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Getting what you pay for

Name barEspecially lately, it's been tempting to by the cheapest version of what I need -- even though I've learned the hard way that whatever packaging tricks generic or low-cost iterations may play, it's definitely what's on the inside that counts.

That's the message of a Consumer Reports list out this week that ranked some of the best and worst products in a variety of categories. Some of the cheapest ones were often some of the worst.

Here's an example: They found that the best paper towels out there are Walgreens Ultra Quilted, which cost $2.50 per 100 square feet. The towels were absorbent and held up well in scrub tests. On the other hand, Earth Friendly Products "tore easily when scrubbing, held little water, and cost almost twice as much as the Walgreens brand."

If you're going to use more of the Earth Friendly towels to get the job done, presumably, that defeats the purpose of going green in the first place.

They liked Tide 2X Ultra with Color Clean Bleach Alternative, at about 32 cents per average load, which earned the top score for removing stains. Meanwhile, Xtra 2X Concentrated Lasting ScentSations Spring Sun Shine, at just 6 cents per average load, landed at the bottom of Consumer Reports Ratings.

You can see more of their results at consumerreports.org.

I used to be the person who bought the cheapest thing, always. In some arenas, I've never given buying name-brand or high-end products a thought. Toilet paper, garbage bags and milk would fit into this category. I occasionally treat myself to organic milk or soy milk, but only if I'm armed with a coupon. And I don't generate enough garbage to warrant buying bags with super special technology to mask odors or keep from breaking. (The commercials show people dragging tied bags of trash through the house, withstanding stairs, tiles and dogs. Does anyone really experience this?)Funny-pictures-you-have-very-cheap-legwarmers

Then a few years ago, finally comfortable with my salary and far enough out of college that claiming to be constantly broke became officially embarrassing, I started buying nicer clothes and shoes and household items. The result: I've hung onto clothes I really like for years and I'm less often donating something I bought on the cheap but wore sparingly because of a poor fit or an already unbound hem, missing buttons and such.

But I like the kind of laundry detergent, bath soap and yoga lessons I've been paying for, and I definitely notice when I pay less.

I broke my rule this week: I signed up for evening yoga classes at a high school near my house. They offer eight classes for $54 -- truly a bargain. And I sort of got what I paid for.

My first cut-rate yoga class was OK. I was on the floor of the school auditorium with about eight other human pretzels. The teacher was nice enough. But the class was a bit disjointed. We went from triangle to warrior two to downward dog with the teacher not always telling us what was coming next. I felt sorry for the woman next to me, who had never practiced yoga before.

But at eight classes for about the same price I'd pay for just three at the yoga studio I'm accustomed to, I am willing to overlook it, especially since I've already paid for the class. And not using whatever you buy is a waste of money no matter what.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 09:43 AM on April 7, 2010 in Cleaning , Coupons , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Facebook | Digg | del.icio.us | AIM



I agree that sometimes the price difference is warranted. I recently had a scare with some makeup when I realized that some of my cheaper brands contained parabens and other horrifying residues (mercury! lead! Ack!) I tossed them out and had no problem forking over the cash for something that comes with a clean record. Also, cheap soaps and detergents make me itch since I have very sensitive skin, so I buy the only brands I can use but follow the instructions to use LESS SOAP. It's amazing how your clothes and dishes can come out cleaner by using less, and you stretch your dollars even farther.

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You definetly notice your bank account climbing with small savings here and there. I look for coupns anytime I purchase something online.

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