things you shouldn't skimp on

Frugal not Cheap: 6 Things You Shouldn’t Skimp On

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Part of being wise with your money is finding the balance between frugality and cheapness. There are some things you shouldn’t skimp on just to save money, for your own safety and health. 

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1. Safety things

Protective gear for sports- an obvious area not to skimp on

Your six-year-old playing touch football doesn’t need top-of-the-line padded gear. On the other hand, your sixteen-year-old playing competitive hockey does need high-quality pads. 

Don’t skimp on your kids’ bike helmets, or really any helmets, since head injuries can be so serious. On that subject, make sure you enforce the helmet-wearing rule in your household too. Granted she’s a rule-follower, but my two-year-old won’t even touch her balance bank without her “pink hat” on. 

Home security

There’s a huge difference between getting a deal on a home security system and buying a sub-par system. I always encourage shopping during sales but make sure to buy a reputable system. Do some research on the system you’re considering. 

Black Friday to Cyber Monday in November seems to be a good time to buy electronics, including doorbell cameras and home security systems. 


When purchasing a new-to-you vehicle, always look at the safety features of that model. In addition to the general safety of the make and model, make sure to check the history of the specific vehicle and check for recalls. 

Use the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to search for recalls, history, and incidents through Vehicle History. To look specifically for recalls, use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Theft & salvage records are reported through the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

2. Baby safety things

Safety regulations for baby equipment change frequently, so make sure your gear is still considered safe if you’re reusing older gear. If it’s not safe or has been recalled, purchase a replacement as soon as possible, even if it’s not the cheapest option.

Baby gear is not an area to skimp on. There are other ways to save money on babies.

Sleeping & sitting devices

Standards can change dramatically between siblings even. My six-year-old slept in a Rock’n Play exclusively for months. It was the only way she’d sleep, and its portability was so convenient. By the time my second was born 3 years and 9 months later, Rock’n Plays were being recalled and called unsafe. I had to scramble to find a replacement sleep solution for those pre-crib nights, and she still doesn’t sleep nearly as well as my older daughter. 

Rather than buying an older crib and saving money, I advise purchasing a new crib that meets current safety standards. My parents saved the crib my siblings and I used, but that drop-side design is no longer considered safe. You’re probably safe to reuse a crib between siblings but look for recalls on that specific model first. 

Car seats

Never, never buy a used car seat. Any car seat that has been in a car accident, even a minor fender-bender, should be replaced because its structural integrity could have been compromised. 

Your auto insurance should replace a damaged car seat, so it’s worth the effort to submit a claim and get a replacement. You can’t count on everyone to be ethical, however. It would be easy to re-sell that potentially damaged seat, without disclosing its true history. 

Unfortunately, the child sitting in a used car seat could be at risk during an accident later on. To keep your little one safest, always purchase a new car seat. 

If you’re struggling to afford a new car seat as your child grows, remember that Target and Wal-Mart both offer a car seat trade-in program a few times a year. You can trade in an old car seat & receive a coupon toward the purchase of a new seat or other gear. 

things you shouldn't skimp on

3. Shoes – a cheaper area not to skimp on

How many hours do you spend on your feet each day? Depending on your job, it could be many. 

Stay-at-home parents of little ones are always up and down. When you’re putting that kind of stress on your body, it’s important to have a good foundation.

In my own life, I have noticed I experience much less knee and hip pain when I’m consistently wearing high-quality, cushioned shoes. Just remember that even good shoes wear out over time, so you should replace your everyday shoes before they wear out or get holes. 

I like to watch Zulily and 6pm for deals on my favorite brands, then purchase shoes I know are comfortable and supportive. After trying on various brands in a local store, I stick to a few favorites and purchase them online for less.

Can you tell I am the mom of two young children? Can you tell my husband is working overnight shifts right now? In my household, at this time, sleep is everything and we don’t skimp on these things. 


If you sleep 8 hours a night, you’ll spend over 2,900 hours in bed each year. Even as the parent of a young child, sleeping much less than that, having a good mattress is crucial to comfort during waking and sleeping hours. 

A good quality mattress can be expensive, but if you average that purchase out over all the hours you’ll spend sleeping, the nightly cost is reasonable. The benefits of a good mattress, on the other hand, can’t really be measured. 

As someone who deals with arthritis and inflammation-related pain on a daily basis, anything that helps me feel better is a worthy investment. During my last pregnancy, when pain kept me awake most nights, we invested in a Tempur-Pedic mattress topper too. 

We couldn’t afford a new mattress, but that topper made a huge difference in my comfort level. My husband even admitted it was a good investment after a few nights. 

things you shouldn't skimp on

don’t skimp on Other sleep aids

Black-out curtains, white noise machines, fans, eye masks, cooling sheets… whatever helps you sleep well are worth the investment. 

The Hushh Portable White Noise Sound Machine has been a life-saver on road trips with our girls. When we’re at home, it lives in the master bedroom, proving it’s versatile and long-lasting. 

For the last year, we’ve been sleeping on Cosy House sheets and they’re the best. They have deep pockets (to fit over the mattress + Tempurpedic topper), elastic straps to keep them on the mattress for restless sleepers, and they’re both smooth and cooling. They also have a lifetime warranty, which was the main reason I tried out this brand. 

My sister swears by her Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones for a quiet sleep. I think they look uncomfortable as heck for sleeping, but I discovered that Bose makes Sleepbuds too. I haven’t tried them, but they look promising for comfort and noise-canceling. 

If you want more sleep tips, read 6 Easy Self-Care Ideas for Busy People

5. Dog Food

For whatever reason, there are always stories about questionable ingredients in dog food. What about cat food??

Anyway, I care about my pets too much to cheap out completely on their food. One of our dogs has an inconvenient grain allergy too. We first tried crazy-expensive brands like Blue Buffalo Wilderness and Authority. 

Then, we were lucky to discover that Nature’s Domain Salmon Meal & Sweet Potato dog food by Kirkland Signature (from Costco) helped her feel better. Talking to a local vet, we were reassured that the ingredients in this dog food were on par with more expensive brands and definitely safe to feed our dogs. 

Even if you find a brand of food without harmful ingredients, you need to ensure it contains proper nutrition. This is especially important as your pet ages. Work with your vet to find a brand that is both safe and healthy. 

6. Insurance

Renter’s or homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance, health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, life insurance: there are so many types of insurance that you need to purchase for peace of mind. You shouldn’t skimp on necessary insurance, but “necessary” depends on your situation.

The cheapest policy might have less-than-stellar benefits. You need to analyze the costs and benefits of the policies you are considering. 

With homeowners insurance, make sure to purchase a policy that covers 125% of the replacement cost. This would help pay for demolition and debris removal if needed. 

In the Frugal Year Challenge, I go into more details on how to save on insurance while still getting proper coverage. Although the course is currently free, the price will increase in 2022. It focuses on 12 different areas of frugality, allowing you time to focus on making changes in your life. 

For further reading:

Business Insider: 15 Things You Should Never Skimp On

WiseBread: 15 Things You Should Never Skimp On

4 thoughts on “Frugal not Cheap: 6 Things You Shouldn’t Skimp On”

  1. These are all the must-not-skimp things in our home, except for pet food (we don’t have any pets). But, of course, the big one is kids’ safety! Thanks for the reminder on sleep aids.

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