When to scrimp and when to splurge

Covered mag, presented by Gocompare.com
  • | by Rachel England

It’s a hard time to be a consumer. Thanks to the sluggish state of the economy, lots of us are skint, and yet we’re being told to spend our way out of the doom.

Yes, we still need to feed and clothe ourselves, but as brands are pushing their wares harder and harder it’s not always easy to know when and where to open our creaking, anxious wallets. Here, we look at a host of everyday items, and consider whether to tighten the purse strings or splash the cash.


The organic food debate rages on: many advocate the natural, pesticide-free approach to chowing down, while others argue that we’ve survived this long on traditionally-produced crops, so why bother with the extra expense? If you’re sitting on the fence, consider only purchasing organic fruit and veg most susceptible to pesticide residue (billed the ‘dirty dozen’ in the US):

Splurge: Peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes.

Scrimp Broccoli, cabbage, bananas, kiwifruit, asparagus, mangos, pineapple, sweetcorn, avocadoes and onions. Other food items to save a pretty penny on include: tomato ketchup, stock cubes, salt, sunflower oil and biscuits. ‘Experts’ generally agree that basic versions do the same job as high-end brands.

Cleaning products


• Dishwasher tablets, because cheap ones leave residue and don’t tackle grease well

• Fabric softener – if you’re the type that likes your linen baby-soft, high-end brands contain the ingredients you need.

• Stain remover – quality brands will care for fabrics and remove stains more efficiently than basic versions.

• Bin bags, because who wants to be cleaning up the puddle of bin goo that easily-torn cheapy bags result in? 


• Washing up liquid – if you’re doing your dishes by hand, results are all to do with man power, not how expensive the soap is.

• Laundry detergent – if you only need to freshen your clothes and remove basic stains, cheaper brands work just as well as expensive ones.

• Bleach – bleach is pretty much a product unto itself, with few added chemicals or ingredients, so cheap is just as cheerful.

• Antibacterial wipes, which are a quick, convenient and cheap cleaning Godsend.

Toiletries and makeup


• A good toothbrush, which is a sound investment in the future health of your gnashers.

• Decent dental floss, which won’t fray and aggravate your gums. • Facial moisturiser with a high SPF – your future youthful-looking self will thank you.

• Eye makeup remover – if you’re going to rub at the delicate skin around your eyes every night, make sure you use a high-quality product to protect the area as you do so.

• Foundation, as the colours are more natural looking and hi-tech formulas are kinder to skin.

 • Eye shadows – decent brands will give long-lasting, crease-free coverage.

• Tweezers – a good pair will grip on to even the tiniest hairs and last for years.

• Lipstick – worth forking out for a good brand that lasts and doesn’t dry delicate lips.

• Perfume / cologne – cheaper versions tend to smell like talcum powder and wear off quickly. • Razor blades – a no-brainer. Cheap blades rip up your skin and don’t last long.


• Toothpaste – the important thing is that you’re brushing your teeth properly and regularly, but if you have specific requirements (sensitive teeth, for example) you might need to spend a little more.

• Shampoo and conditioner – providing you use the right product for your hair type, they needn’t be expensive.

• Shower gel – cheaper versions do just as good a job of washing the day away as dearer brands.

• Body lotions, which are designed as standard to offer moisturising properties.

• Hair spray, where in some cases cheaper brands prove more effective at taming unruly barnets than expensive versions.

• Eyeliner pencils, which are made of wax or kohl, and are all much of a muchness.

• Mascara – beauty boffs reckon cheap versions do just as good a job as premium brands, although you may need more coats and a little help from the curlers.

• Lip gloss – which doesn’t last long anyway, and shade trends change frequently.


The good news here is that nowadays even cheap appliances are up to scratch, so in most cases you can get away with tightening the purse strings.


 • Kettles, because you’ll save money in the long-run with an energy efficient model (and no-one wants to hang around waiting for a cup of tea).

• Toasters – again, are a huge energy drain. A decent model will put pay to that, as well as provide highly-coveted, evenly-browned toast.


• Fridges – everyday brands have stepped up in quality and appearance, so a bog-standard model will fare you just as well as top-of-the-range.

• Microwaves – most models on the market are made by the same Chinese company, so functionality across the board is pretty similar.

 • Food processors – more expensive models have more powerful motors, but unless you’re working in a restaurant kitchen, do you really need to pay extra for that?

• TVs – LCD and flat-screen plasma TVs offer similar quality regardless of price. The difference now is resolution, which is only a big deal for TVs bigger than 50 inches. So unless you’re going large, don’t bother forking out megabucks.

 • Cables – frequently flogged at extraordinarily high prices, there’s absolutely no need to shell out for cables. Budget options more than suffice.

Other miscellaneous items


• Car seats for kids – don’t cut corners with safety.

 • Wardrobe staples like coats, good shirts and shoes – quality will last.

• Kitchen knives, which will last a lifetime if properly cared for.

• A decent mattress and bedding – we spend one third of our lives asleep, so make sure it’s a comfortable experience.


•Ultra-fashion clothing – if you’re going to look ridiculous in it this time next month, don’t drop serious cash on it.

• Kitchen crockery, because it just gets broken anyway. Many shops offer really cheap items in inoffensive styles and colours.

• Pet food – unless your animal chum needs a specific diet, they’ll be just as happy with cheapo chow.