I’m a Financial Expert: Always Buy the Cheapest Version of These 10 Things

A woman shops in the store.
Nikola Stojadinovic / Getty Images

When it comes to spending money, it’s not always about how much you have in your bank account. Even if you’re a high earner or have a significant net worth, that doesn’t mean you should spend your hard-earned cash thoughtlessly.

In fact, many financial experts would caution against doing this and would instead recommend making conscious spending decisions that prioritize needs over wants — perhaps with a little splurging every now and then.

GOBankingRates spoke with several financial experts about the top things people should always spend as little as possible on. Here’s what they suggested.

Medications

If you need medication, think twice about buying the most expensive option. You might find that generic options cost less and still offer the same benefits.

“Generic versions of medications often contain the same active ingredients as their brand-name counterparts but are usually way more affordable,” said Erika Kullberg, an attorney, personal finance expert, and the founder of Erika.com. “Next time you’re at the pharmacy, compare the ingredients on the name-brand and generic options to see how they compare.”

Vitamins and Supplements

Similar to how you can often get cheaper generic medication without sacrificing quality, you can do the same with vitamins and supplements. Just make sure you double-check the ingredients and cross-reference brands for quality purposes.

Make Your Money Work for You

“While I’m not a medical expert, if one is able to get a vitamin such as B12 in a cheaper form, then one should do that rather than paying a premium for vitamin B12 from someone else,” said Sebastian Jania, financial expert and the owner of Ontario Property Buyers.

Groceries

Groceries are an essential expense, but your food bill doesn’t have to be through the roof. In fact, many financial experts would recommend against buying the most expensive ingredients and instead opting for a cheaper alternative.

“Unless you can really tell the difference between a name-brand food item and the store brand, go with the store brand to save money,” said Kullberg. “The exception to this rule is if you have a coupon for the name-brand item.”

Jania agreed with this by saying, “Groceries, especially when it comes to ‘no name brand’ groceries, are typically going to be the cheapest.”

Books

“I would never tell someone not to buy a book, but there’s no need to buy the latest hardback edition,” said Kullberg. “Going digital with an e-book will consistently save you money on even the latest releases. If you prefer a traditional paper book, always look for a used copy on Amazon or check out your town’s used bookstore to get books for a dollar or two instead of $20.”

Another way to save money on books is to borrow them from a public library. And if you’re concerned about late fees, check out audiobooks or e-books. These will be automatically returned once they’re due.

Make Your Money Work for You

Disposable Items

Anything that you have to replace frequently should be purchased as cheaply as possible.

“Whenever possible, I like to invest in clothing or home goods I know will last, but sometimes you have to accept when something is a lost cause,” said Kullberg. “For example, if you like to replace your shower curtain often to keep things feeling fresh, a Target version will do just as well as a designer version. If you know your kids will spill on your rug and you will need to replace it every couple of years, go for a cheaper option instead of an investment piece.”

Baby Clothes

Another thing to buy as cheaply as possible to save money is baby clothes.

“Babies grow so fast and new clothes soon stop fitting them. So, buy cheap clothes and don’t worry about quality,” said Diana Howard, the Financial Analyst at CouponBirds.

You might be able to do the same with other things that won’t last, like baby toys. Just be sure to choose things that are still safe for your child.

Cosmetics

Cosmetics are another key area where you can cut costs while still getting what you want.

“While you may have a favorite designer foundation or lipstick you’ll never stray from, try to find drugstore alternatives for the bulk of your makeup routine,” said Kullberg. “Nowadays, you can find really great ‘dupes’ for designer makeup products for a fraction of the price at the drugstore. I promise, no one can tell if you spent $30 on your mascara.”

Gym Memberships

The cost of a gym membership can really add up, especially if you account for the initial signup fee and monthly costs. So, if you’re keen on going to the gym to work on your fitness, choose the cheapest option that will still get you what you want.

“A treadmill is a treadmill, so don’t let saunas and free Kiehl’s products in the bathroom convince you to add a three-figure monthly gym membership to your budget,” said Kullberg.

Tea and Coffee

Unless you’ve got a favorite brand of tea or coffee that you just can’t let go of, your purchase should be less about the name and more about the ingredients.

For those who drink tea, Jania suggested buying in bulk so as to get the lowest “per unit” price possible. And for those who buy ground coffee, go with the lowest-cost option that still gets you what you need.

Cars

When it comes to cars, knowing how much to spend can be a little bit tricky. After all, you’ll want to find the right balance between cost, condition, and quality. But as long as it runs well and serves its purpose, you’re probably better off buying a cheaper vehicle as opposed to a more expensive one.

“The main purpose of a car is to get one from one location to the next rather than for it to be a status symbol or something to show off,” said Jania. “Provided that the vehicle is safe and will do what it is supposed to do, it’s recommended to avoid paying the top dollar for a vehicle, especially because it is depreciating.”

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