Yes, there is a cost of living crisis. And yes, it's tempting to always buy the cheapest option. But consumer expert Chris Jager argues spending more up front can actually save you money in the long run. Here are the top 10 products you should consider paying top dollar for.
1. MATTRESS: The average human spends roughly one third of their life in bed. A high-quality mattress will help to make this time well spent by minimising tossing and turning.
While it’s possible to purchase a double mattress for under $300, you’re much better off spending well north of $1000.
A premium mattress will significantly improve the quality of your sleep. This can provide a whole host of indirect benefits - from energy levels and spine alignment to your everyday mood.
If your budget is limited, keep an eye out for shopping events like Black Friday. We regularly see mattresses selling for 50% off the RRP. In fact, at any given moment you can usually find at least one mattress sale, whether you’re shopping in-store or online.
If you’re not sure which mattress to get, head to Finder’s comprehensive best guide on the topic.
2. CHARGING CABLES: USB charging cables are notoriously unreliable at the penny-pincher end of the market. The connectors on these low-quality cables are prone to breaking and usually charge your device much more slowly. In worst case scenarios, they can even damage the device they’re connected to.
While nobody needs a “premium” cable, ultra-cheap cables are arguably an even bigger waste of money because they are guaranteed to stop working.
As a general rule of thumb, we recommend spending between $15-$20 for a standard-size charging cable. It’s also a good idea to choose a cable brand from a trusted device partner. For example, Belkin sells a range of Made for Apple cables that are specifically designed for iPhone, iPad and other Apple devices.
3. USED CAR: When it comes to buying a used car, going as cheap as possible is never a good idea.
You need to consider secondary costs such as maintenance, fuel economy, repairs and the car’s remaining lifespan. If the car is old and has lots of mileage on it, these extra costs can add up extremely quickly. The money you saved at the time of purchase could be wiped out in mere months.
A poor safety rating can also result in higher insurance costs despite the car’s low value. (More importantly, it will be potentially more dangerous in the event of an accident.)
Generally, your starting point should be in the region of $7,000. To get the best deal, check out these used car buying tips from Finder.
4. WIRELESS HEADPHONES: This one is especially important if you’re a big fan of music or podcasts. Spending a little bit extra is your gateway to highly immersive audio and a better experience overall.
Unlike some of the cheaper brands out there, a high-quality pair of headphones will typically feature bigger and better drivers and a wider range of Bluetooth codecs. This results in deeper bass and much crisper sound.
In addition to superior audio, a good pair of wireless headphones will provide other benefits. These include inbuilt noise cancellation, longer battery life and a wider wireless range for when you’re pottering around the home.
They will also be more comfortable, especially for extended listening. Check out Finder’s picks for the best headphones in Australia.
5. SHOES: If you regularly buy cheap footwear for you and the kids, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
How often do I replace these shoes per year?
Is the combined cost higher or lower than one good pair?
Splurging on high-quality shoes often works out to be a better financial decision.
While the upfront cost is obviously larger, you’ll end up saving money in the long run. You can expect good shoes to last up to three times longer than an el cheapo equivalent.
Needless to say, they will also be much more comfortable.
6. AIR FRYER: Air fryers have exploded in popularity ever since the COVID pandemic forced most of us to cook more at home.
This resulted in a cavalcade of cut-price models flooding the market from brands you’ve never heard of. You can usually find them on eBay with dubious sounding discounts of up to 70% off.
More often than not, these models aren’t worth getting even at the reduced price point.
If you want to avoid unevenly cooked food and frequent product failure, go with a trusted brand such as Philips, Breville, Instant Pot or Ninja. While they will set you back extra, the results speak for themselves.
See Finder’s picks for the best air fryers and air fryer brands in Australia.
7: LUGGAGE: If you’re a frequent traveller, spending extra on your luggage to protect your belongings should be a no brainer.
While budget options might seem economical upfront, they often lack the robust construction and materials needed to withstand the rigours of travel.
Premium luggage features sturdier components, reinforced seams and more durable zippers, ensuring they can endure jostles and bumps on airport conveyor belt systems without succumbing to wear and tear.
In addition, a premium luggage set will have better designed compartments, including built-in compression systems, expandable sections and specialised pockets for laptops, toiletries and more. You can also expect smoother wheels, ergonomic handle grips and enhanced security features.
See Finder’s picks for the best suitcases and luggage in Australia.
8. WASHING MACHINE: Most washing machines last for around 10 years.
If you purchase a cheap model with a low energy rating, the running costs will start to add up over the life of the machine. This is especially true right now, with electricity bills tipped to rise significantly higher this year.
In addition to using more energy, cheap washing machines lack many of the advanced modes and features that can make the chore easier. They’re also less reliable with leaking, drainage issues, spin problems and noisy operation more likely to occur.
In other words, you need to factor a decade of potential annoyances into the purchase price and ask yourself if the upfront savings are worth it.
You can narrow down your shortlist via Finder’s best washing machines guide.
9. TOOTHBRUSH: There is arguably more price variance in the toothbrush than any other supermarket item. You can pay anything from a single dollar to over $300 for a tool that achieves the same function.
When you consider how expensive a trip to the dentist is, investing in a decent toothbrush is clearly a smart move - and the evidence all points to going electric.
An 11-year study conducted by the Oral Health Foundation found that electric toothbrush users enjoy healthier gums, less tooth decay and keep their teeth for longer. The inclusion of a timer function also encourages users to brush for longer.
Do you need a top-of-the-range model with all the trimmings? Probably not. But if you’re still using a home brand bristle brush it’s time you upgraded to an electric model.
10: HOUSEHOLD ESSENTIALS: Buying budget household supplies is one of the most common ways people try to save money. The price disparity couldn’t be more obvious, with most home brands stocked right next to their more expensive brethren.
Unfortunately, you usually get what you pay for.
The cheapest garbage bags in the supermarket are much more liable to tearing. Cheap bug spray forces you to engage in protracted torture-murder over several minutes. And the less said about cheap toilet paper the better.
When you consider the price difference is usually a couple of dollars at most, the dearth in quality simply isn’t worth it.
It's important to note that while paying more for certain products can lead to a better experience, it remains essential to do your research and consider your own needs and budget.
To help you on your journey, see the full list of Finder best guides with options for every budget.
Chris Jager is the senior reviews editor at leading Australian comparison site, Finder, specialising in consumer technology.