Are We Overpaying for Everything?

I find my weekly runs to the grocery store to be quite a work-out. I never reach up, bend down or squat nearly as much anyplace else. That’s because usually the cheap stuff is on the bottom and top shelves at the markets. Items that stores make the most money on are placed at chest level.

I’m always on the look-out for a good deal at the supermarket. I try to stay away from items that are marked-up, but sometimes I just can’t.

You know those packages of pre-cut veggies like carrots, onions, and celery that grocery stores carry? Yea, I’m a sucker for them.

Just looking at the plastic containers on the shelves makes me feel guilty. I know full well that I am overpaying for these items. If I would just buy a bag of carrots and skin and cut them myself, I would save myself some dough.

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I’m definitely guilty of indulging in this small treat. I pay extra for the convenience factor those pre-cut veggies provide. Overpaying for items like these on a continual daily basis can really add up and cut into my budget.

Know what else people pay too much for? Wine. Go to any fine dining establishment and check out the prices they charge for a bottle of wine. You’ll see bottles listed for $40 and up a bottle. If you purchase those same bottles at discount beverage stores like Total Wine or BevMo!, you’ll find them at prices two to four times cheaper! Restaurants mark up their beverages like wine and champagne at insane margins.

Instead purchase a bottle from a package store at the discounted price and bring it to the restaurant. Let me run the numbers by you to demonstrate the savings you will incur. Most restaurants allow you to bring your own wine for an industry standard $10 corking fee. If you purchase a wine that is $15 or less, incur the corking fee of $10, your total expenditure will be $25. That’s still $15 less than the average price for bottle of wine at a restaurant. Plus, you’ll lower your total bill which means you save yourself some money on tipping as well.

While we’re talking about beverages, it would be lax of me to not mention bottled water. I’m not totally immune to the convenience factor bottled water brings to the table. It’s a necessary evil at the gym, on long road trips and stuffed in my purse when I’m out running errands all day. But buying 24 or 36 packs weekly or monthly is an expense no one should incur. The average price for these bad boys is between $4-5 a pack. If your family goes through two packages a week, that adds up to $480 a year! Ugh.

The numbers look even worse if you compare the price of bottled water to what comes out of your tap. Tap water will run you just a couple of pennies a glass. The kicker is that bottled water is actually worse for you than tap water. Tap water is continually tested and monitored for safety and quality. Most communities test their water hundreds of times each month. By comparison, bottled water is only tested once a week. A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that one-fifth of bottled waters exceeded state guidelines for microbial limits.  Now, that’s gross.

A great alternative to bottled water is buying a filtered water bottle.  Brita and several other companies make these small carry size water bottles.  So you get the convenience of bottled water at the price of tap.

Sticking to items bought primarily at grocery and convenience stores…let’s examine our afternoon snacks. I don’t know about you, but I try to eat healthy every once in a while. Sometimes I’ll grab a protein bar instead of a bag of chips or cookies. Those bars run me $2 a pop though AND many of them have as much sugar in them as a candy bar. So basically I am hurting my wallet and my waistline! I’ve found it’s cheaper and healthier to stock up on fruit and nuts at the grocery store.

Probably the largest overpayment comes from duplicate insurance. Take a look at your current automotive insurance coverage. Do you see a line that says Personal Injury Protection or PIP insurance on your premium?  Depending on the state you live in you may not need this coverage.  If you have a good health, life or disability insurance policy, chances are that you don’t need PIP coverage.  If you’re injured in an accident your health insurance should cover you, so carrying PIP insurance coverage on your automotive policy is pretty much duplicate coverage. Save money by eliminating this add-on from your auto policy.

A lot of insurance policies also offer roadside emergency services. They’ll send someone out to help you if you get a flat tire, run out of gas or need a tow. Those are all the same services organizations like AAA and National Automobile Club charge you a yearly fee for. Why pay for the same services twice? Compare the cost and benefits of the two offers and delete the lesser of the two, saving you some moolah!

We buy insurance for the peace of mind it gives us. We buy warranties for the same reason. Sales people try to convince us that warranties are a good thing. That if an item breaks after the standard 90 or 180 day warranty runs out the repair costs could be astronomical.

I have two issues with this line of bull crap. First, I don’t want any item if it’s going to break after three to six months. It’s not a quality product then. Try telling that to a sales person, they never know what to say to that. The look on their faces is worth it!

Secondly, most credit cards offer warranties for products bought with their cards. American Express offers just such a policy at no extra charge to its cardholder, with the added benefit of doubling the time of the manufacturer’s warranty up to one year. Call up your credit card company to see if they offer a similar service, sometimes they’ll ask you to register the product but that’s free to do as well.

Anytime you make a purchase from the electronics department you’ll be asked if you want to buy a warranty. Electronics are usually high-ticket items and retailers play on our fears that the items will cost more to repair than it’s worth. Know why it will cost more than it’s worth to repair? Because electronics depreciate about as fast a new cars do. Inevitably as soon as you buy the latest and greatest model of phone or television you start to hear commercials within weeks or months for the next generation of the same item. It’s better to buy last year’s models or buy gently used electronic items to get your money’s worth.

You get what you pay for, right? In cosmetics that’s not necessarily true. It’s a widely held belief that the more a cosmetics item costs, the more effective it will be. Cosmetics companies have been cramming this thought process down our throats for years now. But not one single study has found that higher-end products are more effective than ones bought from drug stores. Plus, no one can ever tell you are wearing a $29 mascara versus a $10 one! Instead try buying most of your cosmetics from discount stores and only splurging on one or two items from high-end retailers.

The opportunity to overpay for common, everyday items is endless. Everything from what we drink to what we wear provides us with an opportunity to pay more than we need to. The trick is to not make it a habit.

Hopefully after reading this you’ll feel a little more empowered at the store and your wallet will feel a bit heavier with all that cash you didn’t spend!

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Keeping Money in Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson


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