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We all know the feeling of watching our bank account balance shrink more than we’d like after a shopping extravaganza.
Sure, premium items can provide quality and comfort worthy of the expense, but sometimes it pays to save money by buying knock-off versions that are just as good.
That’s why we’ve rounded up ten items with cheap substitutes that have proven themselves as equal (if not superior!) alternatives to their pricier peers.
Whether you’re a savvy shopper or living on a tight budget, this list will help you find frugal solutions for your everyday needs without sacrificing quality.
#1. Greeting Cards
Most people read a greeting card then toss it in the trash.
While they won’t do this in front of you, it’s doubtful they will save it for years to come.
And with greeting cards costing $5 or more, this expense can quickly get out of control
A better option is to go to the dollar store and get a card for less than a dollar.
Better yet, don’t give a card, but tell them what they mean to you.
The reason most sunglasses are high priced is for the brand name.
They don’t work better or are better made.
As a result, many people recommend just buying the cheapest version, especially if you often lose or break yours.
#3. Home Cleaning Products
Keeping your home clean is good for your mental and physical health.
However, spending a ton of money on the latest high-end gadgets and cleaning products might not be.
When it comes to home-cleaning products, spending less typically gets you the same experience as if you were to spend more.
A trip to the local dollar store will help you find a host of products that contain the same kinds of ingredients without costing the same amount as the bigger brands.
Just make sure you look at the list of ingredients to see if anything is missing or added that could affect you.
Cleaning your house can get deadly if you switch brands and accidentally mix products that shouldn’t be mixed.
#4. Over-the-Counter Medications
The rising healthcare costs are impacting many people, especially prescription medications.
However, another form of healthcare that’s not always the cheapest is OTC medication.
Major brands can charge insane amounts for basic medications that alleviate common ailments like colds, headaches, and sinus congestion.
The secret? Always cheap out on OTC medicine.
Chances are that the generic version has the same ingredients as the brand-name product, which charges ten times more.
Why spend more money on something that effectively does the same thing?
#5. Charging Cables (and Other Electronic Cables)
Charging cables, for the most part, are all the same.
This goes the same for HDMI cables, USB cables, and other cables that connect your electronic devices to power or each other.
Some people will purchase products made by the brand of their electronics because they think they’re getting a better deal or making sure that their electronics are protected.
The reality? Pretty much all cables are the same, and some of the products produced by smaller companies add additional features that your brand-name cable wouldn’t.
Plenty of platforms like Amazon will even offer deals where you can get multiple backup cables in a cheap bundle.
#6. Rolled Oats
If you’re an oatmeal fan, you know there’s no shortage of oat products out there.
However, you may have also noticed that oatmeal isn’t the cheapest nowadays.
Whether you’re a fan of oatmeal packets, packages of rolled oats, or even overnight oat products, there’s no reason not to reach for the cheapest oats available.
Oats are oats, and while you may need to put a little more work in to see the same results you would with other types of products, it’s well worth what you save over the long term.
#7. Single-Use Holiday or Celebration Products
Something is exciting about decorating a space for a holiday or a special occasion like a birthday.
Of course, there are other things that you need to spend your money on.
Whether it’s gifts, entertainment, or something else, it’s likely much less exciting by the time you get to figuring out how much it will cost to decorate your space.
However, one of the biggest mistakes that people have vocalized when it comes to decorating is spending way too much money on decorations that will likely be used once.
This includes paper plates, plastic cups, wrapping paper, and other disposable goods like banners and signs that won’t be relevant later.
Their biggest advice is to cheap out on these items and buy cheap single-use products.
The difference in quality isn’t that noticeable, and these aren’t decorations that will make a major appearance later on.
#8. Extended Warranties on Cheap Electronics
If you’ve ever purchased electronics, you’ve been harassed by paper pamphlets and bombarded by pop-ups and emails asking you to spend just a little more to cover your electronics.
Of course, it’s never just a little more, is it? It’s always an extra $20, $50, or more.
In some cases, this makes sense. When purchasing a game console or an Apple product, you want to ensure that it lasts you a long time.
If you’re investing in a cheap toaster, it doesn’t add up to spending all that extra money on something you could easily replace later.
#9. A New Pet
Animals are animals. We should treat all of them with love and respect.
However, we all know that pets do cost money upfront when you decide to adopt them.
Some high-end animals can cost thousands of dollars, and how they’re bred and raised is not always ethical.
If you want to make a difference and save money, look for animals you might wish to adopt at your local animal shelters.
The costs are much less, you know that your animal has been taken care of, and you’re investing in a local organization that aims to protect animals and find them homes.
You’re not necessarily cheaping out, but you are doing something better with your money than giving it to potentially unethical breeders.
#10. First Dates
Everyone is nervous about first dates.
After all, it’s like an audition where you get to know the person and discover they’re not the right fit for you and your life.
One mistake that people often make is going all-out on a first date.
While you don’t want to cheap out too much and leave a bad impression, you shouldn’t be pouring a ton of money and effort into a first date.
That should come later once you have determined that you want to move forward and work on building a relationship with them.
Your wallet and the other person will thank you.
People who have had someone go all-out on them on the first date have spoken up about feeling quite awkward when it happens.
#11. Breakfast Cereal
Breakfast cereal prices are quite high for what you get.
There’s not as much innovation as there used to be, which means that many of the cereal products you see on shelves already have a generic brand elsewhere.
Take a moment to consider those generic products.
Some generic cereal brands are made with the same ingredients using the same process.
The only difference is that you’re paying more for a specific name and getting less.
#12. Mexican Food
This is an excellent suggestion put forward by many people.
While there are plenty of high-end and mainstream Mexican restaurants, not all will give you a good experience for your money.
There are a ton of lesser-known, hole-in-the-wall food joints out there that could blow your mind and help you save money.
This isn’t necessarily a suggestion limited to Mexican food, either.
No matter what type of food you want, sometimes smaller joints can do a much better job of impressing you and satiating your hunger without paying the big bucks.
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This thread inspired this article.
I have over 15 years experience in the financial services industry and 20 years investing in the stock market. I have both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Finance, and am FINRA Series 65 licensed and have a Certificate in Financial Planning.
Visit my About Me page to learn more about me and why I am your trusted personal finance expert.