Where Not To Go Cheap

 The following guest post was written by Jacob from My Personal Finance Journey as part of a “Yakezie blog swap” where members of the Yakezie Personal Finance Blogging Network pair up and exchange guest postings on a common topic. The topic of this blog swap was to discuss a certain thing or category of things that we absolutely refuse to go cheap on in our lives. Also please make sure to go to My Personal Finance Journey and chek out my post “Stop Being Cheap and Invest In Yourself.”

This article was featured in the following carnivals:

Yakezie Carnival at Prairie Eco Thrifter
Totally Money at Totally Money
Carnival of Financial Planning at Good Financial Cents
Personal Finance Whiz Round Up at Personal Finance Whiz 

When the host of this month’s blog swap (Jon from Free Money Wisdom) introduced the common topic as describing an area of our personal finances that we refuse to be cheap about, I have to admit that I was somewhat intrigued.   

Why is this, you might be asking? Well, if you’re somewhat familiar with the personal finance blogosphere, you probably know that the topics of frugality and saving money are widely popular. They are so popular, in fact, that you might even be hard pressed to look through your blog reader and NOT see a post titled something along the lines of “How I saved $1000 on a vacation” or “7 ways to save money this winter.”   

Now, there is of course good reason why these types of posts are so prevalent, as people are looking to personal finance blogs for ideas for how they can squeeze a few more Dollars of savings out of their monthly needs in the difficult economic climate. And, I can’t say that I blame them at all!   

However, it is fascinating to hear the opposite of the frugal-to-death approach to life, do a little soul-searching, and find out where we each draw the line as far as how cheap we go with specific items.  

For me personally, I refuse to go cheap on 1) buying sports equipment that will help me to compete better in cycling and running races and 2) buying equipment that enables me to exercise without (or with minimal) pain.   

I Never Go Cheap on Competitive Sports Equipment and Expenses  

For me personally, there are three life values (“life pillars,” if you will) that I need in order to feel as if I am leading a fulfilling life. These are as follows: 1) health/exercise, 2) time with family or friends, and 3) contributing to society and making a difference. As such, each of these values holds a very high priority in my life, and I always strive to do the best I can in each of them.   

One of my favorite ways to go about achieving the health and exercise life value is through competition in long-distance endurance sports such as cycling (which I used to do quite a bit but don’t anymore due to bio-mechanical issues) or half marathon running races. Essentially, anything that involves going up mountains for multiple-hour periods, I’m there!

 Since I strive to do the best I can in these races, I am willing to spend extra money (if needed) to buy equipment, travel to races, and enter races that will enable me to achieve peak performance. Listed below are some various expenses and pieces of equipment I’ve purchased over the years that have enabled me to achieve peak performance in both cycling and running races. I’ve also included the price so that you can see that by no means did I SAVE any money by purchasing these items.

  Running and Cycling Race Equipment/Expenses I’ve Purchased Over the Years (the Non-Cheap Variety)  

 Cycling Purchases – 2001-2006

    • Road racing bike (multiple purchases) – > $4,000.
    • Biking shoes – $300.
    • Biking pedals and cleats – $150.
    • PowerTap power meter and training tool – $1,200.
    • Biking helmet – $200.
    • Biking clothes – $500 or more total – an ongoing expense because things wear out periodically.
    • Aerodynamic time trial wheels – $1,200.
    • Heart rate monitor – $200.
    • Car bike rack – $400.
    • Cycling training camp in Texas – $600-$800 per year.
    • Race entry fees – Average of $50 each for > 20 races per year.
    • Travel to races + hotel fees – A lot. I don’t even want to guess!

 Running Purchases – 2008-Present

    • Race entry fees – $70-$120 per race for half marathon road and trail running races.
    • Garmin ForeRunner GPS and heart rate monitor watch – $150.
    • CamelBack hydration pack (for trail running races and training) – $100.
    • Technical material (self-wicking) socks, t-shirts, and shorts – $200 – variable.

  Wow! Seeing all of these various expenses listed out like this really reveals 1) how expensive the sport of cycling is and 2) how much cheaper it is to do running than cycling!

 I Never Go Cheap in Order to Exercise Pain Free

 As I mentioned above, I used to compete quite frequently in long-distance cycling races (I made it to being a Category 2 racer before I had to stop racing). However, in the 2004-2005 time frame, I developed some bio-mechanical issues that started causing knee and Achilles tendon pain while running or cycling.

 Ultimately, these bio-mechanical issues (flat feet and a slightly curved back) forced me to have to scale back my cycling activities to recreation-only levels, but I still am able to compete in running races, which surprisingly only minimally cause pain after long races. Throughout the process of trying to correct these defects and even today in my training, there is not much I wouldn’t do or spend to be able to exercise pain free.  

 Listed below are the various treatments and products I’ve bought over the years to keep me “on the exercise pain-free train.” Again, I’ve listed the prices to illustrate that exercising pain free has not been, in itself, FREE.  

 To treat/cope with my flat feet….

    • Special ultra-arch-supportive running shoes – $130 – multiple pairs in order to find the right fit.
    • Custom molded orthotic shoe inserts for my running shoes – $500
    • Custom molded orthotic shoe inserts for my cycling shoes – $300
  • To treat/cope with my slightly curved back causing misalignment in my bike position…
    • Laser-assisted bike fit session in Boulder, Colorado with one of the world’s experts on bike fitting – ~$600 + plane travel to and from.


All-in-all, I think it’s great that so many bloggers in the personal finance blogosphere are writing about creative ways to live cheaply and save money these days. However, it is an interesting change of pace to take a step back and think about where I draw the line about being cheap/frugal. This is especially true for me since living in a frugal manner and having a savings-mindset are so deeply incorporated in to my way of life, so much so that I sometimes take it for granted. 

 Lastly, I think it’s important to point out that it’s perfectly OK for people to have things in which they indulge themselves (i.e. not be cheap). However, the key to working these specific indulgences in to a financially successful life is to balance them with other areas where you SAVE money. Having this balance, as is the case in so many other areas of life, is crucial to success.   

PS / Note from Jacob – One of the many things that I love about personal finance blogging is that finances penetrate in to a person’s life on so many levels, and these many levels are revealed in the blog posts that are written. For example, by simply reading my guest post above about an area I refuse to go cheap on, you’ve learned 1) about my intimate life values, 2) about the competitive sports I’ve participated in throughout my 26 year life, and 3) the Achilles tendon and knee injuries I’ve had that affected my life values. Amazing, is it not?! In this way, personal finance blogging can often be more about life in general than simply about optimizing your finances! End deep philosophical thoughts of the day… 

 How about you all? What areas of your personal finances do you simply refuse to go cheap on? Why do you feel this way about these specific areas?  

 Share your experiences by commenting below!  

***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecastro/3053916892/sizes/l/in/photostream/


20 thoughts on “Where Not To Go Cheap”

  1. I liked the post and have to admit to feeling simiar about my running – except I am not buying a Garmin (for some reason never fancied one). But I absolutely love the post – it speaks about not scrimping on one’s education.

    1. I am a runnner myself and I would never settle for cheap running shoes. I had one pair before and it hurt my knee. I am not big of Garmin either.

  2. I’m a newbie runner and I did settle for cheap running shoes (super cheap) while training for my last race and paid for it with foot pain. Lesson learned. Thanks for the post.

  3. I’ve vowed to not go cheap on my auto anymore. Well, at least not super cheap. I had clunkers for years, and while my payments were low to zero, I was spending more than I would for a car payment in repairs every month. That’s not to say I drive a Maserati 🙂 Great post!

    1. Yes, cars is one thing that I refuse to go cheap too. A long time ago we did go cheap on a car, and I think we spent more money fixing it up every three months than it actually was worth. We were so happy to finally get rid of it. No more cheap cars, we said. Especially no more Kia! 🙂

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  5. My husband and I used to both work for the company that makes the premier bicycle ergonometer for indoor training (mostly used by triatheletes). It was up to 5 times more expensive than its competition, and yet, my husband (who worked in the sales department) was constantly getting calls from people who were upgrading or just refused to settle for anything other than the best. When you’re competitive in sports, the right equipment is generally worth so much more than the price you pay for it.

    1. This is so true. I think when you are competing in sports the only thing that matters is your results and not the price.

  6. Shoes are DEFINITELY something I’ve learned not to buy on the cheap. I have bought more than a couple of pair that were great deals that I soon regretted. The last pair I bought was the most money I’ve ever spent on shoes, but they worked so well that I am already planning on their replacement.

    The horrible part about the shoes that I did regret buying, is that in many cases they were the ‘next version’ of shoes that I’d purchased in the past, so I figured I was getting the same shoe only better. Which wasn’t true at all. Nike and New Balance definitely both went with inferior products as they replaced shoes, so ALWAYS, ALWAYS make sure your shoes are good for you, even if you think they’re the ‘same’ as what you’ve had in the past.

    1. This is so true! Great advice. Most of the time “next version” doesn’t work out as well as the previous one.

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  11. I agree! Most of the cheap products can easily be broken so why settle for a cheap if you think it can double your expenses. On the other hand, there are also lots cheap products and useful. I therefore conclude to be a wise buyer. Thanks for sharing this information!

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