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Enough is enough: Stop overpaying for stuff

By on May 5, 2009

water bottles
photo by yanec

Americans overpay for many products and services. Often, it can be justified by the fact that your enjoyment outweighs the money spent. But what if there are cheaper alternatives? And what if these options are almost or equally as good? You can save money. What do you overpay for?
Here are a few choices to think about.

BOTTLED WATER: Bottled water has become the new fur coat. Read: gauche. Tres gauche. But if you’re still buying it, you’re overpaying. According to the Environmental Working Group, their bottled-water study revealed that bottled water can contain chemicals never tested for safety, and may be no cleaner than tap water. Not to mention the disposable packaging. Use a water filter and a reusable container instead.

MUSIC: It’s not often you buy a CD and enjoy all the music on it. Use a legal music-downloading service, and pay only for the music you want.

STAMPS: While it’s amazing that a letter can go from one region to another for just a few cents, you might be overpaying for this service. Switch to online or automated bill pay or use e-mail. In all fairness, the post office does offer many convenient options, such as ordering stamps online and offering shipping options from home that are complete with free priority-mailing supplies. Not to mention they’re cheaper than other delivery companies. But why pay more for mail service when you have a choice?

ENTERTAINMENT: Chances are you’re spending too much money on television channels you’ll never watch. Or shelling out dough on movie theaters with high-priced tickets and concession stands. With options such as www.hulu.com to watch shows or borrowing from the library or renting from Netflix, this is one area to take a look at. Not good enough? Try a matinee.

SCHOOL PICTURES: Yes, your child is precious. But in this day and age of digital photography and professional studios, you can get more bang for your buck and better quality and variety elsewhere. And no retakes. Spring and fall pictures? It’s out of control. At the very least, don’t feel obligated to buy the largest package.

GREETING CARDS: A simple card can set you back a pretty penny. A handwritten note or handmade card is more personal. There are less costly greeting-card lines and cheaper sources, such as the dollar store or online e-cards. But there are also higher-priced items to tempt you. Try postcards or gift tags. You can also coordinate a card swap with family or friends. This works well for packaged holiday cards.

SOUVENIRS: It’s bad enough to pay a lot of money for vacations and events such as concerts or sports. Let’s not forget the food, too. Add on souvenirs such as T-shirts, hats or toys, and you’re paying a hefty price for something you can find cheaper elsewhere. Buy them beforehand, and give them while you’re there or once you get home. You can also consider taking photos or collecting natural materials such as sand, rocks or shells.

JEWELRY: Why pay for perceived value? Jewelry with precious stones can cost a ton. Comparison shop, research and negotiate. Consider diamond alternatives. Don’t overlook secondhand or vintage items that can be found at places such as pawnshops, auctions, estate sales or antique stores, too.

LOTTERY: It should be called “A dollar and a pipe dream.” Save your money or consider bingo as an alternative. You have a higher chance of winning, and a fun night out.

What do you think consumers overpay for?

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About Sara Noel

Sara Noel owns Castalia Coffee Roasting Company, Follow me on Twitter

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