Sometimes, when you start living a frugal lifestyle, the focus starts to revolve around cost — and cost alone. However, cheaper isn’t always better. Cheap isn’t the same as frugal, and when you don’t know the difference, it can mean problems down the road.

Pay Attention to Quality

One of the big problems comes when you are so focused on price that you forget to think about quality. These are the times that you truly do get what you pay for. Getting something cheap can sometimes mean that it breaks sooner and you have to buy more of the item. In some cases, being cheap can be more expensive in the long run because you are constantly replacing poor quality items. If you buy something high quality, it might last you much longer — saving you money over time.

Consider the items that you use most often in your daily life. These are items that you might want to spend more on so that they last longer. I don’t worry about getting an expensive blender because I don’t use it that often. A cheaper model will do. However, I do use my saucepan quite a bit. I spent much more on a high-quality saucepan that will last me for several years.

From cars to furniture to clothing, think about the quality of your purchases. In some cases, it’s a better value to pay a little more up front for high-quality items that will last longer and provide you with peace of mind.

Experience and Peace of Mind Matter

Sometimes, cheaper isn’t better when it comes to experience and peace of mind. We regularly have a car service bring us to the airport when we travel. The great thing about the car service is that we don’t have to drive ourselves and then try to find parking. We are dropped off at the curb at the airport. I often use the valet parking garage at the downtown train station when I go into Philadelphia. Do I pay more? Yes. But I also don’t spend a large chunk of time looking for parking and worrying about what will happen to my car in the meantime.

When possible, I also like to travel at more convenient times because it reduces stress. I don’t have to get up early or catch a red-eye. It’s much easier to travel, especially when I have my son with me, when I pay a little extra for a time that works better for me.

Of course, this approach comes with its tradeoffs, and I’m not always willing to pay the extra. If I have to pay $50 extra to avoid leaving at a time I find inconvenient and uncomfortable, I will do that. To me, the cheaper flight isn’t better if it adds too much stress. However, since I’ve moved, I’ve discovered that sometimes it makes sense to go with cheaper. When the difference is $200 or $300 per plane ticket to fly the red-eye, I’m willing to put up with the inconvenience.

Peace of mind is another consideration. My husband and I often paid for a more expensive babysitter for our son because we wanted the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the sitter can drive, and that he or she has First Aid training. Sure, one of the 12-year-old neighbor kids would be much cheaper, but it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. The fact that I was babysitting other people’s children when I was that age doesn’t really make me feel better, either.

Carefully consider what your time and your experiences are worth, as well as the cost of peace of mind. You might discover that, in the long run, skimping on cost isn’t the best option. Going cheap might actually cost you more — and cost in something other than money — in the long run.

Have you procrastinated on your taxes too long this year? This is the longest I’ve ever waited to complete my tax paperwork. Part of it has to do with the fact that I moved across the country, and I have a lot more paperwork to do. Since we moved partway through the year, we’ll have to pay taxes in two different states, and pay our federal taxes.

If you are looking at your timeline and realizing that you need to get your taxes together, here are some tips for getting your taxes done last-minute:

Make an Appointment

Now is the time to make an appointment with a tax professional. I have an accountant, and I’ve made my appointment with him. One of the great things about making an appointment is that it forces you to acknowledge a deadline. It might be difficult to get an appointment right now, but you can still squeeze in before tax day if you call around right now.

If you are concerned about cost, you can check to see if you qualify for VITA. This is a tax prep service offered to those with low incomes. You might also be able to find affordable help when you have your taxes prepared by a service like H&R Block or Liberty Tax. The reality is that having a professional help you double-check the documents you need to bring can be very helpful. Plus, that deadline means that you have incentive to get your documents organized and ready to go.

Block Out Time to Gather Documents

Put together a checklist of documents you expect to need to complete your tax forms. Then, block out time to get everything together. One of the great things about hiring someone else to prepare your tax return is that you don’t need to be particularly organized (although it can help). Just make sure you have everything on your checklist and take it in. Set aside two or three hours to look for what you need and gather it all up. Then you can bring it into a professional. When you are pressed for time, trying to desperately do everything last minutes has a great chance of ending in disaster.

Consider Last-Second Tax Breaks

Finally, don’t forget about last-second tax breaks. If you are eligible, you can still make HSA and Traditional IRA contributions for last year. It might help you lower your income and save you money on taxes if you can boost your last-second tax breaks. Consider it as you prepare to file your tax return.

Organize for Next Year

If you want to reduce your stress level this time of year, do yourself a favor and get more organized for next year. Set up a folder and put all of your documentation inside it immediately. Once you do this, you will have less worry about hunting for what you need. Also, take the time, after you get through tax time this year, to plan ahead. When you plan your deductions and credits in advance, it makes life easier, and you are less likely to leave money on the table.

Every year, The Knot analyzes the cost of a wedding, and in 2014 Americans spent an average of $31,213, according to CNN Money. Wedding costs are on the rise. Additionally, I suspect that the economic recovery is also inspiring a little more confidence in some couples to spend a little more money.

But would you be willing to spend more than $30,000 on your own wedding. When I married a little more than 14 years ago, my wedding cost a little more than $3,000. Even then, though, my wedding was less expensive than the “going rate” ($23,000). One of the reasons was the fact that my religion doesn’t charge for marriage services. The venue for the wedding cost nothing, nor did the venues for both of my receptions. Additionally, marriage officiators don’t accept money. Not even a tip under the table. That fact alone dramatically reduced the cost of my wedding.

My family and my husband’s family also did a lot of DIY planning for the wedding. My husband’s family had a potluck reception with every bringing homemade dishes. The reception put on by my family involved desert and light drinks, and my numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins helped out — much as I helped out at my own cousins’ wedding in previous years. My mom sewed my wedding dress, and my former band teacher brought his jazz trio to provide the music. Because of the great support system I had, and because I really don’t care for things to be fancy and overdone, the whole thing cost a small amount, especially when you consider that the cost included airplane tickets for family members that flew across the country.

Deciding What’s Most Important to You

Of course, a big wedding wasn’t important to my husband and me. We have other priorities. For some people, though, a big wedding is important. If a big wedding is important to you, and you are willing to spend the money, it makes sense to figure out what items are “must haves,” and what items you can live without.

This is especially true if you don’t have the capital on hand to pay for your wedding. You might have to look for ways to cut costs, or attempt to raise money in other ways, such as through loans or with the help of crowdfunding campaigns. Some couples even get sponsors for their weddings. There are a lot of options for paying for weddings without resorting to loans that require you to pay interest for years after you are actually married. Even with the prospect of interest, though, there are some couples who feel that a loan is worth it in order to have the “perfect” wedding day. It’s up to you to decide what you think is worth spending money on, and what you might be willing to give in order to make your dream wedding a reality.

In the end, it really is about your long-term goals, and what’s important to you and your partner. But before you decide to spend a large amount of money on a wedding, carefully consider your options, and what you want your big picture to look like.

My family now has a dental plan. It came as part of the benefits package associated with my husband’s job. Prior to this job, we had always paid for dental costs out of pocket because buying dental insurance didn’t make sense. The benefits package makes dental insurance a no-brainer now, though.

If you don’t have dental insurance, saving on dental costs can be elusive. Here are 4 ways you can save on dental costs if you aren’t using insurance:

1. Non-Insurance Dental Savings Plans

These plans can help you reduce the cost of procedures. You pay a lower cost, and you get access to discounts on procedures. Be careful, though: Not all dental savings plans are good deals. In some cases, you pay the fee, only to find out that what you thought was covered really isn’t. And you should realize that these savings plans aren’t insurance, so you still have plenty of out of pocket expenses.

2. Research and Negotiate

You should research costs for common dental-related procedures to get an idea of what things should cost. We have an orthodontics rider on our insurance since my son will doubtless need braces at some point. However, we will still probably have large out of pocket expenses. As a result, we are already considering options. FAIR Health is a site that can help you find the costs in your area for procedures, and give you information needed to negotiate.

Many dentists will give you a discount if you don’t have insurance. We routinely received a 10% discount on dental services back when we didn’t have insurance. Negotiate for procedures, and know your stuff.

3. Dental School

If you live near a dental school, you can check out the student work. Many students work under the supervision of a professional and you usually are worked on by the latest tools and equipment. The advantage is that you usually pay a much lower cost when you are willing to let students work on you. Realize, though, that appointments often need to be scheduled well in advance, and that there are limited spots, depending on the procedure you are hoping to have done.

4. Take Good Care of Your Mouth

Dentists regularly tell me I have great teeth and good oral hygiene. I’ve never had a cavity. When you take good care of your mouth, you a smaller chance of paying for expensive procedures. You can spend thousands of dollars on filling cavities, having root canals done, and replacing crowns. It’s much cheaper to just practice good oral hygiene now. I also took the precaution of having my son’s teeth sealed. Even though it cost a little bit more now, it is likely to help him fight off cavities and save us money in the long run.

Save Up for Dental Costs

We routinely saved up for dental costs. Our Health Savings Account was a geat help to us and can still be accessed for co-pays and deductibles. And, since we know that our son will likely need braces, we are preparing for that. Just as you need to look ahead to any other expense, you need to think about what’s coming in terms of dental procedures.

When it comes to paying off debt, we are told that we need to get rid of our debt as quickly as possible. However, sometimes we get so wrapped up in speed that we forget that our debt reduction needs to be manageable for the long term.

One of the problems with paying off debt quickly is that it doesn’t really allow for truly changing underlying financial habits — especially if you view everything you do to get rid of your debt as temporary. Research indicates that many people who pay off debt quickly find themselves back in debt again, simply because they feel like they have new freedom to spend.

In some cases, depending on your situation, slower debt reduction can make sense. The idea is to make your debt reduction manageable while you reform your other money habits. That way, when you pay off your debt, you have other financial practices in place to improve your situation.

Paying Off Debt Over Time

When reading stories of consumers who paid of tens of thousands of dollars of debt in less than a year, it can be tempting to think that you need to do that, too. However, that setup doesn’t mean success for everyone. While rapid debt pay down can be effective for some people, it doesn’t always work well for everyone. Here are some of the risks that come when you try extreme debt pay down:

  • Begin to feel deprived. After a while it weighs you down and you might not be able to keep with it. Even if you do manage to finish, there is a chance that you will overreact  and spend your way back into debt because of the freedom you feel — and your desire to “make up” for all the sacrifices you made.
  • Overwhelmed by debt plan: Another problem is that you might feel overwhelmed by the pacing. Sure, you might be able to keep up with the frantic pace for three or four months. But after awhile, it is easy to become overwhelmed, feel like a failure when you can’t manage it one month, and give up altogether.
  • So much focus on debt that other aspects of finances are neglected: Finally, there is the chance that you will focus so much on debt pay down that other aspects of your finances are neglected. You might not have an emergency fund, so a setback could mean more debt.

Yes, you want to get rid of debt. However, sometimes a measured approach is best. Be realistic about what you can use for debt repayment. Additionally, make sure you have some sort of emergency cash cushion so you don’t have to fall back on your credit cards if you need a car repair or some other unexpected expense comes up. If you make steady progress, you will also have the chance to fix the underlying problems that caused your debt in the first place.

Changing your money habits over time so that they become part of your lifestyle is essential if you want to maintain success after you pay off your debt.

I’m a huge fan of investing. I think it’s one of the best ways to build wealth over time. Consistent investing can be a good way to create a successful retirement. Even if you start small and build up, you can make good progress with your finances and your future when you invest.

My husband and I started investing in my retirement eight or nine years ago. We started out by investing $100 a month. It was all we thought we could afford to invest, so that’s what we did. Over time, as we began to earn more and our situation improved, we began investing more and more. Now we invest closer to $600 a month, with my husband’s employer offering us even more, since there is a match.

There are plenty of folks who like the idea of setting aside money, but they do so in a savings account because it’s considered “safer” than investing. However, you might not be able to build the wealth you need — no matter how much you set aside each month — if you just focus on saving.

Saving vs. Investing

One of the cool tools you can use to see the difference between saving and investing is the Wealth Calculator from Stocks for the Week. Say you could set aside $500 a month. If you did this for 20 years, the calculator shows you that you can expect to end up with $246,637. That’s not nearly enough to retire on — and this makes the assumption that you are going to earn 2% APY on your money. But what if you put half of it in savings and invested the other half? The Wealth Calculator

But what if you put half of it in savings and invested the other half in stocks? The Wealth Calculator assumes that this setup would net you about 6% of annualized return. After 30 years you would have $501,893. For the very careful retiree, it might be possible to survive on this money, as long as you kept working part-time for the first decade or so of retirement, and you lived very frugally.

Finally, what if you invested all of your $500 a month in stocks? After 30 years, you would wind up with $1,119,796 according to the Stocks for the Week calculator. If you believe the 4% rule, that’s enough for you to get about $44,791.84 per year to live on, and there is a good chance you will outlive your money. Not bad. For many retirees who choose to retire in a low-cost area, that’s enough to live comfortably, and even travel a little bit.

Of course, the calculator just gives you a rough idea of what to expect. It doesn’t take into account inflation, and it operates on assumptions of long-term performance, since the actual performance of the market varies according to conditions.

The point of the illustration is to help you figure out how much you should set aside, and to help you see how investing in stocks — even if you invest between 50% and 75% of your contributions in stocks — can help you build wealth at a faster pace. With this kind of planning, you can prepare for a financial freedom.

We spend a lot of time disparaging millennials. I know that, as a “mature” and “thoughtful” member of Gen X, sometimes I shake my head at members of Gen Y. However, just because we give millennials a hard time it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn something from them. In fact, according to David R. Smith, with Kaiku Finance, millennial strategies for spending less every day can benefit the rest of us.

Creative Cost of Living

Cost of living can be one of the biggest drains on your finances. If you want cheaper living, you can employ some of the strategies that Smith says millennials focus on. “They create and share life hacks to lower their utility bills, stretch their grocery budgets, and more,” he says.

These life hacks might be seemingly small changes to living, such as getting a programmable thermostat or using online coupons to save on groceries, in order to watch the small savings add up to bigger savings over time. Many millennials are more aware of how their actions can lead to greater costs, and are willing to make changes to their lifestyles in order to reduce the cost of living.

“Millennials are also more likely to be renters who use public and alternative transportation, such as bikes, to avoid the burdens of mortgages and high car payments,” Smith says. Being able to look around the community and look for alternatives to high-cost modes of transportation, as well as getting creative with housing costs by living with roommates or taking on lodgers, can be ways to reduce your cost of living.

How Much Stuff Do You Need?

One of the things that Smith points out that really resonates with me is the idea that many in Gen Y aren’t as interested in stuff as some of those of us in previous generations. “Millennials tend to value community, simplicity, and experiences above work and material possessions,” he says.

To some extent, I can see how that can help you reduce your expenses every day. If you aren’t worried about how much stuff you have, you tend to spend less on things (saving money), and you don’t need large living spaces. Since downsizing to an apartment, I’ve seen this in my own life. We don’t need to spend as much money on taking care of our stuff, and we are also fortunate in that our new location offers us easy and inexpensive access to a number of cultural experiences. There’s a lot to see and do, and we don’t need to spend as much to be entertained.

The millennial strategies of living with a little more simplicity and relying more on alternative transport and arrangements can make a lot of sense for the rest of us. While I still think it’s a good idea to cultivate a regular source of income and work hard for it, I can see the value in a situation that allows you to choose your hours (after all, I’m a freelancer working from home).

What other lessons can we learn from millennials?

I love experiences. I’d rather go out to eat or attend a concert than buy a new TV or purchase some item for my home. I feel life is enriched by experiences. However, it’s not always cheap to enjoy experiences. When you want to attend sporting events or concerts, you can expect to pay a price.

The good news, though, is that there are ways to save money on concert and sports tickets. If you know where to go to get cheap tickets, you can reduce the overall cost of your excursion, and still have a great experience. Here are some of the places I like to go when looking for cheap tickets:

1. StubHub

One of my favorite places to look for tickets on the secondary market is StubHub. It’s possible to find deals on sports, concerts, theater, and more. I’ve bought tickets to see comedians through StubHub, but I’m most likely to get sports tickets this way. You can usually have the tickets delivered electronically, although in some cases you need to have hard copy tickets sent to you.

I also like that there is a loyalty rewards program with StubHub. The last time I bought tickets, I ended up saving an extra $50 because of my rewards.

2. Flash Seats

Flash Seats is great because there is no paper involved. You can swipe an electronic ID (such as a credit card) at the gate to get your seats. It’s also very easy to transfer your seats to others, and get reasonably-priced seats that are guaranteed. It was a little strange to get used to the way Flash Seats does things, but if your venue uses the service, it can be worth learning the ropes. You can get access to concerts, sports, and more. Search by your favorite team, or by location, to find the event you’re looking for.

3. Vivid Seats

One of the cool things about Vivid Seats is that it’s possible to combine your sports, concert, or theater tickets with travel and hospitality packages. This means that you can get transportation, VIP access, and customized add-ons for different events. You can even put together party packages and corporate group events with the help of Vivid Seats, which includes road trips and even luxury tailgates and field passes. You’ll pay more for some of these experiences, but it makes it easy to really have the experience of a lifetime.

4. SeatGeek

If you are looking for tickets to an event, SeatGeek can help. It allows you to search for tickets for sporting and music events, and more. It’s an aggregator that allows you to compare ticket prices from around the web. It includes interactive seating charts, so you know exactly where you will be. Another great feature of SeatGeek is the fact that you can see when something is a great deal. A green dot indicates that you are getting an amazing deal. SeatGeek makes it easy to see where you will sit, and access great deals from around the web — from one easy website.

One of the ways that you can reduce your overall costs in life is to improve your health. Cutting your health care costs is often a matter of comparison shopping and engaging in healthier habits. Unfortunately, according to information reported by LabDoor, resolutions for health habits are the ones we are most likely to break.

What are the Most Common Resolutions?

The most common resolutions, according to LabDoor, are:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Get organized
  3. Spend less and save more
  4. Enjoy life
  5. Stay fit and healthy

It’s no surprise that these items are among the most popular resolutions every year. After all, they are what many of us would like to improve on in our own lives. However, actually following through with these resolutions is easier said than done.

As a result, the most common resolutions that we break are:

  • Eat healthier
  • Lose weight
  • Minimize stress

These are health resolutions that can help us live better, true, but also help us save money. Many of the actions that we take in order to eat better, lose weight, and minimize stress can also save us money. Plus, there are savings that come with needing fewer health care services.

Unfortunately, it’s now February, and for many of us the excitement of setting resolutions has passed. In fact, “real life” might have set in and put us in a position where we feel like we’ve failed in our goals.

While you might have gotten off track, it’s important not to view yourself as a failure. Instead, realize that you are a work in progress. Just because you’ve had a setback it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to eventually reach your goals. Don’t wait for another year to start to make new resolutions; get back on track right now.

How to Reset Your Health Resolutions

First of all, don’t fall into the trap of believing that you can’t improve once you’ve “failed” on a goal. It’s not like you can’t start all over again. Think in terms of ongoing progress. That way, you can measure how far you’ve come, rather than getting hung up on the fact that you “slipped up.”

Next, evaluate your goals. Why do you want to achieve them? I want to lose weight and eat healthier because I know that I’ll feel better and have more energy. Plus, the exercise will improve my mood so that I have better relationships with my son and husband. Finding reasons to encourage changing for the better can help you stick with it, and be motivated to keep moving forward.

Finally, take baby steps. You don’t need to lose 10 pounds by next month to be successful. Instead, make small and achievable changes in your every day life that will result in lost weight by the end of the year. Step up your efforts. Say you’ll exercise 10 minutes a day for two weeks before stepping up to 15 minutes, and then to 20, and so on. Most of us can’t just add exercise to the daily routine without stepping up slowly. And that’s true of most things, whether it’s healthier eating or adding meditation to reduce stress.

Once you are realistic about your expectations, and you decide to press forward now, you’ll be more likely to get back on track.

Now that it’s a new year, it’s time to think about your tax bill, and whether or not you are ready to pay it. You might be surprised at how many people are unprepared to pay their taxes when their bills come due. As you get ready for this year, it’s time to prepare for your tax bill.

How Much Do You Owe?

One of the best things you can do is figure out your taxes as early as possible. Many of us, especially if we know that we will owe, prefer to wait for as long as possible before figuring taxes. It feels like it’s too painful. However, if you don’t pay quarterly taxes, and if you don’t know where you stand, it makes sense to take the time to figure your taxes as early as possible.

You can do this by working out, roughly, what you owe with the information you have. You don’t need to file your tax return if you aren’t ready to, but you can still get a good idea of where you stand. Make it a point to estimate what you owe so that you are prepared. I like to bring my documents in to my accountant as early as possible so that I know what I face. Usually, even though I pay quarterly taxes, I still owe more — especially when it comes to state taxes. I want to know if there are steps I need to take to prepare ahead of time.

Start Preparing to Pay Your Taxes

Now is the time to start preparing to pay your taxes, if you owe. If you know that you will money on your taxes, it makes sense to consider your options so that you are prepared. If you owe a relatively small amount, you can prepare by setting aside a little bit of money each week so that when April 15 comes around, you will be prepared to pay what you owe.

Another strategy is to consider your payment plan options. The federal government offers a payment plan to taxpayers who can’t make their payments on time. Additionally, most states also offer payment plans. So, if you don’t think that you will be able to pay the entire amount, you can see if you are eligible for a payment plan. Be aware, though, that these are considered loans. You will be charged a fee, so you need to be ready for that. Additionally, in some cases you are considered in default if you miss a payment. Find out if there is an automatic withdrawal so that you don’t have to worry about missing a payment with your loan.

Then, for next year, set aside an amount of money each month to pay taxes. You can pay quarterly, as well as set aside money for your state tax bill so that when the time comes, you aren’t scrambling to get the money together for your tax payment. It’s never fun to owe money to the IRS, but it can be a little less stressful if you plan ahead, rather than be caught at the last minute.