Rather than buying a cheap but clunky set of 12 knives, put that money toward one good chef’s knife, says Sam Goldbroch, a chef at the Chopping Block, a recreational cooking school in Chicago. A chef’s knife is the workhorse of the kitchen, and a high-quality one with a comfortable handle can make your cooking safer and speedier. Aside from an eight-inch chef’s knife, Goldbroch recommends every home cook have a bread knife and a paring knife. Keep blades in good condition by swapping stone or glass cutting boards for wood or plastic ones, and never use a chef’s knife to cut frozen foods, bones, or bread.
It may be tempting to snag that garage-sale bike helmet, but unless you’re absolutely certain of its provenance (and know it’s never been in even a minor accident), experts advise against doing so. You can’t always spot whether a helmet has been damaged, which means your secondhand find may not keep you or your kids safe. Instead, head to a bike shop. There’s no standard sizing when it comes to helmets, so try on a few options. Go with one that fits snugly, with the front edge no more than an inch or so above your eyebrows.
You’ll hold on to a few extra bucks by buying the cheapest gallons of paint, but that savings may be short-lived. When Consumer Reports ran some 3,000 tests on more than 130 paints, researchers found that the least expensive paint (which cost less than $20 a gallon) tended to require more coats to cover darker colors and did not weather as well as slightly pricier gallons. That doesn’t mean you need to max out your budget: Four of the five top-rated interior and exterior paints were hardware-store brands. Skip bargain paintbrushes too. Tug the bristles before you buy—they should feel tightly packed.
“I can’t stress enough how important diet is for pets,” says Amber Slaughter, DVM, a veterinarian at Medical District Veterinary Clinic at Illinois in Chicago. Springing for highquality eats helps your dog or cat stay healthy and may help stave off conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, and dental issues that require medication or pricey prescription diets. To figure out whether your pet’s kibble is up to snuff, zero in on protein, says Slaughter. Even the priciest brands tend to include corn or grain by-products, but you want to make sure meat is listed in the top three ingredients.
The best way to keep your car on the road as long as possible is to get regular oil changes at intervals recommended by your car’s manufacturer, says Jenni Newman, editor in chief of Cars.com. (Depending on the car, that could be every 7,500 or even every 10,000 miles. Peek at the owner’s manual for a mileage schedule.) When your mechanic suggests the pricier oil, don’t bristle at the perceived upsell. “Today’s finely tuned engines often require pricey synthetic motor oils,” says Newman. “Using the expensive stuff, when recommended by the automaker, may help your engine run longer.”