Mattress

7 Grown-Up Purchases That Are Worth the Money

The fastest way for a student or graduate to get off on the wrong financial foot is by dropping cash on the wrong kinds of big-ticket items. On the other hand, wise and targeted spending on the right things is an investment that will pay off in the long run. Take a quick look at seven items that are worth spending your hard-earned money on—along with a handful to steer clear of.

1. A GOOD MATTRESS

You might be able to cut corners on a lot of furnishings for a new or rented living space, but opting for an economical crash pad is going to haunt you every night. Good spring mattress and box spring sets can be had for as little as $500, with some online providers offering high-quality memory foam for roughly the same amount. Go cheaper and you risk sleepless nights—or worse, having to buy a replacement in just a few short years.

2. A 401(K)…

You don’t necessarily have to look at it as a purchase—though many do—but a 401(k), or retirement account, is some of the best money you’ll ever spend. Socking away even a small portion of your paycheck every month can pay literal dividends down the road.

3. … AND/OR A ROTH IRA.

The type of account you use to save for retirement is ultimately up to you—the point is to put as much money as you can away starting as early as you can. If your employer will match your 401(k) contributions up to a certain amount, max that out first (because why would you turn down free money?). However, if your employer doesn’t match funds, a Roth IRA (or other personal retirement account) might be your better bet. With a Roth IRA, it’s up to you to deposit a portion of your hard-earned paycheck. The benefit to that, though, is you’ll be able to withdraw money from the account during retirement tax-free.

4. QUALITY TOOLS

You may not believe you’re that handy, but the time will come when you’re in desperate need of fixing a faucet, hanging a picture, or assembling a new bookshelf. While it might be tempting to pick up the cheapest hammer at the hardware store, spending a little more is likely to get you a tool that will…

11 Steps for Stress-Free Mattress Shopping

Thanks to the proliferation of mattress stores of both the brick and mortar and online variety, shopping for a new bed can be overwhelming. There are so many manufacturers, models, and material types that narrowing your choices down to a half-dozen could be considered an achievement.

Why the stress? Beds are both expensive—ranging in price from $300 to several thousand dollars—and seem to harbor the promise of a better life. Sleep well and you’ll be more productive, personable, and energetic; sleep poorly and that aching back dims all of your prospects. Those consequences are often played up by mattress manufacturers, who use indecipherable industry terms (“core support,” “baffled innerspring”) to try and stand out in a crowded market. Instead, they just create further confusion.

With a little knowledge, finding the perfect crash pad doesn’t have to be so frustrating: A good, dependable mattress can be had for as little as $600 to $700. Here’s how to avoid losing sleep over your next mattress purchase.

1. DECIDE WHAT YOU DON’T WANT.

The easiest way to narrow down your choices in a store is to eliminate what you’re certain you don’t want. “Every mattress type has its own strengths and weaknesses,” David Robinson, editor and publisher of the sleep-shopping tip site SleepLikeTheDead.com, tells mental_floss. “Because of familiarity, innerspring [coil] mattresses are still the most popular. Memory foam is an option, but if you have a tendency to sleep hot, they might bother you.” Foam might be best, he says, if a couple is looking for less shifting of the mattress while one partner tosses and turns.

You might also decide to eliminate anything priced over $1000; certain mattresses made from wool, latex, or other materials you might have an allergic reaction to; or adjustable beds that rely on air bladders to tweak firmness. Some or all of these features you may find unwanted or uncomfortable: Getting rid of them can shrink a showroom fast.

2. TAKE THE GOLDILOCKS TEST.

Before you start jumping around mattresses at random, have a salesperson identify three models that represent degrees of firmness. In the lexicon of mattresses, “firm” signals a bed that will provide sufficient support and is unlikely to allow you to sink into it. “Plush” might have a polyester-stuffed top layer (sometimes called a pillowtop) that acts as cushioning, or may simply be designed to conform to your body’s imprint. Along the spectrum, there’s also medium-plush, medium-firm, extra-firm, and any number of labels that can indicate degrees of support. Leaning toward one side, however, will help narrow your choices. Back sleepers may like something more solid, while side or stomach sleepers will want to avoid firm mattresses digging into their shoulders and hips.

If you experience any post-purchase remorse over firmness, Robinson says that a mattress topper could help alleviate a stiff surface. “But not many toppers can firm up a soft mattress,” he says, making it better to err on the firmer side if in doubt.

3. GRAB A PILLOW.

Many retail outlets will supply you with a pillow and a sanitary sheet to use as a pillowcase while you try out beds. Take advantage of them, as they’ll allow you to better replicate your sleep posture in the showroom and better identify where you might need more support. You may even want to bring a friend along to help assess whether your spine is straight when lying on your side.

Whether you bring one from home or get a loaner, Robinson cautions to make sure your pillow is the proper height. “A lot of pillows depend on a person’s weight,” he says. “The heavier you are, the more you’ll sink into the mattress, and the higher your pillow loft needs to be.” People who have comfort issues with new mattresses, he says, might benefit from getting a pillow better able to support…