When it comes to keeping up my apartment, I favor the lazy person's approach, buying whatever brand's on sale to replace household products or home items. This has lead to a few unanticipated headaches, of both the real (fumes from off-brand paint) to metaphorical (broken garbage bags). And a few very real arguments with my boyfriend, mainly when the garbage bag incident of 2012 threatened to tear us apart. Much like the flimsy bags I insisted on purchasing...the kind with the flap ties.
The moral of the story is that there are just some things that you just can't cheap out on. Here's what we've found so far:
Sure, you can adopt a Ron Swanson-like persona and proclaim that luxury Egyptian cottons are for sissies, but try to spend the night between bargain-basement sheets. Go ahead. If you don't wake up with light abrasions, then you probably haven't slept in the first place. We'll stick with 100% cotton.
Flickr photo by Manuel Delgado Tenorio
I don't know what it is they put in generic dishwasher detergents, but whatever it is, the stuff wouldn't even be able to wash a baby's fingerprint off of a plate. If food was even in the same room as said plate, it still wouldn't be able to get it off. The blame may be on the elimination of phosphates from dishwasher detergents -- while it was a better move for the environment, many have complained that formulas just don't clean as well. Look for products with enzymes, which will help break down messes.
Look. I'm not going to tell you how to live your life, but air fresheners tend to just cloak a smell in an even worse stink. But if you're going to buy air fresheners, make sure that it's a brand that avoids phthalates, chemicals which have been found harmful in many ways. The more expensive brands tend not to include phthlates, but read the label -- or the National Resources Defense Council's findings.
Sopping up a spill with a generic paper towel (usually 1-ply) isn't cleaning. It's performance art. Go for thicker towels that can actually handle liquids.
Same reason as paper towels, but a decidedly different metaphor. Or not.
Cheap bath towels will take off a layer of skin. They will, however, not get you dry. You don't need a super-plush version. Just check the threads: The longer they are, the more they absorb. Within reason. Your towel shouldn't resemble a '70s shag rug. (You can also opt for microfiber towels, which are thin, but have engineered fibers that absorb better.)
Flickr photo by Gala Medina
Shana Ecker, HuffPost Home editor, once worked for a major paint brand. When I asked her about the difference between the cheap stuff and premium brands, she chalked it up to the latter having a smoother application, better pigments, higher-quality enamels, usually less fumes, thicker formulas and tend to dry quicker. Since you have to look at the paint job multiple times a day, it's better to just shell out for the pricier brand. Unless you want to spend your days annoyed by that one weird discoloration on the wall.
CFLs are more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs, yes. But they'll last longer. If you're committed to the quality of light from the latter, you'll want an LED bulb -- though these can go for $10-20 each.
Flickr photo by Lukasz Samek
When minor disasters relating to clogged toilets strike, do you really want to risk not fixing the problem before your guests show up? Cheap plungers can fall apart right when they're needed most. Or, they just can't get enough suction going. Don't risk it.
Dealing with garbage is bad enough. Don't make it harder for yourself with bags that use those weird plastic ties that never work (or worse, flaps), or give out if you even say the word "trash." Cheap bags use thinner plastics. Don't buy them.
Or, you can save without compromising quality (maybe) by making your own damn household products. Except for towels. But you could repurpose those too, I guess?