From time to time, I get queries from reporters asking me to comment on particular personal finance topics. I do my best to help these folks, especially when they ask something interesting.
Recently, Katie from CNBC dropped me a line with a question that actually stumped me: For which things should people be willing to spend extra money? Here's an edited version of her e-mail:
I'm working on a piece for our personal finance section and was wondering if you would be available to answer a few questions. The article is about 10 items that consumers should sell out the extra money on.
For this post, I'm not just focused on items that will save a few pennies. I'm focused more on the items that are worth the extra bucks because the quality/use a consumer will get out of it is worth it (but items that will save big bucks would be great also!). For example, consumers will probably want to spring for a high quality suit that they can wear for a long time vs. buying a less expensive one that will unravel the next week.
I was hoping you could offer maybe four suggestions for items/experiences that are worth spending money on and explain why you think that.
It was tough for me to come up with any one-size-fits-all answers to this question. Your answer will depend on your priorities. If you like to cook, for instance, then quality cookware and cutlery are well worth the money. But if you don't ever spend time in the kitchen, these things are a waste of money. If fitness is important to you, then spending money on gear and events and trainers is an excellent investment. If you don't use the stuff, it's money down the tubes.
But as for general items that anyone could feel comfortable spending money on? Well, that's a little more difficult to discuss.
I guess that I would argue food is one area where consumers shouldn't cut back. Too many people do and it takes a toll on their health. Yes, buying fresh fruits and vegetables is more expensive, but the nutrition is so much better than convenience foods found in the freezer section of the grocery store.
Actually, I don't think people should scrimp on anything related to health, whether that's food or exercise or health insurance. No, you shouldn't pay for things you won't use, but if you are going to use it, then there's nothing wrong with an expensive gym membership.
Also, I think people should be willing to spend on education. I don't just mean college -- although that's definitely important (college grads get paid far more, on average, than those who don't go) -- but also community ed courses and seminars and so on. Any personal development is a good investment, if you ask me. But only if you act on the things you learn. Just going to a bunch of seminars won't make you a better person. You have to put the things you learn into practice.
Note: This question reminds me of one of my favorite early posts here at Get Rich Slowly, a post that nobody else seemed to like: Choosing quality over price In that article, I list a bunch of companies that have built their businesses on providing quality products that are worth their premium prices.
Katie's article was published on Wednesday and you can read it here: "10 ways to save money by spending more." Reading it, I thought about the things I choose to spend on.
What do you think? First, what are you willing to pay extra for? Second, do you think there are certain general items for which all of us should be willing to spend extra? And is it ever really fair to say that you can save money by spending more?