10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

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Money is tight enough these days that we don’t need to spend it on products or features that deliver no value to the consumer.

So, watch out for this handful of such things. Are you wasting money on any of these purchases?

1. Brand-name pharmaceuticals

Couple looking at prescription drug bottles
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What exactly are you paying extra for when buying a brand-name drug instead of the generic version? Advertising, it would seem.

Generics are typically copies of brand-name medicines whose patents have expired. Generics approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have the same quality, strength, purity and stability as their brand-name equivalents, according to the federal agency.

Plus, you might even be able to find generics for free, as we detail in “4 Pharmacy Chains That Offer Free Prescription Drugs.”

2. Lottery tickets

Lottery tickets
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You have better odds of dying in a shark attack or getting hit by lightning than you do of winning a lottery jackpot.

Here’s a better game: Use your lottery ticket money instead to micro-invest — that is, invest small amounts of money at a time. Apps like Acorns make it easy to invest with mere pocket change.

Or, if you are carrying a credit card balance, make it a game to direct every spare penny to whittling your debt down to nothing.

3. Multivitamins

Man taking supplements
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Multivitamins have no discernible health benefit, recent research involving data on 21,000 subjects has revealed. It appears consumers get nothing for their money.

People who use multivitamins do report feeling better, although they were in fact no healthier than those who do not. Maybe the well-known placebo effect is at work here.

4. High-octane gas

Man at gas pump
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Unless you’re driving a super-fancy car, premium gas probably isn’t required or even recommended for your car.

So, for most vehicles, paying extra for high-octane fuel is a total waste of money, says AAA — we cite it in “The 3 Worst Money Mistakes You Are Making at the Gas Station.” Americans throw away some $2 billion yearly on high-octane gas that is not required or recommended for their particular vehicles.

Unless the user manual says otherwise, your vehicle isn’t calibrated to reap the benefits of upgraded fuel.

5. Credit monitoring

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Credit monitoring services don’t stop thieves from hijacking your accounts or identity. They just let you know after it happened. What’s the value of that? Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson lists more downsides in “4 Reasons You Should Never Pay for Credit Monitoring.”

Still, it’s a good idea to watch your credit reports for signs of unauthorized use. During the coronavirus pandemic, credit reporting companies have been offering free weekly credit reports. These are scheduled to end after April 2022. You still will have access to one free credit report per year, as the law allows, from each of the three major credit reporting companies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Here’s how to get them.

6. Cable TV

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Even the costliest streaming TV packages are cheaper than the average household cable bill of $217 a month. And, anyway, why sign a cable contract when streaming services let you cancel your account on a whim?

If you’re intimidated by the process of switching from cable to streaming, start by checking out “13 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less” and “This Search Engine Helps Cord-Cutters Find Their Favorite Shows.”

7. ATM fees

Woman withdrawing stimulus money
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Spending money on ATM fees for using an out-of-network cash machine is needless. You get no value for the money spent.

Stick to your bank’s or credit union’s ATM network to avoid fees. Always carry a bit of cash so you won’t get stuck. If you do get stuck, make a small purchase at a store that will let you get some cash back when you use your card. And if your bank’s ATMs aren’t convenient, switch to a bank whose ATM locations are better for you, or better yet, a bank that reimburses you for ATM fees.

8. Trading commissions

Stock market bull
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Stock trading is free for everyone, with so many companies — Charles Schwab, Fidelity and Vanguard are a few — allowing zero-commission trades.

Commission-free trading can be risky if impulse buying takes over. But with discipline and a plan, you can use it to carefully build wealth.

9. Cookbooks

Women meal planning
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Collectors and cooking buffs still enjoy buying and collecting cookbooks. But the rest of us home cooks can indulge for free in an electronic ocean of recipes and cooking lore.

A few great places to get started: Food52’s recipes, Epicurious, cookware emporium William Sonoma’s recipes and Allrecipes.

10. E-books

e-reader
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A world of electronic books is available at no cost. Your tax dollars already have paid the bill by helping to support your city or county public library.

Membership is free and generally gives you not just access to physical books, including interlibrary loans from other collections, but also enormous catalogs of adults’ and children’s e-books. If that isn’t enough, try “11 Sites That Offer Free E-Books.”

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