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Buying a Mattress

It Costs Money to Spend Money

When you make some purchases, you know you're going to lose. That bucket of M&Ms, no matter how sweet a deal, is going to cost you a few bucks and probably a stomachache.

Even with a good deal, you're going to pay. If you buy a car, you're going to have to pay for insurance, gas, and everything else that goes along with car ownership—way more than whatever "good deal" you got.

No matter what you buy, you need to consider the initial price and the amount of time or value you get from whatever you're buying. Remember: that prom dress you buy for $400 can end up costing you $60 an hour if your prom only lasts a couple hours and then you head to the IHOP to drown your sorrows in pancakes and syrup.

So should you just go ahead and buy the cheapest of everything so that your per-hour cost is low?

Not so fast.

Let's say that you're tossing and turning on an old futon mattress that's leaving you with bruises and aches. You head over to the local Mattress-O-Rama and check out a $1000 mattress. It comes with free delivery and a ten-year warranty. The salesperson promises up-and-down and on his granny's blue hair that it's going to give you the best sleep of your life. You plunk on it in your jeans and shoes and it does feel pretty good.

Is it ridiculous to spend a grand on a mattress when you know that mattress is not going to earn you any money? That depends.

Let's say that the mattress does last for ten years and you sleep on it 300 nights a year (your friend's beach house gets a couple months in the summer). That's still 3,000 peaceful, somnambulist-free nights with an average of 10 hours per night (You sleep 8 hours but hit the snooze button in the morning and sometimes toss and turn worrying about that Spanish mid-term). 

Even if the mattress costs a cool grand that's still only 33 cents per night or 3.3 cents per hour if you spend ten hours a night on the thing. You'll get even more mileage if you eat breakfast or play video games in bed. (Just us?)

Buy the El Cheapo mattress with no warranty and no delivery for $250 bucks, and you might get a few years of lackluster sleeps. You'll spend more on concealer to cover those under-eye bags and you may be waking up grumpy. In the long run, you'll be spending more per night and per hour for a much worse sleeping experience.

Making the Right Choices with Your Moolah

It's your cash (or your parents' cash if they're springing for your mattress). So how can you make the best decisions with the money?

There's really no way to know in advance. But there are a few ways you can improve the odds that you won't end up cursing out the salespeople who sold you whatever it is you just bought:

  • Do the math before you shop. A $1000 mattress that lasts 10 years is going to cost about $0.33 a night, a positive bargain when compared to the spongy cheapie mattress that at $250 and two years is going to set you back $0.42 a night…and a lot of misery when you finally decide to haul it to the dump.
  • Consider the resell value. If it's more expensive, maybe it's something you can resell on eBay. You won't get back all that you paid, but it'll still help you defray the costs a little.
  • Shop around. Comparison shop to find the best deals. With apps doing all the work for you, there's no reason to spend more.
  • Take additional costs into account. Your poor old mattress won't require new transmission or breaks (unless there's something you're not telling us about your bed), so you're not going to be putting extra money into it. But a car will require gas, maintenance, and insurance, which will up your total costs.
  • Consider warranties and lifespan on big-ticket items. Buying quality things that are going to be around for a while—whether it's a house, tent, or TV—means you won't have to buy a replacement soon. That means you get more value out of your cash.
  • Consider the intangibles. Will this purchase improve your life? Make you happier? Does the very thought of this shiny thing make you giggle and think about running in slo-mo through green fields (and if it does, is that feeling likely to last)? Sometimes, it makes sense to spend more on something that makes you happy.

Making smart choices when you shop means you won't be duped by slick ad campaigns or unrealistic promises. Being smart with your money also means you won't have to nibble on lettuce leaves because you need to pay off that huge credit card bill.

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