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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.
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.