5 purchases you shouldn't skimp on

| Money Rates Columnist

Purchases you shouldn't skimp onIn a world packed with options for consumers, when does it make sense to put price aside and buy exactly what you want?

Placing cost in the back seat may seem ridiculous in today's competitive marketplace. But on certain purchases, getting precisely what you need is the only way to go. While it may not be wise to make extravagant choiceswhen buying the following items, trying too hard to save money on them may be an even bigger mistake.

These are five purchases you shouldn't skimp on.

Your mattress

Your mattressWhy shouldn't you skimp on a mattress? The average person sleeps 7.5 hours per night. The average mattress has a lifespan of more than 10 years. That means the next time you walk out of your local mattress store, you should be ready to spend more than 27,000 hours atop the thing you're carrying.

But aren't all mattresses pretty good nowadays? While the mattress you buy today may be better than your last one, you shouldn't ignore the cumulative effect that 27,000 hours of anything can have on you. Even if the mattress you prefer is only 5 percent more comfortable than a cheaper one, that's 27,000 hours of 5 percent more comfort. Would you sacrifice that for a little extra up-front cost?

Your car

Your carLike mattresses, today's cars are generally better than their older counterparts. But also like a mattress, your car is an item that will be closely tied to your existence for the time you own it. For this reason, it's key that you make a list of features you need in your new car before you visit the lot. It's important to stick to this list when you choose your car - even if a "deal" on a lesser vehicle tempts you to do otherwise.

Buying a car that doesn't quite fit your needs - whether it's too small, slow or aged - is a sure recipe for ongoing discomfort. But like a free kitten in front of a grocery store, an ill-suited vehicle can enter your possession very easily. When it's sitting on the lot with a fresh coat of wax and an attractive price on the window, a car that lacks features you need - four-wheel drive, for example - may tempt you. But remember that you and that car will likely be together for many miles - and possibly some winter snowstorms.

Your vacation

Your vacationOn the surface, a vacation can seem like a prime opportunity to save money: It's a non-essential purchase that exists only in your memory - and possibly on your credit card statement - once those glorious two weeks are over. So how can you go wrong by trying to save on vacations? Easy: by taking ones that are too short or skipping them completely.

According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can contribute to ailments including heart disease, obesity, depression, sleep problems, digestive problems, memory impairments and skin problems. But even if you don't consider vacation a long-term stress-reliever, think of this: You have a choice between possessing two types of memories in old age. The first type involves rich experiences abroad, seeing the world with family and friends. The second type involves the knowledge that you saved money on airfare and hotel accommodations for many years. The decision is yours.

Your groceries

Your groceriesGiven the prominence of coupons and big-box discount stores today, groceries are another realm that appears ripe for saving. But while there's much said in the personal finance world about the dangers of going shopping on an empty stomach, doing the opposite isn't necessarily the cure: Going when you're not hungry at all - or simply trying too hard to cut back on your grocery bill - can also end up costing you more.

How so? Even though your appetite may not be present when you're shopping, rest assured it will return. When it does, having a lightly stocked cupboard can lead to you venturing out in search of food - and the options you find there are likely to be more costly and less healthy than the items you would have picked up at the store. Save yourself time and money by tossing what you really need into your shopping cart instead.

Gifts for your spouse

Gifts to your spouseHave the previous purchases seemed like counterintuitive choices? If so, you may be glad to see this exquisitely obvious item on the list. While you shouldn't use money as a proxy for love in your relationships, spending less than your partner expects on a gift is likely to send a message that only someone who enjoys sleeping alone on a couch would ever want to send.

Again, this shouldn't be taken as an excuse for reckless spending - many husbands and wives may find unpaid credit card bills more bothersome than cheap gifts. But when it comes to a choice between two options of slightly different costs, choosing the more expensive one may offer some reasonably priced insurance against marital discord.