Sometimes, when you see two products that are designed to do the same thing, paying more is actually a good idea (think toilet paper or tissues). You really do want thicker and softer, and it’s worth paying for. But other times, going the cheap route makes perfect sense — and any differences are all but undetectable. Here are some instances in which you can pay less without sacrificing quality.
- Groceries Approaching Sell-By Dates. If it looks fine to you, and you can freeze it or cook it right away, go ahead. Grocery stores mark food way down when it’s close to the date they cannot sell it at all. This can be a great way to save on meats and produce in particular, but you’ll want to make sure you prepare or freeze right away. You don’t want to end up throwing away what the grocery store didn’t have to because you bought it.
- Books. If you have an e-reader (or an app such as Goodreads), there are many, many books that you can read for free. (Project Gutenberg includes more than 46,000 free books.) Think of it as a library that never closes. It can also be useful for children who forget about a book report until the night before it is due … the book is right there. No frantic trip to the mall and, in many cases, no fee. And if you enjoy shopping for books? Check out used books. They are usually far less expensive than new. And don’t forget your local library — even some late fees can still cost you less than buying the book outright.
- Razor Blades & Disposable Razors. Whether you choose disposables or blades for a safety razor, you’re paying much less than you would for an electric razor or a razor with cartridges. And if you want those cheap blades to last longer, here’s a tip: Keep them dry, meaning wipe them off after every shave.
- Dishes. The cheap ones hold up just as well as the expensive ones. You may prefer the more expensive ones, but the others are just as functional, and it’s likely less traumatic when they get broken. The same goes for glassware.
- Spices. You may see them at the dollar store or in ethnic sections of the supermarket — and the prices are often significantly lower than those in the spice display at your supermarket. Don’t be afraid to try them.
- Children’s Clothes. If kids are still growing — or if this is a special occasion outfit that will likely be worn just once — don’t worry about getting top quality. It will be outgrown before long, and you’ll need the savings to buy more clothes for your growing child (unless you are lucky enough to get hand-me-downs). Many parents’ groups hold sales of gently used children’s clothing — you may be able to pick up some bargains there as well.
- Cellphone Plans. Know yourself before you do it — but if your usage is well within what is permitted, you may find that a cheaper plan offers significant savings. But do not assume you’ll get what you pay for, and therefore the most expensive phone/plan is the best. A cheaper one may not be noticeably different for you, and the savings can be enormous. I recently cut my family’s cellphone bill in half when I switched from a major carrier to one that piggybacks on free Wi-Fi when available. It’s not perfect; there are some dead zones where we can’t place or receive calls, but it works fine about 98% of the time, which is good enough for us.
Whether you’re working to pay off debt or just want to avoid paying more than you need to, choosing products that do what you need them to do but cost less can help you get closer to your goals. And getting in the habit of evaluating everyday spending can help you stay alert to whether you think you are getting your money’s worth when you choose to pay more. It’s easy to go over budget and get into debt — a scary idea for many, especially considering the lifetime cost of debt.
There are many, many more ways to spend less without feeling shortchanged, and many of them, like cellphone plans, depend on how you use the item in question. If you use it frequently, it may be worth it to you to buy the highest possible quality. Other times, cutting corners won’t be noticeable at all — and you may feel freer to dispose of no-longer-needed purchases (think holiday decorations from the dollar store).
By Gerri Detweiler of Credit.com