My husband and I are frugal, but we’ll pay for long-lasting high quality items. Here are some of the items that saved us time and money in the long run. It’s also better for the environment since I’m not constantly replacing broken things. We bought most of these items on sale by looking out for deals and coupons. We also used camelcamelcamel.com to track prices on Amazon. And I found some of these items used on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
We eat rice almost every single day for lunch and dinner. And I’m not the type to cook rice in a pot on the stove. When our cheap Aroma rice cooker died after just 5 years, I decided to buy a Zojirushi neuro fuzzy rice cooker. While it wasn’t cheap, it had really good reviews. 7 years later, it still makes great rice every time we use it. It has other functions besides making rice, and I’ve used it a few times to make congee (rice porridge). If we ever need replacement parts, we can find it on the official company’s website. But so far, we haven’t needed to replace anything yet. We also like to cook our own rice when getting Chinese takeout, so that saves a few bucks.
I also bought a Lodge dutch oven on sale for $45. We like using it for cooking larger meals like pot roast or Japanese curry. I wanted a Le Creuset, but couldn’t justify the $300+ price tag, yikes. Cooking in large batches is awesome, because we have enough leftovers for another night. That means less temptation to buy takeout, and pot roast is yummier the second night anyway. This dutch oven is now about 3 years old, and I think it will last for at least a couple more years. Maye by the time it dies, I will have found a Le Creuset dutch oven in a thrift store somewhere, or bought it on sale.
I also love using cast iron for searing meat. I’ve had my 12 inch cast iron skillet for a couple of years now. I think I bought it at a World Market somewhere for less than $20. It’s one of my favorite tools in the kitchen. Plus it will last forever if you take good care of it. Now I’m looking for a griddle or grill pan to make those grill marks on my food.
Recently, we bought an air fryer during Amazon Prime day. It has a huge basket, and I use it every day for my toast. I also use it for cooking, of course, and for reheating McDonalds fries. It’s easy to clean and so convenient to use.
Clothing and shoes
We lived in Michigan for a couple of years during gradschool. This meant that we needed to buy some winter gear to survive the harsh winters there. Knowing nothing about winters, I watched what people were wearing.
I saw a lot of people wearing those LL Bean duck boots, so we decided to buy some for ourselves. My god, were they expensive, even at 20% off. But they did last us all four years of gradschool, and we still have them in a storage box somewhere. We probably don’t have to buy new winter boots for a few years. They will need new soles as they’ve worn down a lot, but LL Bean can repair those for about $40.
I also needed a good winter coat. I saw people wearing Canada Goose, but I’m not made of money. That stuff costs at least $800, and I’m not about to put down that much for a piece of clothing. Eddie Bauer was a much more reasonable brand. The coat I got was insulated and covered my bum. It cost less than $200 and I wore it all 4 winters of gradschool. It’s still hanging in my closet right now.
I bought a Northface Recon backpack in 2015 for $100. Before, I was using cheap backpacks, and they never lasted more than a year. I wanted to buy a good quality backpack that could carry my laptop, books, and water bottle. It also needed to be comfortable as I biked to school. This one fit the bill. This backpack is indestructible and I still use it today.
In 2013, I had a horribly expensive tooth problem that led to me learning how to budget. I vowed to take better care of my teeth. My dentist recommended I use a Sonicare toothbrush. So, I bought the cheapest version that I could afford that had the 2 minute interval timer. It improved my dental hygiene, because all of my dentists have told me I have really clean teeth :). So while they are expensive, my teeth are healthier, and I have had less dental problems. Eventually, the toothbrush handle wore down enough that I needed to get it replaced. Luckily, they have a generous 2 year warranty.
We also bought a Delonghi heater to keep our bedroom toasty. I found someone selling it used on Craigslist for $40, and it was basically brand new. That was such a lucky find. It’s been awesome, because we can keep the central heat at 70F so it turns on way less now.
I also love Apple products. In 2016, I got my first MacBook Pro (refurbished), and used that till November 2021. I spilled soda on it after the AppleCare expired, so I had it fixed by an unaffiliated repair shop. It survived for a few more years after that, even though the repair person said the motherboard would eventually corrode. My old MacBook Pro was still working fine before I replaced it with a snappier MacBook air this year. Before then, I was buying low quality laptops that didn’t last more than 2-3 years. So even though a MacBook is more expensive, it is a high quality laptop that should last 5 years easily.
Another expensive tool that saved us a lot of money was the original YNAB4 and the web-based nYNAB. YNAB4 taught me to not only budget our money, but allowed us to reach some of our savings goals. I never purchased the YNAB4 app, since they had a free version for college students. And I got a year for free with nYNAB in grad school. But afterwards, we couldn’t afford the $89 yearly subscription fee. So I moved on to Financier, which cost $12 a year (although you could use the free version). It didn’t have all the nYNAB abilities like syncing, goals, or fancier reports, but it was just fine for us. But, it was clear that the app wasn’t being developed anymore.
Last year, we were finally able to afford the hefty subscription fee. I also got two months for free through referral links and their 34 day trial. Having a tool like YNAB has definitely saved us more money than the $89 per year fee. Unfortunately, the price for YNAB will increase after December 1st. This caused a lot of drama on the YNAB subreddit, and I started looking for a similar tool.
That’s when I found Buckets, which costs a one time license fee of $45. It has the goal setting that I liked from nYNAB, and it’s based on the same budgeting principles as YNAB. It doesn’t have scheduled transactions or syncing, but it is in active development. You could pay for SimpleFin, which allows you to sync some accounts. You can even chat directly with Matt, the developer, so that’s cool. I’ve been using it for a month now. Although I do miss the auto-syncing, I really like the app, and am looking forward to more development in the future.
That’s a few of the items that were expensive, but worth the price. They saved us time and money over the long run. I spend less time researching what to buy next to replace the items. Some of them made cooking more efficient and less time consuming. We save money, because replacing items less frequently means buying less stuff. This is better for our wallets and for the environment, so that’s a win in my books.