the window during a tickertape parade. Ok, I’m being silly…

  43. I think Daniela in comment 13 may be right… what if Trent IS planning to turn this into a toilet paper blog?

    Maybe he’s going to be sneaking in more and more references to TP in posts that are ostensibly about more general concepts. Tomorrow, he’s going to suggest that we sketch a picture of our dream house onto each sheet to TP to inspire us to use it frugally. The day after that, he’ll say that making sure you don’t have TP stuck to your shoe is important for career advancement. The day after that, he’ll reminisce about his pre-epiphany days when he would metaphorically flush all his money down the toilet.

    Before you know it, we’ll be acclimatized and will barely notice when he writes about nothing but toilet paper and renames the site to Single Square Ranch.

    We’re on to you, Trent.

  44. CathyG says:

    Regarding electronics – I have read that the merchants are also “in the know” on the tip to buy the middle item. When looking at 3 choices, you think that you are looking at one cheap, one middle, and one expensive item, so you pick the middle one. But some merchants have begun eliminating the cheap option and displaying one middle, one expensive and one Super-expensive item, so when you buy the middle one, you are actually buying what you might have rejected in the first transaction.

    Just be aware of the options that you Need and that you Want, and look around with your eyes open in several places to make the best decision for your situation.

  45. Jessica says:

    @ kit (#18)

    Ramit makes me want to puke. He is so full of himself; I can’t even read his stuff b/c it is so condescending.

  46. NYC reader says:


    Hopefully Trent will still be using TP when this blog becomes the Single Square Ranch. I have visions of his new uses for the Des Moines telephone directory!

  47. SueO says:

    Sometimes it’s easy to prove the adage

    “If you buy cheap, you buy twice.”

  48. Michael says:

    Personally we’ve always been a “cheap brand once” couple around this house. Whenever we buy a product we go for the affordable brand at least once. Even if we grew up enjoying a name brand our entire childhood we give the generic the benefit of the doubt (this applies to food products as well as any other small household purchase).

    In the event the generic isn’t up to snuff we then make a note to simply buy the namebrand from then after (and usually simply eat/use the generic for the time being). In the event it is truly horrible we will toss it and call it a day.

    We have been lucky to rarely end up with any _bad_ food but on the one or two occasions we did the local sumermarket had no problem at all taking it back.

  49. Melody says:

    @comment 37 – you cracked me up! And just for #7’s benefit, I am one of the ones trying to move toward not using disposable TP also! :-)
    Yes, I agree – for visual people it might not be easy to take. But they are correct – http://www.noimpactman.com was by a guy who took his whole family on an experiment to not make an impact on the environment for a year. And there’s that guy recently in Cali who tried to generate the least amount of trash. A whole year of trash was able to be stored in his basement area! So yeah, Trent is absolutely YUPPIE when it comes to frugality. Perhaps because he might not be as motivated by Earth impact? It’s more about his own “bottom” line. ;-)

  50. colleen c says:

    Saver Queen, after years of experience with two kids plus myself and my husband I can say without hesitation that anything cotton from LandsEnd will last for ages. Hubby has Tshirts I have probably washed hundreds of times and they are still in good shape. I hand down the kids’ stuff. If something does not perform for any reason they will replace it. Their coats/jackets are fabulous too.

  51. Cathy says:

    JD has 2 spoons of cocoa as his frugality icon and Trent seems to have acquired…toilet paper.

    Take Ramit’s blog with a grain of salt. I’m highly amused by the outrage over frugal toilet paper.

  52. Saver Queen says:

    colleen – thanks for the great tip!

  53. Carmen says:

    Who is Ramit? Which blog?

  54. Rob says:

    I hope I never have to try, or even think about this in my household.

  55. Shevy says:

    @Saver Queen
    If the chicken was “inedible” and “unfit for human consumption” why would anyone even consider making chicken broth or pet treats out of it?

    I know the majority of the pet food industry makes a living doing this stuff :cough: melamine :cough: but I choose to feed my pet high quality food, not animal byproducts, fishmeal and the like.

    And I’ve had food poisoning a couple of times too many to be interested in experimenting on myself with the broth idea.

  56. michael says:

    it’s worth noting that it’s not just frozen chicken that can be found to be unbelievably gross. Frozen hamburger patties are sometimes DISGUSTING!!!!

  57. Joey says:

    What’s with all the TP entries? We don’t need to hear about how you wipe your nether regions. This is a finance blog, not a hygiene blog.

  58. thisisbeth says:

    For those speaking of clothes (by the way, thanks for the tip on LandsEnd!), consider taking classes to learn to sew. Sewing clothes is not cheap, unfortunately, but by learning how to sew you will also learn to recognize good construction on purchased clothes.

  59. martian says:

    Trent, I think you need a warning icon for posts that mention obscene concepts like toilet paper, to protect the delicate sensibilities of some readers. (OK, I’m joking!)

  60. martian says:

    My personal “too cheap” moment was when I noticed the Aldi toothpaste I had been buying was made in China. They have slightly more expensive varieties that are made locally (Australia), so I can still save money but not feel uneasy about the quality.

  61. Bay says:

    As soon as I saw TP mentioned again, I just had to click over to read the comments…hysterical

  62. Urban Frugal says:

    I understand your pain, sometimes trying a different brand yields very unsatisfactory results. I have had that happen before. I probaly would have still used the toilet paper up and then gone back to my regular brand, but in the case of food items that aren’t spoiled, just not to my tastes I try to give them to someone else. Spoiled food, or off tasting, I return, if it isn’t expired.

  63. Jess says:

    Your mom could have donated the chicken to an animal shelter to use as pet food. Shelters are suffering from the economy too with too many animals being left homeless and not enough donations.

  64. Bill in NC says:

    Bad food goes back to the store for a FULL refund.

  65. Always sample before making a big commitment or switching! If you don’t you may end up with what I call a “false economy”. If the kids won’t eat it, and it goes to waste– I didn’t save anything . . .

    Always sample!

  66. Bill says:

    I have found the same theory applies to tools a lot of the time. For example buying a cheap fry pan is just a waste of money. The teflon flakes off and you get it in your food then you are back to the store to get another one. It is better to invest in a ‘proper’ and even expensive fry pan then you don’t have to worry about taking it back to the store.
    I also agree with Bill in NC -Bad food goes back to the store for a FULL refund!

  67. Scot says:

    I work with an older man that was born in India. He said there is an old Indian proverb that is roughly translated: “A man who buys high cries one time. A man who buys cheap cries many times.”

    Now I like to be as frugal as anyone else on here, but whenever I start to buy something that is really cheap (and possibly of inferior quality) I try to think about this proverb.

  68. SINGLE GUY MONEY says:

    My mom wastes so much money this way. She always buys the cheapest stuff she can find only to end up not using it or just throwing it away. Most of them time, she can save money just by buying the name brand.

  69. reulte says:

    Saver queen — I’ll also second Land’s End (even though their clothes don’t usually flatter me)they do last; and if not — their customer service is excellent. Eddie Bauer and LLBean clothes also seems to last forever. Neiman Marcus also carries excellent brands — I have a cashmere sweater that I’ve had for 15 years and it hasn’t pilled yet — but wait for their sales. Another thing to do if there is a NM store (or other quality store) nearby is to go through the items you’re interested in and really look at them to get a feel for quality goods – spend a couple of hours and look for the quality of the material and for the quality of the manufacture. I also check out thrift stores — you occasionally find good labels — inspect thoroughly; turn the items inside and out, check seams, give a tug, check for quality button sewing-on-ness, make sure hems (skirt & pants) are actually sewed and not just zigzag-threaded on.

  70. Becky says:

    I actually find that I get name brand items cheaper by waiting for sales and using coupons. Only if I’m in dire need of a product and there are no sales will I go generic. And stuff like toilet paper – every couple weeks Charmin or Cottonelle goes on sale and there’s always coupons for them – stock up then when the name brand actually falls below the generic price!

    I think electronics are one thing you shouldn’t buy “the cheapest” of. If you are saving money in other ways, it’s good to “splurge” on items that you want to last a long time.

    I really like this post – and it brings back a good point, Why scrimp and save on some things if you aren’t going to take those savings and spend them on things that really matter to your family?

  71. Heidi says:

    I use coupons to get my toilet paper for free, I have about 2 years supply of free Scott Extra Soft toilet paper that I got 100% free after coupons. I may use a few more squares per wipe but I don’t really care because it was free.

    One thing that was not mentioned was to take back bad products to the store. If the chicken was rotten they the store should take it back. If the toilet paper was inferior, you should try taking it back. Most store brands have a satisfaction guarantee that if you are not fully satisfied you can return it.

    Otherwise good tips!

  72. friend says:

    Before this thread disappears, just had to share this link with you from The New York Times:


    Trent is not the only one obsessing over TP these days!

  73. Robin says:

    I have noticed that the quality of chicken breasts is often rather poor, when they have a big sale. This breasts often have visible lines running through them. I am pretty sure they are from old laying hens, now past their laying prime. If I find a half-way decent package, I simmer them & make chicken enchiladas. You have to go with the flow, and adjust cooking methods to quality level, when looking for bargains.

  74. NYC reader says:

    The following quote (of dubious origin but usually misattributed to John Ruskin), pretty much says it all:

    “There is nothing in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and he who considers price only is that man’s lawful prey.”

  75. Charles Cohn says:

    A year or two ago I got a great deal on Land’s End. I went into a thrift store looking for a cheap jacket to put on when I was running a marathon. (The idea is to wear the jacket first thing in the morning when it’s cold out, then remove it and throw it aside when the weather warms up. Clothing discarded in that way is picked up and donated to charity.) I was delighted when I ran across a sickly green Land’s End jacket in perfect condition for $15. I have enjoyed wearing it ever since. I have always wondered why someone would give away such a desirable item.

    Concerning toilet paper, what’s with all these wusses who can’t stand a little toilet paper talk? I find that a fascinating topic. For example, I can remember, when I was a kid during WW II, there was a joke going around to the effect that there was a shortage of toilet paper and we’d have to use both sides.

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