Going cheap on some items is like shooting yourself in the foot.
These are 30 things you should never skimp on. I’ve easily spent over 30 hours researching and and refining this article because I don’t want to steer you wrong.
For most of the item’s I’ll give you top recommendation based on the trending consensus found in the BuyItForLife subreddit.
The Subreddit: BuyItForLIfe is a wealth of truly unbiased consumer reviews. It’s basically a crowdsourced repository of unpaid honest reviews. I highly recommend using this community to help in you make smart buying decisions.
You spend 1/3 of your life sleeping. Would you like to simply endure sleep or actually benefit from it?
A decent mattress is literally an investment in your longterm wellbeing. Don’t skimp on a mattress! Unfortunately, choosing the right mattress for you depends on several factors that I’m not smart enough to advise on.
That’s why I’m not going to recommend a specific mattress.
There are just too many variables and one size does not fit all. So get out there get a good one darn it! You need a good nights rest.
If a good mattress isn’t in your budget, there’s a cheaper option with similar benefits. Get a good quality adjustable pillow.
Similar to mattresses, we all have our preferences. It’s a Goldilocks thing.That’s why adjustable pillows are the bomb!
If you prefer firm, just unzip them and pack in some extra premium memory foam or vice versa for a softer fluffier setup. Everyone’s different. Buying a pillow doesn’t have to be like playing the lottery.
BIFL Pick: The Coop Adjustable Pillow. Adjust the loft of your pillow with ease. Keep the extra high grade memory foam in a ziplock for later in needed You can order more if you need to but it’s highly unlikely you’ll need to. Its no wonder folks seem to have got bazerk buying them up on Amazon. Check them out.
There’s nothing like being a dinner guest and having to sit on a rickety dining chair. You know the ones that make you wondering if they’re about to collapse under you and make a complete idiot out of you?
Don’t put your guests through the same stress. Besides, if you make a wise choice you’ll never have to replace the dining set again. Just refinish them.
BIFL Pick: Don’t buy new! Check out auctions or craigslist for solid wood dining sets. Even if it takes a weekend with a sander and some steel wool you’ll end up with a beautiful dining set for 20% of what boutique stores charge for brand new BIFL furniture.
Lets face it. Vacuums are a necessary evil. The noise, the hoses, the pulling. Its really more about minimizing how annoying they are.
There are some durable vacuums out there, but most aren’t well designed Think about his: Do really want to live the nightmare of owning a crappy vacuum that lasts forever?
Don’t fall for marketing hype and gimmicky accessories either. I’m looking at you Dyson! BIFL proponents hate Dysons. They’re all plasticky and over-priced. They’re actually quite unreliable for their price too.
BIFL Pick: Miele Vacuums. Buy It For Lifers are almost unanimous on recommending Miele Vacuums. They are the gold standard in durability, power and ease of use. There is no such thing as a crappy Miele Vacuum cleaner. You can check out their lineup and pricing on Amazon to see which one best fits your needs.
A perpetual disappointment in most households, frying pans are among the hardest kitchen essentials to get right the first time. “Non-stick” frying pans are the worst of them all. They’re border-line scams in my book. Open up the wallet a bit more and go with a quality stainless steel pan or a rugged cast iron pan.
BIFL Pick: Lodge 12″ Cast Iron Pan with Red Silicon hot handle. Yes you can cook eggs without sticking in cast iron pans, just cook them on a low temp. This pan is as BIFL as they come. It will last several generations and won’t leak toxins into your food. You can check its price on Amazon
Most home chefs only need 3 knives. A Chef’s knife(8”), a Santoku(7”) and a Paring knife (4”). Don’t get suckered into buying a block set of 10 knives. Put that money toward three high quality knives instead. You’ll thank me a million times for this advice.
BIFL Pick: The following are three all-star globally respected kitchen knives. They’re worth every penny. Chef’s knife: Wusthof Ikon 8″ chef’s knife, Santoku knife: Shun Premier 7″ Santoku Knife, Paring Knife: 7-Inch Shun Premier 4″ Paring Knife. 3 Knife Starter Set: Shun Premier Set.
The dishwasher can be best friend or worst enemy in the kitchen. Choose very carefully! There are really only two brands currently worth looking at: Miele or Bosch. Bosch is more reasonable priced and is the primary choice of the BIFL crowd on Reddit.
BIFL Pick: BOSCH Benchmark Series 24” Price check it on Amazon.
95% of blenders on the market are absolute crap. One way to know if a blender is decent is by looking at the blades. If they’re sharp walk away. The most durable blenders don’t even use sharp blades. They blend by shear force and velocity. In fact, they can even heat up soup just from the friction their blades produce! Check out my post on 4 BIFL Blenders for more.
BIFL Pick: Vitamix 750 Professional Series or BlendTec. Both of these are absolute beasts and you’ll likely never need to replace them. They will annihilate anything you throw into them and reduce them to a silky smooth drink.
For a closer look at these two beasts head over my Buy It For Life Blenders page.
Obviously they’re indispensable to every kitchen. You need a sharp, durable and reliable set on hand at all times. Its a total must.
BIFL Pick: Fiskars Cuts + More. These are world-class quality featuring titanium enhanced blade, integrated sheath with sharpener, bottle opener. They can be disassembled for maintenance or used as a knife too! Lifetime Warrantee included. You can check the latest pricing on Amazon.
If your still used fabric oven mits you really should upgrade to silicone. There totally worth spending a little extra on. The insulation in fabric mits often thins out at the fingers over time increasing your risk of burns. You are also susceptible to burns from scalding water. Silicone oven mits can be washed under the tap, submerged in boiling water and offer far better heat protection.
BIFL Pick: Kitchen Elements Ultra-Flex Silicone oven mits. Their quite affordable actually. Check the latest price on Amazon.
Chained like a monkey to a desk for 40 hours a week? Don’t settle for some hand-me-down office chair.
Its been said, “Never skimp on anything that separates you from the floor.” That’s especially true if you spend a great deal of time using those items. You spend way to much time using an office chair to go cheap on one.
BIFL Pick: Sitting in these chairs is like being upgraded to first class from economy. Not even kidding! Their pricey but well worth it if you’re spending 1/4 of your life in them.
Paying out of Pocket: Steelcase Leap V2: Price check it on Amazon.
Paying On Company Dime: Herman Miller Embody: Price check it on Amazon.
So much about your office productivity and patience depends on good equipment. A wired optical mouse is a big pain in the rear. God bless bluetooth!
Even cheap bluetooth mice are a pain though too. They’re imprecise and jumpy. You find yourself having to constantly lift it to reposition.
If your putting in hundreds of hours at the computer a decent mouse is totally worth the upgrade.
BIFL Pick: Logitech MX Master 2. Firstly, its Rechargeable via USB so no scrounging for loose batteries in your drawer. Secondly it works all all surfaces including glass desks etc.
The MX Master series has been around for a long time, its well proven and well loved by office pros.
Connectivity is via bluetooth an included tiny Bluetooth-USB receiver. You can pair up to 3 computers with it(Mac or PC.) Its a solid choice that will serve you well. Check the current price on Amazon.
PC or Mac? Answer: Mac all day long. Switching over from PC ten years ago saved me ten years of grey hair.
Mac isn’t perfect, but its the best you’ll get. They’re more secure and much more reliable. Its realistic to expect 8 years of problem free computing from a MacBook Pro. I’m currently typing this article on a 2010 Mac Pro.
Yes, you spend more, but it pays out in the long run. Very few people ever go back to PC after getting a Mac.
I hesitate to recommend really expensive pens because their so losable. So, keep a few crappy pens in the drawer for your colleagues who want to borrow a pen. It’s still possible to get a really decent pen that you’ll love but won’t cry about when you loose.
BIFL Pick: Pilot G2. Over two thousand reviewers on Amazon gush over this pen. Buy it For Lifers love them to. I think the G2 is fast becoming a legend. Price check it on Amazon.
Stop pounding your stapler. You’re making a scene. This isn’t CPR, its only 10 pages of paper for goodness sake.
Crappy staplers were developed by HR departments to “weed out” emotionally unstable employees. Escape the experimente and upgrade your stapler. It doesn’t cost that much.
BIFL Pick: Swingline Durable Stapler. This stapler is so pleasing to the eye you”ll want it on your desk not in the drawer. You can also get it a a few colour options.
Swingline and produces the best staplers out there. This stapler will drive cold steel right through 20 sheets of paper like an ice-cold paper-killer.
You can price check it on Amazon.
House & Garden
I once worked for a couple years at a high end golf course. That’s when I realized how crappy my lawn mower at home was. I realized there was hope for people like me…hope for a future in which mowing was actually half enjoyable.
The mowers I used were powered by Honda Toro mowers. I kid you not: after thousands of hours of using those Honda-powered mowers I only had to pull the cord more than once to start them on three occasions.
BIFL Pick: The Honda HRX217K5VKA with 187cc. This thing is a beast. It will eat 12” wet grass for breakfast and you won’t have to push it. It’s self propelled. This is the best gas power mower you can buy. Totally worth it!
Check the latest pricing on Amazon.
I am thoroughly convinced that cheap grass trimmers are Satan’s bait. He wants us all to descend to the level of animal rage as we frantically try to pull start them 37,563 times. Did I mention I hate them?
Whenever I see one of these demonic contraptions in a hardware store I go into Full Bore Linear Panic(FBLP for short). So, If you see a man with fixed eyes sprinting down the isle and through the wall at your local hardware store- its just me. I saw another cheap line trimmer.
BIFL Pick: Echo SRM-280S. This puppy features a 28 cc professional grade motor, and a high capacity line feed that you don’t have to disassemble when reloading. Echo is a well respected brand and widely used by lawn care companies. Price check it on Amazon
The two most important parts of your house to get right are the foundation and the roof.
My father in law has re-roofed his house twice in 20 years. If he had gone with steel he would never have had to worry about it again….like ever ever!
BIFL Pick: Go with Steel. You can get the shingle look if you want, but it will cost more.
Tips: Not all roofers now what the heck their doing with steel. Try to find a roofer who’s specialized in steel roofs.
Also, if you live up north, put snow guards up over critical areas like entrances, decks and garage doors. Steel roofs tend to shed snow and ice suddenly.
Do you really feel like re-installing your flooring after 5 disappointing years? Do yourself a favour and save your money for few more months. Get a decently durable floor.
A friend of mine just re-floored their whole house after two years and replaced it with the same crappy laminate in a trendy grey colour.
You know the kind that flexes and on every seam? Ughhh! Renovations are painful enough. Do it right the first time.
BIFL Pick: White Oak/Red Oak Hardwood flooring.
Never choose trendy colours for flooring! Do that with your wall colours if you must. Flooring is more permanent. Have we learned nothing from the baby poop green and vomit orange shag of the 70’s?
Oak and other hardwood floors are tough, timeless, and look good even when they dinged up! They can be refinished when the kids are grown up and done recking your house. It’s totally worth it.
Heat pumps are revolutionizing heating for us folks in the Great White North of Canada. Never buy the cheapest heat pump out there! Never! Do you hear me? I’ve heard horror story after horror story of folks falling for that one.
I can only help you with half of the equation since the quality of the install itself is equally important. So, take your time and be picky with who installs your heat pump even if it costs a few hundred bucks more.
BIFL Pick: Daikin, Mitsubishi or Fujitsu heat pumps. All of these brands are highly respected and offer extremely efficient and durable heat pumps. Walk away from any heat pump without at least a 10 year parts and labour warranty.
One of the things you should never skimp on is home insurance. Do not under-insure your house! Many people have lost their homes only to find out their insurance only covered the replacement value of their used possessions. Folks like this wind of up not having money to buy new replacements. So check your policy and make sure you are covered for new replacements.
Any snowblower can look like a hero in light powder. Problem: Light powder is a rare thing. A snow blower that can not handle the wet wall of slush and ice that the plow leaves at the end of your driveway is a giant failure.
Sadly most aren’t up to it. You’ll spend most of your time spinning, ramming and heaving the machine left to right just to get it to bite into the snow bank.
As an Eastern Canadian, I know all about crappy snowblowers. The best snow blowers have tracks. The best tracked snowblowers are Hondas.
BIFL Pick: Behold the ultimate snowblower! The Honda Power Equipment 389CC Two-Stage 32 inc Snow Blower. It single handedly shreds winter and spits it 56 feet into oblivion. Dual tracks, 389ccs, Electric start, joystick controlled chute and all the confidence in the world. Costly but worth it if you can pony up the cash. Check the latest price on Amazon.
For a more a smaller yet rugged option consider a Ariens Snow Blower
The sting of penny pinching on a BBQ is a nasty one. Cheap BBQs cook unevenly, rust out in a couple years and produce grease fires reminiscent of Kuwait. Thank you sir, may I have another? I don’t think so! Get a decent BBQ and enjoy many summers of perfectly cooked steaks and worry free use.
BIFL Pick: The Webber Genesis Series. Webbers are by far the most durable BBQs recommended by Buy it For Lifers. They’re long-lasting, corrosion resistant and cook evenly. Even after many years you won’t even have to worry about finding parts. Webber uses many of the same parts across its lines and you can get them easily.
The Genesis series is very highly highly praised for performance and durability. You’ll have to decide how many bell and whistles you really need. Check out the full Genesis line on Amazon.
Everything is riding on your tires. Do be precise: Your life and your kid’s lives. Doubt me? Perhaps you’d like to be the first on the scene of catastrophic rollover due to a blowout? I have and I don’t wish to see it again. I’m not a fear monger, I’m a realist.
Don’t trust your life to no-name or inferior brand name tires. The cost is to high to pay in the end.
BIFL Pick: Michelin Defenders. They carry one of the longest tread-wear warranties of any tire. They’ll outlast most tires and remain safe throughout their tread-life.
There is nothing more infuriating than crappy windshield wipers. There are few things as dangerous as poor wipers on dark rainy nights too. What good is it to have decent tires if you can’t see. You might as well be DUI. Super dangerous!
Most car parts suppliers don’t like selling silicon wipers because they last so long. That’s bad for sales because they want to sell you a knew crappy set every year.
BIFL Pick: PIAA Super silicone wipers. They’ll at last as least twice as long as your last set, outperform them and vastly improve your safety in wet conditions. They’re not even expensive!
Do yourself and your car a favour and stop using conventional dinosaur oil in your car. Oil is the lifeblood of your car. It is the single most critical item of car maintenance that will make your car last so don’t skimp on it.
Oil technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. A good synthetic is far superior and helps remove crud in your engine. It also lubricates the engine faster during cold engine starts. The longer oil change intervals is just the icing on the cake.
BIFL PICK: For most folks: Castrol EDGE Advanced Full Synthetic Motor. Its a great all round synthetic that performs better than more expensive brands. Price check it on Amazon.
For high performance: Royal Purple. It’s a top end performer along with Amsoil. Price check Royal Purple on Amazon.
Car Jack + Jack stands
Among all the things you should never skimp on this is the biggest. Jacks and jack stands are major safety items. Why get crushed under your car because you trusted $20 jack stands or a $60 jack.
Technically you won’t care cause you’ll be dead anyway, but your family will. Just do the right thing, your family and friends will thank you for upgrading.
BIFL Pick: Jack Stands: Torin 6 Ton double locking Jack stands. Highly rated. Over engineered. Bullet Proof. Check the price on Amazon.
Jack: Arcan ALJ3T A solid and reliable 3 ton floor jack. You’ll only need to buy on in your lifetime. Of course never rely on a jack alone always used jack stands. Check the price on Amazon.
Tools & Accessories
Few folks feel buyers remorse more than the sucker who buys the $100 bike on special at Walmart. They will not last a year of regular use! It’s practically scam-worthy that consumers are sold such colossal garbage. A bike is one thing you should never go cheap on.
Even a durable bike will require maintenance, but its totally possible and never have to replace well built bike again. Don’t got too fancy with special alloy frames though. Steel frames aren’t the lightest but they they are the longest lasting.
BIFL Pick: Surly Cross-Check. This is an everything bike. It’s a commuter but it looks like a road bike. Its beefy tires and strong frame also means all trails are open.
The Surly Cross-Check came up in my research over and over again as the bullet proof go-anywhere bike that everyone loves. Surly Bikes call it their “legacy bike” for good reason. There’s very few complaints about this bike, just miles of open road and breeze on your smiling face. You can find it here
When they’re cheap, they’re really really bad. But a good backpack doesn’t cost much more. Thankfully its not hard to find a decent backpack that will last 10 times longer than the $30 junky ones everyone seems to fall for.
BIFL Picks: Since everyone’s needs are different I won’t recommend a specific backpack but I will give you two bullet proof brands that the BIFL crowd strongly recommend: L. L. Bean or Jansport. My oldest daughter has had hers L.L Bean backpack for six years. It will see her for another 6 years -no worries.
USB Charging cables
This one is a major annoyance and stressor for a lot of us. A cheap charging cable is bad for your electronics, unreliable, a possible fire hazard, but most of all frustrating. You have to hold your tongue just right and lean your phone just-so in order for the stupid thing to charge. Just bite the bullet and get a decent cable.
BIFL Pick: Native Union cables. These puppies are rugged and armoured. They’re safe and reliable. In fact their an upgrade from stock usb chargers that come with phones an tablets.
I recommend the night cables which are longer and let you use your phone in bed without leaning awkwardly over you nite stand. Check out the differnt Native Union cable options on Amazon.
If you’re a DIYer or just like to be prepared, having a multitool on your belt is a must. Cheap multitools are an insult. They loosen up, rattle, a their soft metal metal slips and strips.
My biggest disappointment was SwissTool. I spent more time fixing it than using it to fix things. Never again.
BIFL Pick: Leatherman Wave. This tool is widely accepted as the single best multitool in the world. 17 tools, finely engineered, nicely sized and comes with a rock solid lifetime warrantee. I happen to own one and You can check out the full review here.
So there you have it! These are the things you should never skimp on. I think you’d also really enjoy this: 14 Affordable Life Upgrades You’ll Love Every Day.