Navigating the “Price v. Quality” Road: Part II

Last week, I touched base on how to differentiate between spending a hefty penny or, well, a penny on our college purchases. Considering the amount of gray area surrounding the price vs. quality alignment, we may think: which items are worth breaking the bank versus shoving out a couple bucks at Wal-Mart?

Photo courtesy of funcheaporfree.com

With the Wake Forest cost of education projected to be over $60,000 starting in the fall (thank God I’m dodging that bullet come graduation), buying higher-priced or higher-quality items may no longer be a legitimate consideration for many students. However, as I’ve learned over the past four years of earning paychecks and spending money, certain items throughout your college career require a substantial investment while others don’t.

As I mentioned last week, expensive does not equate eminence. Hell, the priciest wine at restaurants is rarely the richest or smoothest. However, for argument’s sake, assume that these splurge items are high-price, high-quality goods. Here are some of the essentials and non-essentials to consider while deciding when to save and when to splurge:

Mattress Pad and Warm Blanket: SPLURGE. There’s no denying that the “Work Forest” lifestyle—caffeine, alcohol, raging, overwhelming workload, frequent all-nighters—cuts into both the quantity and quality of our sleep. Since college students average two hours less than the recommended sleep hours per night, we need to make improvements where we can. Purchasing a comfy mattress pad (such as a 2-inch memory foam) for our XL-twin bunks and a big cozy blanket may improve overall effectiveness of the few sleep hours you clock on a nightly basis.

Groceries: SAVE. Our dining services may arguably need further improvement, but if you have a meal plan, use it. Groceries should be merely bulk snack items for the room, unless you’re living in an apartment. If that’s the case, no need to buy everything fresh and organic when generic or frozen will do (i.e. since frozen vegetables are flash frozen, they are both cheaper and often contain more nutrients than fresh). Furthermore, your metabolism is in the best condition it will be than any other point in your life. You can afford to go cheap.

Foundation: SPLURGE. Ladies, if there’s any item in your makeup arsenal to go all out for, find the best foundation and concealer you can. Skin needs to be taken care of, and if your skin doesn’t look good, nothing else will, either. See a makeup consultant to have him or her match the perfect shade and consistency for your skin.

Skillet: SPLURGE. Of all the cooking items you may need in college, the skillet is perhaps the most resourceful, seeing as you can cook almost anything with one. Stainless steel works best, but whichever you choose, make sure it will last you through four years of college and into post-graduate life.

Gifts: SAVE. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a gift for someone to show your love and appreciation. Research psychologist Gary Chapman’s “Five Love Languages,” and you’ll see what I mean. Remember: it’s the thought that counts, not the price tag.

Dorm Furnishings: SAVE. Sure, dorm decoration pieces showcase your personality and taste, but it is not essential. Bargain shop for basic dorm room items (Wal-Mart and Target are your best friends, here).

“ABCD” Staple Pieces: SPLURGE. (A) Attire. Certain items simply must be higher end. (B) Business suit. First impressions are everything, especially with job interviews. Make sure you clean up well with a sharp, good quality suit. (C) Coat. A solid winter coat has the capability to last you years, even decades. No occasion is too formal or too casual for a knee-length, wool winter coat. (3) Dress. Versatility is your wardrobe’s greatest strength. Whether this is a casual flowery number or the classic little black dress, your staple dress should not only define your style and personality, but it should also last you years.

Shirts and Tops: SAVE. This is where places like Forever 21 shine. These items rely on current styles and trends. By the time you’ve gotten all the wear out of the top, the trend should have passed or evolved into something better. Therefore, don’t waste an obscene number of Benjamin’s on a shirt that’ll overstay its welcome once the trend passes within a few months to a year.

Luggage: SPLURGE. From mountain weekend to Posties at Myrtle Beach, studying abroad to spur-of-the-moment plane trips across the country, Wake students like to travel. Pick up a solid carry-on piece of luggage or luggage set that’ll withstand over-packing and years of abuse.

Shoes: SPLURGE and SAVE. As an avid runner, the one part of my body I believe in taking care of the most is my feet. They take you everywhere; treat them with respect by putting only the best shoes on them. However, you don’t need a Carrie Bradshaw-caliber collection. Find only a couple pairs flats, sandals, athletic shoes, and heels, and one or two pairs of boots that will go with everything.