Among the good things about living in today’s day and age is you’ve got options. Want to buy the newest, coolest gadget? It’s there, if you can afford it (and even if you can’t! Charge it, baby!). Would your rather buy the cheapest, made-in-China version, bound-to-crumble-to-dust-two-months-after-you-get-it version? It’s just a click away.
But more options makes it easier to make the wrong decision too, and it’s not always easy to know when it’s worth splurging a little for a better, more ethically made version of something — and when the cheaper option is the way to go. Here’s a handy, if incomplete, cheat sheet.
10 Things Worth Spending a Little Extra Money on
Shoes: We’ll start with an obvious one. As tempting as it may be in the moment to spring for a cheap, $40 pair, you’ll probably have to end up for some more shoes in six months to a year. Spending just a little extra up front can end up saving you a lot of money down the road.
Coffee: You can find inexpensive coffee beans that taste fine, but the problem is how those beans are made. Cheap coffee beans in the U.S. usually means that someone is getting shorted somewhere else — most likely the farmers who grew the beans. Spending a little extra on your coffee is often a good sign that the sellers are being ethical in their finances.
Bedsheets: You spend about half your life in bed, so you might as well invest in it. You can cheat on mattresses and frames, but sheets are a good place to go the extra mile, especially since cheap ones can pill in the wash and tear easily.
Home Appliances: Major purchases like your refrigerator and washing machine are longterm commitments that you definitely don’t want to do any more than you have to. Expensive up front, to be sure, but definitely worth the investment.
Skincare Products: Shampoo, body wash and general skincare products are full of enigmatic ingredients, some of which can end up doing more harm than good. Do a little research and make sure that what you’re putting on your body is actually improving it. Spoiler: That might mean spending a little extra.
Groceries: Food takes a big chunk out of your budget, but it’ll end up taking a lot bigger one if you’re not careful. Buying healthy, locally sourced food is going to feel more expensive than heading down to the nearest Big N’ Save, but you’ll be healthier over time — meaning fewer medical bills in the long haul.
Computers: This is a tough one, because computers are pricey and it can be difficult for consumers to know just what they need and whether or not they’re getting a bargain. Before you head down to the Apple store, do a little research or talk to a friend who knows more than you. For a purchase as expensive and necessary as a computer, you want to make sure you’re getting exactly what you need.
Pet Insurance: Insurance for a pet might sound like one of those hoidy-toity millennial things, but it’s actually a smart move for pet owners. Cats and dogs eat as much money as they do food, especially if there’s a surprise medical issue. Pet insurance averages about 25$ a month, but could save you hundreds or even thousands down the road.
A winter coat: There are lots of lists about “must-have items” for the winter, but there’s really only one must-have item, and that’s a great coat. Spend some good money on the right one and it’s the only one you’ll ever need to buy.
Gratuity: Some companies use a tip jar to justify lower wages for employees, meaning these workers can end up relying on gratuity to make ends meet. What’s just an extra dollar or two for you can have a huge impact on the entire day of someone who works for tips.
And 5 You Can Definitely Thrift
Dishes: You’ll be surprised at the kitchenware options at your local thrift store, which often come in complete sets. If you run out of luck there, ask a relative if they have any old sets laying around.
Suits: If you’re a guy looking for a nice business suit, the fit matters a lot more than the actual brand. Shell out for a medium-priced suit and then find a good tailor. It’ll make a $200 suit look like a $2,000 one.
A Gym Membership: The allure of those fancy gyms with all the cool machines and the Kuerig is strong, but the truth is, it’s just not worth the investment. That old, rusty squat rack is going to burn just as many calories as the Isometric Deltoid Excruciator 3000.
Headphones: In this age of premium headphones like Beatz, it can be tempting to think you’re missing out if you’re not splurging for the priciest ones on the market. But don’t be fooled: there are tons of great options that you won’t have to put on layaway.
Vacations: The all-expense paid resort is just not going to be an option for a lot of us, but that doesn’t have to mean a vacation isn’t an option at all. With a little bit of creativity, you can make a lot of memories on a tight budget, whether that means a weekend camping trip or opting for a less expensive hotel rather than a five-star resort.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's executive editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.