16 Outrageously Priced Products — and How to Save on Them

Price shock
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If you’re a merchant, the only way to profit is to sell stuff for more than you pay for it. As a consumer — whether you’re sipping a martini in a swanky bar or swilling bottled water from the grocery store — you are swallowing that markup.

Fortunately, you can save a lot of money simply by paying attention. Following is a list of products with high markups, along with ways to avoid paying a premium.

1. Movie theater popcorn/candy

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Concessions such as $5 tubs of popcorn and $6 boxes of gummy worms are big revenue streams for movie theaters. Since most theaters prohibit moviegoers from bringing in outside food and drinks, one way to save is to bypass concessions altogether.

For more options, check out “13 Easy Ways to Save Big Bucks at the Movies.”

2. Prescription drugs

Pills spilling out of a prescription container.
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Astronomical prescription drug prices — with markups ranging from 200 to 3,000 percent — are enough to give patients a headache. To save on prescriptions, ask your doctor about generic substitutes.

Comparison shopping is also a great idea. Check out “5 Ways I Slashed My Prescription Drug Costs.”

3. Diamonds

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Shoppers in the market for a diamond should be prepared to pay anywhere from 50 to 200 percent more than the wholesale cost, according to TheStreet.com.

A diamond’s sparkle may cause shoppers to turn a blind eye to the price tag, but you can land a better deal by understanding what you’re buying and doing a lot of shopping. For more tips, check out “8 Tips to Avoid the Most Common Mistakes When Buying Jewelry.”

4. Bottled water

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Some claim bottled water’s markup reaches 4,000 percent — making it more expensive than gasoline. Saving is simple: Drink tap water. If you’re concerned about taste or quality, use a water filtration system.

5. Salad bars

Salad bar in grocery store, close up.
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Some salad bar items are marked up more than 350 percent, according to Food Network Magazine. Items that aren’t worth their weight: chickpeas (386 percent markup over retail), radishes (302 percent) and baby corn (277 percent).

To save, load up on the lighter items that cost less than you’d pay at the grocery store, like bacon bits (55 percent markdown) and grilled chicken (44 percent markdown).

6. Eyeglass frames

senior man
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Dishing out $450 for Armani frames? Fortunately, focusing on warehouse stores and the internet can help you find discounts. Check out “Lookin’ Good! How to Get a Killer Deal on Eyeglasses” for more ways to save.

7. Soda

Lineup of bottles with different colored liquids in them.
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Order a glass of Coke when you’re dining out, and you will pay a ridiculous amount for what is essentially sugary water. Sure, you know going into a restaurant that you’re paying for the service and ambiance, too. But if you’re looking to save without sacrificing a night out, skip the extras like soda and opt for water instead.

8. Wine/Champagne

Pouring red wine into glass.
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It’s not uncommon for restaurants to charge two or even three times retail for a bottle of wine. So, scan the menu for a reasonably priced bottle. Tip: Look for house wines.

9. Coffee and tea

coffeehouse drinks
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Lattes are one of life’s little luxuries, but they can be marked up by a crazy amount. If you’re looking to save, start by turning on your coffeemaker at home and bypassing the coffee shop.

10. Bakery goods

Woman worker at bakery counter.
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Go to a bakery, and you could be paying a budget-busting markup for items that you can instead easily bake at home. Granted, convenience is a factor — especially for labor-intensive treats. But if you’re a big fan of homemade bread, consider spending $50 to $200 on a bread-making machine for your kitchen.

You throw in the ingredients, turn it on and walk away until it tells you it’s ready. (Your nose will also alert you!) It’s a relatively small investment to put a wide array of fresh-baked breads at your fingertips.

11. Greeting cards

birthday cards
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Greeting cards are simple pieces of paper with a whopping markup. And that’s before factoring in so-called Hallmark holidays.

On a budget? Make your own cards — or better yet, if you have school-aged children, have them design one. This will likely amount to a more sincere gesture and will leave a lasting impression.

Or, stop by the dollar store. Greeting cards are among the “21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store.”

12. College textbooks

Male student with textbooks in one hand, a piggybank in the other.
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As anyone who has been to college knows, the price of textbooks borders on the insane. Read “11 Ways to Save Big on College Textbooks” for cost-cutting tips, from asking professors about coursework in advance to textbook rentals.

13. Flowers

Spring flowers
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An orchid can cost up to $25 per stem. Add a holiday like Valentine’s Day or a wedding into the mix, and prices can surge. While disregarding flower purchases altogether isn’t always an option, shopping around for the best price is. Check out online retailers and buy in season to help cut costs.

14. Produce

Closeup of fresh produce at market.
Alexandra Lande / Shutterstock.com

Buying produce in season is the best way to find a bargain. Look for deals on grapefruit and oranges in January, asparagus in March, and melons in May. Also steer clear of precut veggies and fruit, which often have a big markup.

15. Furniture and mattresses

Hillsboro Oregon Mattress Store - Americas Mattress
Hillsboro, Oregon, Mattress Store – Americas Mattress

Furniture stores usually make a hefty margin, with big markups. Try to shop during sales, but if your timing is off, don’t be afraid to negotiate a better price. Also take note of the product number and then search online to see if any other retailers offer a lower price.

For more tips, check out “12 Ways to Save Big on Furniture That Makes Your Home Sparkle.”

16. Cosmetics

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It’s no secret that makeup comes with a big markup. Since most cosmetics are made from various combinations of dirt, oil, wax and fragrance, it’s surprising that shoppers pay such a premium.

But thanks to anti-aging claims and celebrity-endorsed marketing, shoppers have been breaking the bank for years to buy products they hope will make them look younger and more beautiful. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to get more bang for your buck when purchasing beauty products. In fact, cosmetics are one of the “7 Things You Can Buy for Next to Nothing at the Drugstore.”

What products and situations do you find more egregiously overpriced? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Ari Cetron contributed to this post.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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