The title of this post may surprise you since you know what penny-pinching cheapskates we can be sometimes. Nevertheless, as we discussed in our post “The Art of Having Your Cake and Eating It Too”, sometimes the most frugal thing to do is to buy quality even if it isn’t the cheapest in price. Along that vein of thinking, we bring you this post where we outline 5 items that you might be surprised to know that we own because they are typically expensive and might even be considered a luxury.
A few things before we get to the list. While these are high quality products that we love, we NEVER buy them at full price. We’ll share how we scored deals on these particular items, but you can also refer to our post, “The Art of Having Your Cake and Eating It Too” for a general breakdown of the mindset and technique to buy quality at affordable prices. Moreover, this probably isn’t an exhaustive list, just the things that I can think of right now. Perhaps we’ll come out with part two of this last down the road.
Our Expensive Stuff
1. Shark Vacuum
When we moved into our house (which we paid off in exactly 2 years, in case you haven’t heard our story), we needed a vacuum cleaner. We knew that we wanted a nice one that would work well and be reliable for a long time. We looked at the Dyson vacs and the Shark vacs, and determined that the Shark vacuums had as-good performance as the Dyson, but cost much less. The model we looked at was still $150 brand new, which was more than either of us had ever spent on a vacuum cleaner before. So we bought a $15 vacuum from the thrift store that was good enough to use for a little while, while we started hunting for deals. We eventually got the Shark we wanted for $70 as an open-box unit from Amazon (for free actually, cashing in Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks). We dropped our $15 vacuum back at the thrift store, and spent a total of $85 on vacuums in the end. Still lower than the $150 price if we had rushed and bought it full price initially. Two years on, and it still works like a charm. In fact, we use it to vacuum up my hair from the floor after my haircuts and it picks up the hair better than when we tried wiping it up on our hands and knees! Definitely a quality purchase that we would make again.
It looks like a blender, it does a lot of stuff that blenders do, but boy, it’s so much more than just a blender. I used to be among the skeptics of the Vitamix, thinking it to be just another kitchen appliance gimmick that’s marketed as being able to solve all of life’s problems. But after one quick whiz of a nice, thick, creamy fruit smoothie that’s the consistency of soft-serve ice cream, I became a true believer. The Vitamix is one of Deb’s most-used kitchen appliances, and it massively speeds up and improves the quality of the cooking.
So the Vitamix Professional Series 200 (the model that we own) goes for $479 today on their official website. However, shortly after our wedding, we spotted it at a small herbal shop for $389 brand new—which up to that time was the lowest price we’d EVER seen for a brand new model that has an adjustable speed knob and 64 oz. container (the only kind we would consider). We were so surprised we actually snapped a photo to prove we weren’t lying! (We got a cash gift for our wedding that was specially earmarked for a Vitamix, so technically this was given to us as a gift.)
So today, our Vitamix is still going strong, getting regular use, and best of all is still covered by the original 7-year warranty. If you’re in the market for one, you can get certified reconditioned Vitamixes with standard warranties for much lower than the MSRP.
To preempt the inevitable comments from Blendtec fanboys/fangirls, we’ve got nothing against Blendtec. We’re just representing what we’re rocking in our own kitchen right now. 🙂
3. Hustler FasTrak 52” Zero-turn Mower
I enjoy living on a 1-acre lot out in rural Tennessee, but I don’t enjoy maintaining that big yard. Especially during the summer, the grass grows so fast that it practically requires mowing round the clock! (I exaggerate, but sometimes twice a week.) In the past few years as a homeowner, I’ve continually tried to make the lawn care more cost and time-efficient. With my previous riding mower (a 42” conventional, steering wheel lawn tractor) taking me at least 3 hours to mow my entire lawn (before any trim work with the push mower or weed-eater), I was dying to figure out a way to reduce that time. If I mow just once a week for 7 months, that’s 84 hours spent on the mower! That’s three and a half 24-hour days! With the arrival of the baby, I knew I needed to free up more time, so we decided to upgrade to a larger-decked zero-turn mower.
The Hustler FasTrack 52” Zero-turn Mower that we got is actually a residential-sized, commercial-grade machine with a heavy-duty fabricated deck, heavy gauge construction, dual 6-gallon gas tanks (this thing holds nearly as much gas as my car), and practically no plastic anywhere. Even the grass chute by the discharge is made from metal (it’s usually rubber)! This machine is built like a tank and has gobs of power. After getting used to the lap bar operation, I can now cut my entire lawn in 1 hour 15 minutes. That cuts my estimated 84 hours of mowing per season down to “just” 35 hours. Even though it still feels crazy to think that I spend that much time bouncing around on a lawnmower each year, it is a MASSIVE savings in time. More than that, because the mowing goes so much faster, that means I have to run the motor less, reducing the amount of maintenance that’s required on it—resulting in further savings.
When it was brand new, my mower would have cost upwards of $6000, but I bought it used with only 250 hours of use on it for $2500 from a seller on Craigslist. Believe me, it took several months of soul-searching and prayer to spend this much money on a lawnmower. But in the end, figuring a savings of about 50 hours in mowing time each year, we decided that over time, this will be a worthwhile investment.
4. Greenworks 40V Yard Equipment
If you have a push lawnmower, you know that they can be quite annoying to operate sometimes. They can require quite a bit of maintenance to keep in good condition, with oil changes, burnt spark plugs, frayed belts, etc. Every so often there are also those lawnmowers that simply will not crank no matter how hard you yank on that cord! Well, I was familiar with all of these issues with push mowers, and since I’ve already got a riding mower to worry about and I’m trying my hardest to reduce the time and cost to maintain my yard, I decided to get a battery-operated push mower for the trim work around the yard. Specifically, the Greenworks Twin Force G-MAX 40V Li-Ion 20-Inch Cordless Lawnmower.
Imagine a lawnmower that uses no gas, no oil, no belts, requires no spark plugs, no tune-ups, no pull crank, no fumes, and operates with almost no noise. That’s exactly what this mower is. It sounds like a big fan when it’s on, and it turns on with just a push of a button. It’s got plenty of torque to cut through the tall grass, and I never have to worry about babying it back to life after a long winter in storage. The beauty of an electric motor! Of course, there are tradeoffs, and it all revolves around the batteries. While 40V has been plenty of power for all of my uses on my 1-acre property, a full battery will only run for about 30-45 minutes in mixed use and 20-30 minutes in heavy use. Fortunately, my particular model has two battery bays so it can run twice as long. Recharge times are a bit slow, however, at 45 minutes for the 2 Ah battery and 1.5 hours for the 4 Ah battery, but it’s worked out perfectly for me. Needless to say, since my solar panels more than pays for my electric bill, I essentially power my lawn equipment for free.
Since I was so impressed with Greenworks’ lawnmower, I also bought a small chainsaw and a weed-eater in the same family of products to take advantage of the interchangeable battery. The chainsaw and weed-eater were free after utilizing the Amazon gift cards redeemed from Swagbucks, and we bought the mower in like-new condition from a seller on Craigslist for $190 delivered, which was more than 50% off the MSRP at the time. (It’s listed for $351 on Amazon now.)
5. iPhones & Macs
Ah yes, so this is the part of the post where I admit that we’re Apple users then duck for cover from the Microsoft and Android fanboys. 🙂 I like to consider myself a well-informed and undeceived Apple user who can still acknowledge that Windows and Android devices are more affordable and just as capable as Apple devices. So as Crumb-savers, I’d be the first to testify that you would save more money by going the non-Apple route for most tech gizmos. Before you yank my crumb-saving credentials, here are just a few reasons why we’ve opted for the Apple way, even when it might seem to cost us more crumbs:
- Longevity. I’ve owned many computers throughout my life, and my first Mac (a 2007 MacBook Pro) had a longer useful life than all my previous Windows machines combined. (3 Windows computers between 2001-2007. All died a horrible death or just ground to unbearable slowness). I sold that perfectly operational 2007 MacBook Pro to a happy buyer just a few months ago for $100. That computer gave me 8 very productive years of heavy use, and is probably still going strong for whoever’s got it now. Not to mention, my original iPhone 3GS (the one that Deb recently upgraded from) still works perfectly. Get this. It’s outlived any of the dozens of “dumb” flip phones that I’ve owned in my life. Now that’s saying a lot.
- Apple Care. I’ve had relatively few problems with my Apple products in terms of defects, but the few times that I have, Apple has done right by me and fixed the problems for free even though one time the device wasn’t under warranty anymore! I can’t say that they would do this for everyone, but it sure gave me confidence in their products.
- Ease-of-Use. I remember a friend chastising another friend some time ago for allowing his PC to get so bogged down that it barely runs. “Just run this virus scan, run the malware checker, delete your cache, install this utility, and just do it every couple of weeks and you’ll be fine!” I recall him saying. Call me a technophobe, but I don’t want to have to remember to run half a dozen utilities all the time in order to keep my device running smoothly! I think of my phone and computer similarly as my lawn equipment. I want something that will allow me to do a quality job with as little time and maintenance as possible. Apple’s done that for me consistently. In fact, even my grandma can use an iPad! Seriously!
- We Like It. Yes, I’ve used Windows and Android products. Yes, I’ve used them quite a bit. And no, I’m not paid to advertise for Apple. I just like the Apple user experience better. No need to quote me all the specs or all the “who had what feature first” arguments. I know all that. This is a purely subjective evaluation for us, we admit it. But for us, Apple simply does the things we need better.
These are a few of our reasons for using Apple. We now own an iPhone each (you can check out our posts on how we get them on the cheap here: So I Just Bought 2 iPhones For 1/2 Off; Saving $320 on an iPhone 6 Plus with Swappa), and that’s it! I sold my personal Mac and currently use a work-issued MacBook Pro and iPad mini. So even though we opt to go the Apple route for our gizmos, we don’t buy every single Apple product ever invented either!
So here are 5 expensive things that we own. What are some quality products that you choose to buy, even if it isn’t the cheapest? Share with us below! (Just allow me a minute to get into my bunker before the Blendtec, Windows, and Android fans comes for my head.)