Sometimes when I look at the price of something I just bought, I think, “What a rip off!” Even the most frugal of us has fallen prey to “in the moment” spending and the excitement over so-called sales that are really no bargain. Here’s how you may be unknowingly throwing your money away.
5 Ways You’re Getting Ripped Off.
1. Concession stand snacks. There are concession stands and there are concession stands. When I take my son to baseball, I may pay $1 for a small bag of chips, and at my daughter’s gymnastics, the snack bar sells most Costco-purchased snacks for a dollar apiece. In both of these cases, the money I’m overcharged helps my kids’ sports. But try going to the movies these days and you will keel over from the prices! Movie theaters get nearly 30% of their revenue from concessions. It is not uncommon to pay $5.25 for a soda – and that’s for a small. While a large slushie at my son’s baseball concession stand is $1.00, at the movie theater, it’s $6.75. Movie theater popcorn, however, is the worst. The mark-up is up to 19 times what it costs the theater to make, with a large at AMC Theatres costing $8.09! My suggestion: limit your purchases and beware of rewards programs that encourage you to splurge because they’ll upsize for free… giving you more than you may possibly eat or drink.
2. Buying in bulk. Big warehouse stores can save your family a lot of money. I love Costco and the bargains we get there. But be wary of buying large quantities of items you’ll never go through before they expire. The huge fruit tray from Costco always rots before my family can finish it. That big box of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos my daughter wanted has gone untouched after one or two bags and sits in my pantry taking up room. And some over-the-counter pharmacy items you can buy there may expire before you can ever finish them. So buy only the items you know you’ll use and, when in doubt, try buying a smaller amount at your regular grocery store first to see whether or not buying in bulk makes sense.
3. Name brand over-the-counter drug store items. For some reason, people often take comfort in name brands. As if Advil can cure your headache any faster than Ibuprofen. But generic or store brands can offer the same relief for considerably less. And if you stop at the dollar store, you’ll find even steeper discounts on many of the exact same items. You may not find everything you’re looking for, but recently I bought a tube of antibiotic ointment for $.99 at one of these stores. A&D Ointment, the same size, would cost $14.99 at CVS, or $11.99 for the store brand. Just be careful to check expiration dates and ingredients.
4. “In the moment” buying. For some reason, when we are on vacation, calories don’t seem to count and neither do pennies. When vacationing at Disneyland, people overpay for absolutely everything. It’s like our minds go fuzzy and we lose all sense of what items cost in the real world. The same can happen on Black Friday or even at consignment sales when people get caught up in the moment and just want to buy buy buy. So take a deep breath before reaching into your wallet and ask yourself – is this item really worth it? Should I really pay $9 for a few lollipops with mouse ears? Do I really want to buy this $3 bag of cheapy plastic toys at the consignment sale just to keep my child happy while we wait in a long line? (Sometimes the answer is yes.)
5. Sales that aren’t really sales. On Black Friday, I was very excited to visit the tween/teen girl clothing store, Justice, because they were having a 50% off sale. This store is notoriously overpriced but my daughter likes their clothes, so I was determined to get a bargain. I showed up in the morning and was told that “most items” in the store were 50% off. This store is always confusing because they never tell you the real price of anything – they want you to do math in your head to convince yourself you’re getting a bargain. “Ooh, this t-shirt is normally $26.50! But wow, you get 40% off… um, don’t have my calculator handy but I know the answer: it’s… still too expensive!” (Seriously, who wants to pay $26.50 for a t-shirt that is similar in quality and style of one you’d find at Target or Walmart for $7?) But on that Black Friday, I was determined to find a deal. The problem was, every single item of clothing I picked out was NOT on sale. Finally, I asked for some clarification. The sign directly under the items I was picking out declared 50% off… so why the confusion? The sales girl then told me that the entire wall I was looking at was not on sale. Which was about half the store. And for the items that were on sale, if you wanted matching leggings to go with that t-shirt, the leggings were full-priced. Annoyed, I left without buying anything, determined not to give them my money. Today, confirming my suspicions of being ripped off by this store, I received a notice of a class action lawsuit which has determined that “Justice misled shoppers by marking items 40% off when this price was in reality the regular price.” Kohl’s is also notorious for pricing items the same way – “This toddler girl dress is normally $38.00 but today only it’s on sale for 30% off!” That’s supposed to be a deal? Don’t fall for it!
What items do you think are total money-wasters?