10 Dumb Deals We All Fall For

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As a smart shopper, you probably spend lots of time searching for the best deals. However, we’re here to tell you some of your great finds aren’t really all that great.

In fact, a lot of “good deals” are actually for items you could get totally free.

I’ll let Money Talks News finance expert Stacy Johnson explain in the video below. Then, keep scrolling for details on where to find the freebies.

1. Book downloads

There’s 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 fairly current list of free e-books in the parenting, family and food genres. For everything else, you might want to head to Freebook Sifter.

By the way, as a writer, I have to tell you it’s not all that hard to publish an e-book and have it listed on Amazon. Some of what’s out there is embarrassingly thin on content, so before spending $1.99 on a 25-page e-book, head to Google first. Whatever information is in a book that size can probably be found on the Internet for free.

2. Movie rentals

In addition to e-books, your local library likely has at least a couple 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 part of a larger network of libraries and can request the movie from another branch.

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 in 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 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

Back when I was a staff member for a Michigan legislator, one of the hot topics of the time was a proposed Nestle bottled water facility. After a lengthy battle, the company eventually won the right to suck up groundwater near the small village of Stanwood and sell it under the Ice Mountain label.

I’ve never been to Stanwood, although I do live a few counties over. I’m sure it’s quite nice, but I assure you there’s nothing special about the town that would make you want to pay a premium for its water.

That’s the secret behind bottled water. Companies promote it as crisp, pure spring water, but it’s really 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. According to Kantar Media, Pfizer alone spent $1.1 billion on advertising in 2013.

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, regardless of whether you’re paying out-of-pocket for an over-the-counter pain reliever or need a specialty prescription drug. Many health insurance plans now have higher co-pays for brand names.

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

6. Brand-name anything

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 that give you what you pay for. 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.

7. High-interest credit

OK, I know no one out there says, “A credit card with 20 percent interest! What a deal!”

But we do often neglect to check out things like interest because we’re blinded by credit card rewards or their convenience.

It’s an even worse deal when we have money sitting in savings, earning practically nothing, while we pay through the nose for credit card interest. The better deal might be to pull money from savings, pay off the card and file the plastic away.

8. Annual credit reports

Most free credit report offers are truly among the worst deals out there.

Unscrupulous companies offer to send you a “free” report in exchange for your personal information, which might then be shared with identity thieves. Or there may be a small processing fee and teeny tiny print that says you’ll be signed up for some identity theft/credit monitoring service you certainly don’t need.

The fact is, you’re entitled to a free credit report, no strings attached. However, the only place to get it is at AnnualCreditReport.com.

9. Anti-virus software

Like an annual credit report, anti-virus software is something you need. It’s just not something you need to pay for.

I’m not an IT pro, so I won’t even try to go into this topic in-depth. Instead, read the reviews at PCMag and TechRadar for advice from the experts on the best free anti-virus programs you can download straight from the Web.

10. Smartphone apps

Finally, the last dumb deal many of us fall for is smartphone apps. It’s so easy to push the buy button for that 99-cent app, but more often than not, we’ve spent money on something we either won’t use or could have gotten for free.

Do some research before you buy an app. There are plenty of great free iPhone apps and free Android apps. PCMag has an annual list of the 100 best free apps, and you can check out our partner site DealNews, which tracks free and discounted apps.

That wraps up our list of 10 dumb deals we all fall for. The bottom line is there is no reason to spend money on these categories when there are free or cheaper versions available for the taking.

What do you think? Tell us why you agree or disagree in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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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.

    • http://ecofrugality.blogspot.com/ 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!! :)

  • http://www.moneytalksnews.com/ 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.

      • http://www.moneytalksnews.com/ Stacy Johnson

        Phunt, send your email address to info(at)moneytalknews.com 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.

  • http://ecofrugality.blogspot.com/ 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.