By Tess Frame
You’re in line at the grocery store and you are loading the items from your basket to the conveyor belt when you notice that the person in front of you has all the same items and is charged just $20. You laugh with the checker at the strange coincidence, but then she charges you $50.
This obviously doesn’t happen, because if you saw someone buy the exact same thing as you but pay less, you’d probably put up more of a fight to pay the same low price and save that money. But in fact there are things you’re paying too much for that somebody else got for cheaper.
Since the economic downturn a few years ago, people hold onto their cars longer. People don’t buy new cars if they can easily buy a used car that fits their needs. As a result, used cars have maintained their value. For example, a typical new 2015 SUV will cost you around $25,000 to $28,000, and a 2012 SUV of the same make and model will cost you $20,000. Where there is only a $5000 price difference now, 10 years ago buying used would save $10,000 to $15,000. While this makes it more expensive to buy a car, new or used, it has some big benefits. First, buying a used car gives you much more room for negotiation, and you can often talk the seller down to a significantly lower price using some haggling skills. Just taking the time to negotiate will get you a better price than another buyer who doesn’t haggle. Second, you’ll have the benefit of value retention when it comes time to sell your car.
Whether you’re paying for bottled water or filters to purify tap water, you’re overpaying for life’s most basic necessity. You’re shelling out for clean, drinkable water when you already get a free, virtually unlimited supply of it through your tap.
Tap water is clean and filtered and has fluoride and other minerals added to it for health benefits. Bottled water is often just local tap water re-labeled as spring or glacier water then sold for unbelievable profit. It’s not even necessarily safer than tap water, having been recalled for mold, chemical contamination and even cricket or insect particles. The plastic can also add harmful substances to water if not packaged or stored properly. So why do people pay so much money for water when they have access to it for free? It could be the conveniently transportable bottles, or the fancy name (think Evian or Voss). Whatever the reason, you should probably start carrying a refillable bottle and taking advantage of the taps at home, work and almost everywhere else you go.
Designer pets are nothing new. Breeders work hard to ensure pure blood and excellent health in their animals, and there is often a small profit margin, justifying the high prices of purebreds. But do you really need an $800 teacup poodle when a mutt from the shelter will give you just as much companionship and love and only cost you a small amount for shots and an adoption fee? Likely not.
And it’s not just dogs that people overpay for. Cats, guinea pigs, birds and rabbits are some of the animals that get a high price tag for being “pure.” Take a look at your local animal shelter to find a pet that won’t cost you big bucks. You may even find a purebred at the adoption shelter.
ANY ONLINE PURCHASE, FROM DETERGENT TO AIRLINE TICKETS
Shopping online is convenient and fast, but it’s not free, despite companies’ insistence that you really are getting cheaper products, free shipping and two-day delivery with no hidden costs. In a lot of cases, when you buy something online like a household product, it will seem cheaper but that price difference can just be because it’s a smaller amount. You end up paying more per weight unit to make up for shipping costs, but because the overall price is lower than the bulk price of the item you might find at a store, you feel like you’re getting a deal. If you order a 95-ounce box of laundry detergent for $19, make sure you know how big 95 ounces is. You could be picturing the 143-ounce box in your head, and you’ll feel ripped off when the real product arrives. For retail products like clothing, shoes, accessories and household items, the prices and product will generally be the same as in the store, but you may not always get free shipping or you might have to spend more to meet minimum purchase requirements to qualify for free shipping. The most frustrating purchase to make online is airline tickets, hotels and other travel bookings. The cookies on your computer will remember each time you visit the site, and the prices may rise in response each time you return to the site. For this reason it’s wise to shop in incognito mode or private mode on your browser so the website can’t see your IP address and hike the prices up. Other things that will help you save on travel are the time of day you buy (nights are usually more expensive), the time of week (Thursday through Sunday are usually more expensive), and even the type of computer you buy from (you’ll pay more to book a hotel through Orbitz on a Mac, reports ABC News).
Many people are still paying high prices for eyeglasses when everyone else is finding deals. Online companies like Firmoo, Warby Parker and Zenni have started offering free glasses to first-time users, boxes of frames shipped to you to try on at home for free and glasses at rock-bottom prices ($7 bucks). You can also check out warehouse clubs, which offer low-priced glasses and sometimes even have an in-house optometrist so you can get your prescription and frames in one place. Having good vision shouldn’t only be a luxury given to the rich, which is why it’s so easy to find glasses on a budget. And if all you need are simple reading glasses, there’s always the dollar store.
Being an early adopter of new technology is exciting, but it comes with a high price. Full retail price, to be exact.
Having the latest model of technology doesn’t actually have as many perks as we are led to believe. Sure, the phone is thinner or the screen is larger or it stays charged one hour longer, but as far as functionality is concerned, a smartphone is a smartphone and a tablet is a tablet. If a $100 phone has near-identical performance to a $300 phone, why would you spend a month’s car payment worth of money on a new device? As you shop, keep in mind that “most expensive” doesn’t necessarily equal “highest quality.” There’s also something to be said for patience. Eager buyers will have a hard time with this, but if you’re able to wait until the latest model becomes last season’s old news, you’ll be able to buy for way cheaper. You can also find used products in great condition, but shop with caution and make sure you can return the product for a refund if it’s faulty. If your neighbor just paid full price for the newest smartphone, chances are you’ll be able to get the same smartphone and save money by simply waiting a few months. TVs are another electronic for which bigger prices will not mean better products. Your neighbor may have just bought a $1,200 TV, but you can probably find one that’s just as big and just as clear for $800-900. While the range of prices vary vastly, the scale of bad to good is very small and there is a ceiling to quality. Don’t pay more for the same thing, and make sure to read reviews and compare product features to avoid overpaying.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Tess Frame writes for GOBankingRates.com, a leading portal for personal finance news and features, offering visitors the latest information on everything from interest rates to strategies on saving money, managing a budget and getting out of debt.