You Probably Pay Too Much for These 10 Things

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As a smart shopper, you probably spend a lot of time searching for the best deals. However, some of those great finds aren’t really all that terrific.

In fact, a lot of “good deals” are actually on items you could get free. Following are our top 10 things for which people overpay.

1. Book downloads

Unless your tastes run to the esoteric, there is no excuse for paying to download e-books. You can probably download just about any bestseller your heart desires from your local library.

If you have an Amazon Prime membership, you get free downloads there as well.

Amazon also maintains links to databases with free public domain books. Finally, plenty of e-books get marked down to free on Amazon as promotions.

Blogger Crystal Paine at Money Saving Mom keeps a current list of free e-books in the parenting, family and food genres. For everything else, you might want to head to Freebook Sifter.

Find the best price on everything you buy on our deals page!

2. Movie rentals

In addition to e-books, your local library likely has at least a couple of shelves of DVDs and Blu-rays just waiting to be picked up for family movie night. If your library doesn’t have the title you want on the shelf, it may be able request the movie from another library system.

Another free movie rental option is the Redbox Text Club. Send the word SIGNUP to 727272 to receive promotional messages from the company. At least once a month, I receive a code for a free rental.

3. Magazine subscriptions

While we’re discussing the great things you can get at the library, let’s not forget magazines.

How many times do you spend 15 minutes flipping through a magazine and then toss it into the recycling bin?

Sure, you may use a cooking or woodworking magazine again and again, but are you really going to look at the wedding photos from Kim Kardashian and Kanye West more than once? Get those kind of quick reads from the library.

If you really want to have magazines delivered to your house, ValueMags has a selection of free subscriptions. Or, see if you qualify for some free business-related titles through Mercury Magazines.

4. Bottled water

There is a secret behind bottled water. Companies promote it as crisp, pure spring water, but it’s typically just water that comes out of the ground, much like the water that pours from your faucet.

Practically all groundwater can be considered spring water. Unless you live in an area with known contamination, there’s no guarantee the bottled water you pay for at the store is any better than the water coming out of your own tap.

If you’re really concerned about the quality or taste of your tap water, buy a faucet filter or filtered pitcher.

5. Brand-name medications

Brand-name drugs are big business, and pharmaceutical companies spend a lot of money trying to convince you to buy items with their name on the label.

Instead of jumping on the brand-name bandwagon, consider buying a generic instead. Generics are held to the same standard as the brand names and can save you a bundle. Many health insurance plans now also have higher co-pays for brand names.

You can read more in our article about whether generic drugs are safe.

6. Brand-name everything else

Brand-name medicines aren’t the only deal you should be rethinking. Practically any brand-name product might be a bad deal when lower-priced generics are literally inches away.

I realize that some people bristle at the thought of generics, envisioning watered-down shampoo or cardboard crackers. Certainly, there are some low-quality off-brands.

However, your grocer’s store brand is often just as good as the national brand when it comes to quality and taste.

Don’t take my word for it. Consumer Reports did taste tests and found generics to be on equal footing with their brand-name counterparts. We also have an article with advice on how to decide when to go generic.

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Comments & discussion

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  • Becky Bentrim

    Another deal that a lot of people fall for is the “10 for 10″ at the grocery store. Most times, you do not need to buy ten items to get each one for $1. And a lot of times, it still isn’t a good deal because the store brand is cheaper than that.

  • Synthetic1

    We consumers are a seriously delusional bunch. We frantically believe what we want to be true, and callously disregard what the facts and common sense prove to be true.
    The truth is:
    a) Cheap stuff usually is.
    b) For everything that is produced a cheaper, worse version, will be produced and sold and will rapidly be buried in a landfill.
    c) Quality costs money for most products and services, making them seem expensive. But quality often adds to longevity, enhanced usage, safety, and retained value and that may make an expensive initial purchase, in the end, inexpensive.
    d) Leave rapidly depreciating electronics/cars/products to the delusional consumers; they deserve them.
    e) For the most part, we are better off without most of it anyway. Even the quality stuff.

    I like to remind myself of these truths by rerunning the old Pella (or Anderson?) window ad “When do you want to pay for your windows, now, or every time you turn around?” Brilliant!

    • Kerry Aggen

      I agree! Years ago, I used to buy shoes at Payless and stores like it – but, after such purchases becoming unusable relatively quickly, I’ve finally wised up and only purchase quality shoes and boots, and often you can only find such gems at non-chain stores. Yes, the initial outlay is high, but in usability, wear, comfort, longevity, etc., it’s the much better way to buy. Even if you have to save up for a while for such outlays, they are well worth it.

  • Cv Pec

    The thrill of a bargain wears off, as the quality wears out. So True. Ben dere, dun dat.

  • ModernMode

    I have to disagree on number 6. I’ve done a lot of comparisons between brand name and store brand grocery products and nine times out of ten, the store product will have a lot more sodium. Even Smuckers preserves which are sodium free, the store brand had 10 miligrams of sodium per spoon.

    • Amy Livingston

      It depends greatly on the store. In some stores, the store brands are inferior; in others, they’re literally indistinguishable from name brands because it’s exactly the same product with a different label and a lower price tag. Plus, there are lots of store-brand products for which sodium content isn’t an issue, like aluminum foil or trash bags.

  • Davey Pockets

    Haven’t fallen for any of these!! :)

  • Stacy Johnson

    I forwarded this comment to FreedomPop, Phunt. Let’s see if they respond.

    • Phunt

      Thank you Stacy. I hoped you would see this. I am obviously annoyed at not receiving the product, which was ordered and paid for in April, or the advertised data deal and I am really put off by their lack of communication and responsiveness.

      • Stacy Johnson

        Phunt, send your email address to info(at) so I can put FreedomPop in touch with you.

  • Matt M.

    How about the Harley Davidson electric motorcycle?
    This idea is soooooooooooo outlandish that all it says about HD is the “me too” mentality.

  • Y2KJillian

    I have a friend who swears by “you get what you pay for.” Meaning, why try to save money when a spendy item has
    better quality? The problem is, all too often, the spendier item is NOT better quality, just has more doo-dads (that break) or some flashy something that you don’t need and won’t use. She will never retire, because she’s spending every cent she makes now — on “quality.” She despises my frugal ways. Too bad for her. Why pay more–why BUY more doo-dads than you need? I agree, some things cost more for good quality–but those seem to be pretty obvious.
    But it’s always worth a question, at least! Is this WORTH the higher price? Do I need it at all is always a good Q! I agree there.
    I can’t agree that you ought to automatically just pay more thinking you’re going to get better quality. That seems too naïve to believe. Same as thinking “everything” at a Dollar Store is cheaper … or 10/10 is cheaper when store brands, which are NOT always worse than name brands — are cheaper.
    Oh, well, I guess Neanderthals were out there looking for the best bargain on meat…which animal can I kill (buy) the easiest (cheapest)? Age-old conundrum!

  • FRE000

    I have paid for e-book downloads and will continue to do so sometimes.

    In general, I’m not interested in best sellers and fiction. I download mostly educational material. Recently, I downloaded biographies of the robber barons who lived during the guilded age, i.e., the period from the end of the Civil War until the early 1900s. These biographies were not available free. I have also downloaded books on energy issues and subjects, none of which were available free.

    So, contrary to that the article asserts, depending on what one reads, it is often or even usually impossible to get the e-books free.

  • Amy Livingston

    Come on, surely it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that “we all fall for” these bad deals. I may occasionally pay for a magazine or an app, but only after checking first to see if I can get it (or an equally good equivalent) for free. And I’ll bet most of your readers would say the same.

  • Bobbi

    I am curious what all of you smart shoppers think of discount Amish grocery stores, scratch & dent and surplus?

  • Patrick Seitz

    I got a phone from FreedomPop earlier this year. It’s nothing fancy, but the call quality is decent and as long as you don’t pay for any of their extras, there’s no monthly fee. They do try very, very hard to get me to sign up for something extra though.


    I had Never tried Any deal online…!!!

  • LagunaLady27

    Someone better buy books. If not, authors will stop writing them!

    • Vince Ryder

      I understand what you are saying, but evidence so far shows no reduction in ‘authoring’, just the opposite. Self-publishing is a big growth area as well. Most of these authors won’t make a living at writing, I’m guessing. Many WILL, though, because there will always be people who are very GOOD at writing, and always be people willing to pay for the equivalent of a ‘brand name’ published work. I get most of my books cheap or free, but if money were not a serious constraint, I would probably pay bookstore prices regularly (time savings and the attraction of shopping, I guess). I think we’ll have authors writing for profit as long as we still use written text to communicate. Sometime in the distant future, communication will be brain-to-brain over the future internet, but that’s a (relatively) long way off (probably 35 years at least).

  • whattarush

    There are plenty of places to monitor your credit. One place I trust is Credit Karma, and there are others out there. It really isn’t necessary to get a copy of your credit report if you monitor it. People who want to give you loans will want to see it, and they will charge you for it, but it isn’t like you can just hand over your report to them. If I remember correctly, I got my credit report from Credit Karma once long ago, but I’m not positive.

    We are brand loyal on some things simply because they suit our family’s needs the best. Toilet paper, spaghetti sauce and toothpaste are three, but we go for the store brand on peanut butter, pasta and canned vegetables.

  • LagunaLady27

    I am a self published author. I can tell you straight out, I would not write if I was not paid for my books. Neither would the other authors I know.

  • grandmaguest

    All excellent points and ones I use religiously. The only exception, and I consider it a minor one, is I buy 1 case of bottled water every year or two. I do that because I live in the country (well water) and am all electric. If I lose power, I lose my water. I have containers I keep on hand for flushing the toilet, etc. But those containers set for years. I think in all the years I live here, I’ve only had to resort to the bottled water a couple of times. The biggest one was a winter storm in December some years back when I was without power for 10+ days. Other than that I was good to go.