10 Times You’re Right to Be a Cheapskate

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Man teaching girl to play guitar, father and daughter playing music together
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Nobody wants to be labeled a cheapskate. But sometimes, it makes good financial sense to purchase a cheaper option if you can.

A high price tag doesn’t necessarily make something better.

Often, low-cost items will serve your needs just as well. Or, the higher-quality option might not be worth the extra money. Other times, there’s little or no difference in quality between the priciest and cheapest versions of products.

What follows are examples of times when it’s smart to be cheap.

Prescription drugs

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Generic prescription drugs must have the same active ingredients and strength as brand-name versions — and they can cost up to 85% less, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

So, unless your doctor or pharmacist has given you some reason to pay extra for a brand name, you likely are smart to be a cheapskate about prescription drugs.

To see if you can save even more on your prescriptions, check out the free online tools like PharmacyChecker.com that we detail in “4 Websites You Should Check Before Buying Prescriptions.”

Over-the-counter medicines

Shopping at the drugstore
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When you’re sick, the sinus, headache and flu medicines you think of first probably are the ones you’ve seen advertised on TV or in magazines.

However, these well-known brands are more expensive because those advertising costs are built into the price. Often, just as with prescription medicine, you can find generic versions of these products at a cost much below those of the popular brands.

Tools you’ll rarely use

Man using skill saw
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Do you have a one-time project requiring tools you don’t already own? Think hard before you invest in expensive drills and saws. Buying costly tools just so they can gather dust is the very definition of a bad investment.

If you won’t be using these tools over and over, renting them could be a smarter choice. In fact, you might even be able to check out certain tools from your local library for free, as we detail in “8 Unusual Things You Can Borrow From a Library.”


An older black couple looks at a laptop computer screen while sitting on the sofa in their living room
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Have you checked furniture prices lately? You could easily spend thousands of dollars furnishing a single room of your home if you paid full price at a retail store.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to find decent-quality furniture without paying retail prices these days — if you know where to look.

If you’ll consider buying secondhand, you have a growing number of options.

There are always thrift stores and consignment shops — and don’t forget to check estate sales, too. Nowadays, you also can find individuals selling furniture in your area via platforms like Facebook Marketplace and apps like OfferUp.

If buying used is not an option for you, look for a local furniture outlet store, such as a Rooms To Go Outlet, or a discount store with a furniture section, like some Big Lots locations have. Or, check your local warehouse club.

Greeting cards

Woman with greeting card
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When you buy someone a present, the purchase doesn’t feel complete unless you add a greeting card. Unfortunately, greeting cards can be ridiculously overpriced — $3 to $5 for a piece of paper. So, always look for ways to save.

You also can make your own greeting cards. Or, find them for a buck or less at dollar stores and even Trader Joe’s.

Cars for teenage drivers

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It’s tempting to buy teen drivers a new car. After all, modern vehicles have fewer maintenance issues and come with the latest safety features.

But consider the financial drawbacks. New cars depreciate quickly. Even a slightly used car will cost you thousands of dollars less than a comparable new model. That’s why buying a cheaper used vehicle is always your best choice.

A cabin on a cruise ship

Couple on a cruise ship deck.
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Ahhh, it’s great to treat yourself to a vacation. And if you refrain from blowing all of your savings on this one trip, you’ll have more left in the bank for the next trip.

If you are planning an ocean cruise, for example, think about which splurges matter the most. Cabins with sea views are more expensive than inside cabins. Unless you’re planning on spending a great deal of time in the cabin looking out the window, though, why get one that overlooks the water?

Overnight hotel stay

Family checks in at hotel
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When you’re planning to stay at a hotel for several nights, why not pick one with all the amenities you’ll need? You’ll want a large room for relaxing, a restaurant, a swimming pool and perhaps a gym.

However, when you’re on a road trip and just need a place to lay your head, a cheap, no-frills hotel is a smart choice. After all, you only need a clean, secure room and a comfortable bed.

Stop by our Solutions Center to find ways to find more travel savings on cruises, hotels and flights.

Musical instruments for beginners

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It’s great to give your children the opportunity to learn to play music. But when they’re just starting out, they don’t need an expensive instrument. Putting a $4,000 guitar in the hands of a 10-year-old is asking for trouble.

Until you see a child demonstrate true commitment and growing skill, a cheap, entry-level instrument is fine for exploring potential.


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There are times when it’s important to look your best. If your company is hosting an event or your teen is planning for prom, showing up in the right outfit will matter. But don’t head immediately for the mall.

If the formalwear will be used just once, you can save by shopping secondhand. Try thrift shops or consignment stores specializing in gently worn items with few signs of wear. Another cost-saving option is to find a store that rents out formalwear.

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