Things You Should Spend Money On
When decorating your own home, just like many other things, it’s easy to go over budget and spend all the money you have (or the money you don’t even have!) on the absolute best.
On the contrary, it’s also very easy to go with the bare minimum … just buy the cheapest plastic thing that you need and happen to fit the space. This is something I’m totally against at, because our family invites a lot of guests and throws a lot of dinner. The house must look tasteful and coordinated, even if we don’t spend top dollars on it.
On certain things, I do believe we should spend the best that we can afford (we can afford being the key here 🙂 ). On other things, if not most things, we just have to learn to compromise.
What are these “things” we consider important? Here we go:
The Important Stuff
1. Quality workmanship. We have learned to only work with reputable contractors by fair tender, only choosing those who have worked on projects that we have personally observed and confirmed to be five-star quality. Crappy workmanship leaves you with doors that don’t latch close, shower floors that don’t drain, ceilings that are full of brush marks, etc., etc. These will give you a lot of grief if you just leave them like that, or cost you way more money on repair and maintenance in the future. Just invest on doing it right the first time, or not do it at all!
Is the more expensive contractor a better one? In Singapore, generally speaking, YES. But to make sure you’re not simply getting ripped off, you should tender your renovation to at least three different contractors – with very clear job scope and list of materials, so they all come back to you with apple-to-apple quotation.
2. Mattress. Buy the best mattress you can afford. Test them by lying down on each mattress, get your partner or friend to see if the mattress supports your spine well while lying down on your back and on your side. Make sure the manufacturer gives you long-term warranty for the spring mattress (usually it comes with a minimum of 10-year warranty). A good spring mattress should last you at least 10 years, if not a lifetime, better than buying a cheap mattress every few years.
However, note that the best mattress doesn’t have to be the most expensive. My individual pocketed spring mattress with pillow top on both sides cost no more than $1000 (it’s Airland, by the way 🙂 This mattress supports my spine really well, which is super important for me who has a history of back and shoulder pain. As much as I like the quality of five star hotels’ mattress, I always miss coming back to my own mattress 🙂
3. Sofa. We spend most of our family time on this sofa, so it has to be big enough for the three of us (plus a few guests, occasionally) to sit comfortably. It has to help us sit upright and give us firm back support (because of my back pain), and yet be comfortable enough to take a nap on. It has to be easy to clean … after all we occasionally spill drinks and crumbs on it.
Again, the best sofa may not be the most expensive. In a country where people generally think that a great sofa cost no less than S$5,000, we have used the same $1,400 sofa for five years. The sofa still looks new – no stain, no discoloration, the foam as good as new.
4. Lighting. Lighting is essential to support our functions in the house as well to create ambience, so invest on good lighting installation, preferably energy-saving, before you move in. Once you move in, you won’t bother changing them because it’s a hassle.
We currently live in a rented apartment where the landlord puts light fixtures right where the cable is…. a big difference to our previous apartment which has dimmer switches in the living room and bedroom, on-the-counter lighting in the kitchen so that I never have to slice vegetables with my back blocking the overhead light, and strip lights over each bathroom mirror so it’s easy for people to put on make up and shave.
Again, this doesn’t mean go buy $1000 fixture for every corner of the house. In our previous home, our halogen downlight cost just some $20-30 each during a sale, and it has served us in a similar manner as the $200-300 ones 🙂 Now we decided to go all energy-saving, using only low-wattage CFL or LED. No halogen. Costs more per bulb, but no halogen heat and less electricity cost … it pays off in the long term.
5. Dining set. This is another focal point for family activities, so the chairs have to be comfortable so people don’t rush to leave after they finish eating. It has to be easy to clean, durable, low maintenance, and appetizing. Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. To us, it means chairs with high back support, no fabric cushion so we don’t need to clean, no arm rests. The table should sit 6-8 people, is sturdy, and easy to clean.