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When buying quality is worth it

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

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Investing in these more expensive options may result in money savings in the long run.

"What you pay is frequently correlated to what you receive," says Louis Altman of GlobaFone, a premium provider of global communication solutions. "If a $100 item lasts a year but the $300 competitive version lasts five years, it makes sense to buy the more 'expensive' item."

Hybrid car

Hybrid cars, which are 20 to 30 percent more expensive than their non-hybrid counterparts, are worth the extra money when specific conditions apply. "If you buy a hybrid like a Toyota Prius (which starts at $29,000), put 20,000 or more miles on your car every year and drive primarily in the city, then it is a good investment," says America's Family Financial Expert Ellie Kay, author and mother of seven.

Note: Buying a hybrid (particularly the most-expensive models) is not worth it, however, if you don't put a lot of miles on your car or if gas prices are under $4 per gallon.

Extended warranties on laptop computers

Laptops cost more to service than desktop computers, and it pays to take out an extended warranty on expensive ($1,800 or more) models. Kay recommends passing on the warranty for desktops costing $700 or less. "Desktops are very user-friendly, and chances are you can fix a lot of those problems yourself," says Kay.

When you do purchase a desktop computer, don't skimp on the monitor. "As a 13-year tech veteran, I can honestly say it is best to save money on the actual PC and spend extra on the monitor," says Akiva Goldstein, CEO of ONSITE in 60 Inc. Without a quality monitor, you cannot utilize all of your desktop's powerful features. "A larger or sharper screen will increase productivity and make working more comfortable."

Energy Star appliances

"You can pay as much as 70 percent more for an Energy Star refrigerator or washing machine that promises to save you 40 percent on energy and water bills," says Kay. "If you have to replace that appliance anyway, then it is a great example of spending now to save later."

Consider that an older top-loading washing machine costs around $44 per year in energy. An Energy Star-rated front loader (such as the Frigidaire Affinity) costs only $18 per year in energy and also saves 40 percent on water. Furthermore, you need to use less detergent, and the clothes come out less damp and need less time in the dryer.

"All of these additional savings, including the savings of around 7,000 gallons for an average-sized family, makes this a good purchase," says Kay. "Plus, if you go to www.energysavers.gov, you will find a list of appliance rebates and tax credits for Energy Star-rated appliances in your state."

Programmable thermostat

The average family spends $2,700 a year on home energy, and nearly half of that goes to heat or cool the home. "A $50 programmable thermostat is a must-have purchase for every home," says Kay. "It is easy to install and should save you around $180 a year, so you will recover your investment in about four months."

The programmable thermostat (which costs two or three times what a standard thermostat costs) works by automatically reducing your heating or cooling when you don't need it. You can program it to fit your lifestyle and household schedule so that you're not unnecessarily using up energy — some models let you program a different energy-saving schedule for every day of the week. Consider the Honeywell RTH7600D Touchscreen 7-Day Programmable Thermostat, which costs about $85.

Dream vacations

Don't go on a cruise when you want to go to a boutique resort in the Caribbean. Don't go to Mexico if you really want to go to Paris. "I always tell my clients to save up for the vacations that they really want," says financial planner Leah Manderson. "Most people only have two or three weeks of paid time off per year, so make it count… even if it costs more."

Erin Konrad of CouponPal agrees. "Spending more for vacations is usually okay," says Konrad. "If you know you'll be uncomfortable in a hostel or cheap hotel, spending more on accommodations means you can truly enjoy your trip."

Adds Manderson: "Your life is a collection of experiences, so it's important to build the experiences that bring your dreams to reality."

Fashion

Use fashion as a tool to project a particular image or style for a given situation. "It always makes financial sense to spend money on the more expensive fashion item when that new dress is timeless and not a trend, fits properly (a rare find for any woman) and complements my unique features," says Nicole Pieri, editor at MsCareerGirl.com. "This is money well-spent because the intangibles — like self-confidence and image — that I portray to others lead to opportunities in my work and personal life."

Hardwood floors

You will never regret investing in hardwood floors, must-have on home buyers' lists. 90 percent of U.S. real estate agents said that homes with hardwood floors sell for up to 10 percent more. "By investing in high-quality wood floors, you select a design element that will last a lifetime and increase the future resale value of your home," says Chris Sy of Carlisle Wide Plank Floors. "Hardwood floors are worth a large portion of your renovation or building budget."

Your neighborhood

"Sometimes a house is more expensive simply because it's in a safer neighborhood or is more convenient to downtown," says Lee Gimpel, director of development for LifeWise Strategies. "If you value such aspects, then the more expensive option will be worth it for you."

Eyeglasses

You can pick up a pair of readers for a buck at the local dollar store, but that is like putting a band-aid on a broken bone. Your eyes are a precious commodity, and it's important to take good care of them.

Schedule an eye exam with a high-quality provider — you may be surprised by what you cannot see. LensCrafters will tailor both your lenses and frames to suit not just your vision needs but also your lifestyle.

Professional services

What are the most important services you purchase? "It probably makes sense to spend more on expertise that can have a have a big effect on your health and well-being," says Gimpel. "Hire the better doctor, the better financial advisor and the better electrician."

Spending rules

Don't go overboard for savings. "Some people take the save-save-save mantra too much to heart and are too good at not spending money," said Gimpel. "Imagine the person who drives across town to save 2 cents per gallon on gas. Or the person who spends 10 hours to save $100 on a flight. Or the cheap car that nickels-and-dimes you to death."

Invest in convenience. It's okay to pay for convenience when it means getting back some of your own time. "I've heard of people who choose doctors and hairdressers who are not the cheapest but are conveniently located near their places of work," says Gimpel.

Identify what's important... to you. "If you only commute five minutes in your car, you might not care how comfortable the seats are or what amenities it has," says Gimpel. "But if you drive two hours every day, it makes a lot more sense to get a car that's more comfortable and gets better gas mileage."

Similarly, if you really like watching movies at home, why not get the more expensive TV with better picture quality and sound? Put your money where it counts — and where it will have a positive impact on your life.

This post was sponsored by LensCrafters.

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