Eight things you should never cheap out on

Have you ever bragged to a complete stranger about an amazing deal on a great pair of shoes? Do you feel angst at the thought of buying something at full retail price?
The joy brought on when getting a great bargain is undeniable. But according to ShopSmart, the shopping magazine published by Consumer Reports, there are some items that consumers shouldn’t skimp on.
“According to a new ShopSmart national poll, more than three-quarters of American women buy stuff they don’t need just because it’s on sale,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart.
Here are eight things that ShopSmart says are worth the price:
— Paint. Even though you can find a gallon of paint for as little as $11, cheaper paint will take several coats to cover a single wall, and it likely won’t hold up for an extended period of time.
— Gas grills. Look for features such as premium-quality burners, stainless-steel grates and heavy-duty construction. You should realistically expect to spend at least $150 for a quality product.
— Big-screen TVs. If you’re investing in a big-screen television — 50 inches or more — you’ll want to own it for a while. So go for as big a screen as you can afford from a reliable brand.
— Blu-ray players. Instead of replacing one cheap DVD player with another cheap DVD player, consider trading up to a Blu-ray player, which supplies true high definition to your high-definition TV.
— Fire protection. Aerosols such as First Alert Tundra are much cheaper than traditional fire extinguishers and may look as if they’re easier to use, but they’re a lot less effective as well — a true safety concern in the event of an emergency.
— Mattresses. Can you really afford not to get a good night’s rest? Don’t spend less than $800 for a queen-size set or you’ll
risk years of sleepless nights and all the effects associated with sleep deprivation.
— Grass seed. Inexpensive blends may contain a large percentage of weeds and annual grass seeds, which will die after one season. Spend more for the good stuff.
— Canister vacuums. Cheaper vacuums can be both ineffective and frustrating, so expect to spend around $200 and up for a quality product.
Top free-coupon sites
Coupons are like free money. ShopSmart recently rounded up its top free-coupon sites:
— Cellfire.com. It’s wonderfully simple: Type in your ZIP code, select the coupons you want to use, and enter your loyalty-card information for a particular grocery store, and the coupons are saved directly to your card. When you give the card to the cashier, the savings are instantly deducted from your bill and appear on your receipt.
— CouponCabin.com. Not only does the website have tons of online coupon codes; it is easy to navigate and amazingly sortable, allowing you to quickly find exactly what you want. It also carries exclusive coupons; the site claimed 1,543 of them during a recent visit.
— Coupons.com. This granddaddy of the printable grocery-coupon sites (it has been around for more than a decade) is almost ubiquitous. Start here for fantastic savings on groceries, makeup, chain restaurants and more.
— CouponSherpa.com. This site has tons of coupons of just about every type, including retail codes, printable coupons for in-store deals and manufacturer grocery savings.
— FreeShipping.org. Sometimes the shipping costs at a site can turn a great deal into a big waste of money. Use this site to wage war against exorbitant shipping charges. Search the retailer or category you’re interested in to find a coupon code to zero out shipping fees.

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