9 Purchases It’s OK to Skimp On

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Girl with handmade greeting card
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Usually in life, you get what you pay for — but not always.

Yes, there are times when pinching pennies is simply foolish. We detail such occasions in “21 Purchases You Should Never Skimp On.”

But in many other instances, being cheap — er, “frugal” — makes more sense. Following are several purchases you can safely skimp on.

1. Cereal

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I love cereal. In fact, in college, a buddy dubbed me the “cereal killer.” But I almost never pay full price for my breakfast addiction.

Instead, I buy generic. Or, I wait for cereal to go on sale. If I’m lucky, I might even use a coupon to inflate my savings.

As a result, I rarely pay more than a dollar a pound for cereal. And I usually pay less. You can do it too, especially if you are flexible with your cereal choices.

Dollar stores also sell cereal cheaply. Sometimes, you can find popular brands in their full-sized-box versions for just a buck or so. And Aldi and Walmart sell store brands that are even cheaper than Costco’s cereal selection.

2. Reading glasses

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Pay up for prescription reading glasses, and you may regret the purchase later if you break or lose those spectacles.

Instead, save a bundle by purchasing your reading glasses at the drugstore or dollar store. According to the nonprofit Cleveland Clinic:

“For the vast majority of people, buying over-the-counter (OTC) readers will not be a problem as long as they exactly match the power of the prescription. For instance, if your doctor recommends +2.00 in each eye, then purchasing OTC readers of the same power should generally suffice.”

Just note that the quality won’t be up to the level of prescription lenses.

Also, the Cleveland Clinic warns that In some cases — such as when the distance between pupils is very small or very wide — you might need prescription lenses to avoid eye strain or double vision.

3. Water

Plastic reusable water bottle
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Admit it: The notion of paying for bottled water is downright silly. Granted, there is some cost attached to most sources of water, even if it comes from your home tap. But the markup on bottled water is crazy.

If you must buy bottled water, choose a cheaper generic variety. Or better yet, buy a reusable water bottle for times when you need water on the go. Yes, it will cost more upfront. But you’ll reap savings for years to come, and you’ll do the planet a favor by using less plastic.

4. Gift cards

Discounted gift cards on display at a Costco
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In the age of the internet, it almost never makes sense to pay full price for anything. That includes gift cards.

Surf over to a marketplace like Raise, and you can purchase gift cards at a discount. Think of it this way: If you buy a gift card for your favorite retailer at a 10% discount from the face value, it’s like saving an extra 10% on any purchase you make with that card.

You can also score reduced-cost gift cards at warehouse clubs, including:

Bottom line: Gift cards are something you should always try to skimp on.

For more, check out “7 Money-Saving Gift Card Tricks You Should Know.”

5. Gasoline

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The price of gas constantly fluctuates, but no matter how low it sinks, almost nobody ever proclaims it to be a bargain. Filling the tank can be a pain in the wallet, whatever the price is on any given day.

Unfortunately, some drivers unnecessarily compound their misery. As we report in “7 Smart Ways to Save Money at the Gas Pump,” AAA reported a few years back that drivers were wasting $2.1 billion per year on high-octane gas.

AAA says you only should buy premium gas if your car requires it. Most vehicles do not. So, don’t splurge on it.

6. Greeting cards

A father and daughter make homemade greeting cards
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When it comes to insanely overpriced items, it’s tough to top greeting cards. We find it hard to swallow paying $5 for a small piece of paper with a drawing that soon will end up in the trash.

If you agree, head over to the dollar store and pick up a card for $1 or less. Other ways to save on greeting cards include:

  • Buying from Trader Joe’s line of 99-cent greeting cards
  • Buying multi-packs
  • Making your own

7. Cleaning products

A couple cleans their kitchen
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All kinds of cleaning products are available on the cheap — sometimes for pennies — if you are willing to make your own.

For example, vinegar can replace multiple types of store-bought cleaning products, as we illustrate in “Never Buy These 7 Overpriced Cleaning Products Again.”

8. Socks

Strike the right balance between quality, price and style when shopping for socks.
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Yes, you can buy trendy socks that cost a relative fortune. Or, you can simply stop by the dollar store and pick up a pair on the cheap.

As we write “21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store“:

“Dollar store socks can be as good as department store varieties if you buy the right type. Look for men’s, women’s and children’s socks made with acrylic or spandex for a comfy fit.”

9. Kids clothes

4 kids laughing
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There is no need to turn your young children or grandchildren into fashionistas. They’ll be only too happy to take care of that themselves when the dreaded teen years roll around.

So, keep the cost of kids clothes low by settling for secondhand and hand-me-down attire. Thrift stores can be a great place to shop for such duds — and to save on countless other items you might need.

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