Part of getting the most out of your finances is by making your money work for you. Your income is your most powerful wealth-building tool—far more powerful than any investment plan you might implement. Why? Because you have the power to decide how and where you spend your money.
This means becoming discerning about how you spend that income. One of the core principles is to never pay full price for certain products.
What do I mean when I say full price? I’m not particularly referring to products that are on sale or available at some sort of discount. Those are great ideas and fantastic methods for saving money, but that’s not the issue here.
Rather, full price refers to paying top dollar for certain types of products. Many families pay far too much money for items because they tend to shop exclusively at particular stores rather than looking for the best deal available. Other families lose money through an insistence on purchasing only name brand products or refusing to consider used alternatives.
10 Things You Should Never Buy at Full Price
1. Glasses and Contact Lenses
My family has been purchasing glasses online for several years now. I recommend using Zenni Optical for your eyeglass needs. Don’t waste money buying expensive glasses through your optometrist when you can get the same or better quality for less. Not only are my Zenni alternatives the least expensive glasses I’ve ever purchased, they’re also the best quality and longest-lasting. For contacts, check out the offerings at places such as the Walmart Vision Center, Walgreens.com, and VisionDirect.com.
Unless you’re looking for something specific, there’s no need to pay the high prices at department and specialty stores. Shop at discount stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Ross, and Burlington Coat Factory. I you know how well a certain brand fits your body, you can take the risk of shopping online for better deals than local stores. I’ve bought Asics shoes from 6pm.com with great success.
Groceries are one of the single largest avoidable financial drains on many families. Not only should you avoid overspending through meal planning, couponing, and sticking to your shopping list, but you should also refuse to pay for name brands. Yes, personal taste is an issue, and some name brands do taste better, but in most cases you won’t notice the difference. Purchase generics and store brands when possible, and shop at discount groceries stores such as ALDI. You’ll save a ton of money over the course of a year.
There’s almost no justification for taking on a new car payment. So many families dig themselves deeper into debt with the excuse, “Well, we can afford the monthly payment.” That’s the wrong way to handle personal finance. Sure, your current income may be able to support car payments, but what if you suddenly lost your job, were disabled, or had a major emergency. Wouldn’t you be better off if several hundred dollars of income per month weren’t locked into a car payment? Better yet, imagine what you could do if you bought a used car with cash—you could pay down debt, or save a lot of money for college and retirement.
5. Online Purchases
Before purchasing almost anything, see if you can save money by shopping online instead. It’s not always practical, but you can get the vast majority of products online for less these days—including some food and household goods. My family does this via Amazon’s Subscribe & Save service for product we can order in bulk at regular intervals. When it comes to consumer goods, it pays to dig a little deeper and search for discount codes before clicking the purchase button.
Eating out can be a big money-waster, but you can spend money smartly by limiting your restaurant visits to special occasions and looking for the best deal you can get. Find out when the restaurants in your area have their midweek specials or kids eat free nights. You can also check restaurant websites for special coupons, or take a look on Restaurant.com for deals. You might also check out Groupon, Amazon Local, and Living Social for specials as well.
You should never, ever buy insurance without looking for the best deal you can get. This is primarily concerning non-health insurances since those are often tied to your employment. Find a reputable broker in your area who will shop around for the best deal available from all the insurance companies. If you’re not sure who to use, poll your local friends on Facebook and find out which insurance broker they use. For most of your insurance needs, I recommend you take a look at Zander Insurance.
8. Books, Music, and Movies
I’m sure you know there are digital versions for consumable media nowadays at a significant cost savings in comparison to the physical counterparts. I understand digital versions don’t always offer the same experience (books), yet digital can be higher quality while being both more portable and less expensive. Keep in mind you don’t need a specialized device for any of these files. Any computer can open most formats whether the file is a book, song, or movie. You can save quite a bit of money by purchasing adapters to hook up your computer to your TV for streaming rather than buying a device or smart TV.
If you still want physical copies, or what you want isn’t available digitally, then your best option is to find it used. Many cities have locally owned used bookstores or a chain like Half Price Books. These stores sell more than books alone, they often have great DVD and CD selections, and even vinyl for any audiophiles who want that vintage sound. You can also look online for inexpensive alternatives. Start at Amazon, but also look at sites such as thriftbooks.com, abebooks.com, addall.com, and many others that offer print books and other used physical media at steep discounts.
9. Cleaning Products
Though this takes a bit of work on your part, look into the possibility of making your own cleaners. Check the prices at your local stores for cleaning products such as laundry detergent and spray cleaners, and then find some recipes for similar cleaners online. See if purchasing the components you need to mix up your own versions would come out to be less expensive than store bought versions. Quite often cleaning products can be made at home from very basic and inexpensive ingredients such as vinegar, baking powder, and ammonia.
You can save a gigantic wad of cash and avoid more monthly payments by purchasing less expensive furniture options. If you’re open to the idea, check Facebook for local garage sale groups. My family has picked up some really nice furniture (solid wood!) for pennies on the dollar. Look for discount stores such as Big Lots and insurance salvage outlets for big savings as well.
What do you think about this list? Any items you’d like to add or suggest? Anything you disagree with? Please share in the comments.
I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.
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