Saving money and taking frugality to the extreme are some of the major themes of Punny Money. You’ve seen some pretty crazy tips over the years here: going without underwear, spoiling the secret of a baby’s gender, and eating a small country’s worth of food at buffets. But not everything in life should be seen as a financial obstacle to be tackled as cheaply as possible. Here’s a look at some of those important moments in life when it’s not always best to go the cut-rate route.
- Driving school. I was sent to the cheapest driving school in the area, and I got what was paid for. The instructor acted like he got his own driver’s license in a cereal box, and the school never taught us some important things like three-point turning and obeying stop signs. Fortunately Maryland requires a ton of behind-the-wheel training that made up for the school’s lacking curriculum, but I’m sure plenty of teenagers never learned to drive properly because their parents wouldn’t shell out an extra hundred bucks for a decent driving education.
- Wedding… parts of it, at least. There are countless ways to save money on your wedding—elope, tone down on the decorations, don’t invite third cousins you’ve never met. But before you go with the cheapest photographer, videographer, DJ, and other wedding service providers you can find, consider that there’s probably a reason why they cost half as much as all the other guys. So unless you’re happy with 500 out-of-focus photos and a DJ who drinks your open bar dry, talk to family and friends and try to find somebody they recommend for your wedding-day vendors.
- Moving. You know those moving vans you see on the highway that advertise something like “flat-rate moving” or “move your whole house for $399?” Yeah, if you’re lucky, they’ll just break half your stuff. Many of those movers are really scammers or staffed by inexperienced, part-time workers. If you want your stuff to join you at your new home in one piece, spend some time on researching local packers and haulers, and invest some money in a quality move team.
- Starting a new job. Beginning a new position or switching careers could mean that you’ll have to make some pricey changes to your lifestyle. A new job may require laying out some funds for a new wardrobe, a fancy briefcase, or other items you need for your move up the corporate ladder. While there are deals to be found on business dress, you may want to invest in quality merchandise that will last you a long time rather than thrift store rejects that’ll fall apart with frequent use.
- Retirement. Bringing your career to a close and settling in for a long, happy retirement is not cheap. If you’re 65 and planning to live for another 30 or 40 years without working, you better have a million dollars stashed away in safe locations. And hopefully you didn’t trust your life savings to some cheapo accountant who takes your money for a wild ride. Otherwise, you could find yourself filling out job applications with one hand and placing bingo markers with the other.
So before embarking on these big adventures, do your homework, talk to people you know for referrals, and try to find a happy balance between quality and price.