Monday, July 06, 2009

Spend, spend, spend

Many years ago, as I prepared for my first year in an apartment, my brother took me grocery shopping. I stocked up on the essentials: Pop-tarts, English muffins, peanut butter. I was on a tight budget, so I grabbed the generic peanut butter. My brother wisely advised me to put it back.

"There are certain things you pay more for," he said.

I bring this up because last week, my husband grabbed the wrong brand of toilet paper. We brought it home and thought, "How bad can it be? Aren't all toilet paper brands the same?" The answer, for those who are wondering, is no. Beware of one-ply toilet paper. 'Nuf said.

Most moms learn early to live on a budget, as we take back every grumbling comment we ever made about how our mean mothers never let us buy any snacks unless they were on sale or they had a coupon for them. I'm perfectly fine about staying on budget about certain things. I think Kroger brand popsicles are as good as the brand names. I don't spend excess money on purses, due to a personal rule that I can never spend more money on a purse than I'll normally be carrying in it. I don't need expensive dress shoes for those half dozen occasions each month (at most) where I dress up.

But pinching pennies isn't always a good thing. A wise person once told me that poor people can't afford to be cheap. And while we're nowhere near poor – despite what my 11-year-old thinks – I understand that cutting a corner here might lead to more expenses down the road. As I've grown older, I've developed a list of things that I never, ever substitute, even when money is ridiculously tight:

Poptarts – yeah, yeah, say what you want, but generic "toaster pastries" are awful.

Socks – there's a reason why Gold Toes are more expensive. They last longer, especially if you're like me and like to run out to the mailbox in just socks.

Good outfits – I'm a huge fan of Kohl's and Target for everyday wear. But I think every adult needs a well-made, well-fitting dress or suit for special occasions. I'm willing to make due with a pair of jeans that are a little long, but I'll pay for alterations on a good dressy outfit.

Home repairs – Yes, there are people in the world who are quite adept at their own home repairs. My brother is not afraid to take apart something and put it all back together. I didn't inherit this gene. If something needs fixing, there are professional people who do that quite well. We don't need to be playing with electrical wiring, if you know what I mean. Plus, when it's time to sell the house you can put "all professional repairs" on the sales sheet.

Diet Coke – I don't care if Diet Pepsi is on sale. Some things are worth a couple extra bucks.

Professional hair color – This becomes especially important as the gray takes over. The box is fine once in a while, but I love the feel and look of professional color and try to fit it into my budget whenever possible.

Swimsuits – If you're lucky enough to find a swimsuit that flatters your body, buy it. Heck with the price, buy it. In fact, buy two. The style will probably be discontinued next summer.

What's on your list?

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