Buying Batteries without Busting the Budget

by Guest Contributor · 9 comments

Purchasing batteries seems to be a requirement today. Between all the electronically based games that children play and a need for flashlights and remote controls, having batteries around the house is a necessity, not a luxury. Still, most batteries are fairly expensive little items. Is there a way to get what you need without paying a fortune? Yes.

You Don’t Have to Buy Name Brand

There is a particular consumer review service that evaluates products all year round. They reached the conclusion that many of the generic brands of batteries work just as well as their name brand counterparts. To find out which generics work best and are cheapest, head to your local library and review the findings in the monthly magazine.

In many cases a generic alkaline battery will work just as well as long as the ratings are the same, and can be purchased for a lot less, even without using a coupon.

Coupons and Sales are the Time to Stock Up

Just about every Sunday paper provides a coupon to one type of battery or another, so look for those. When you can double up a coupon with a sale, the cost of batteries can drop significantly, so this is the time to stock up. And they last for years too if you store them properly.

Buy Batteries in Bulk

If you belong to one of the popular warehouse grocery stores, take a look at their battery prices. You can often save 30% or more when compared with a supermarket. The catch is that you have to purchase large quantities of batteries to achieve these savings. In my home, it isn’t uncommon to go through two packs of 48 AA batteries each year. The savings really add up, but only go for this option if you can go through that many batteries.

Invest in a Battery Tester

Once your battery doesn’t work in you child’s high-powered toy, it may still have plenty of juice to perform somewhere else. A battery tester may cost $10, but they will let you know how much juice is left in each battery. Many such “low charge” batteries will work for months in a remote control or other low draw devices.

Don’t check them too often though, because it takes battery life to check!

Are Rechargeable Batteries Worth the Money?

From the perspective of finances, they aren’t usually worthwhile. From the perspective of avoiding tossing more garbage into landfills, yes, they are.

Financially, rechargeable batteries are prohibitively expensive. They work well, and, if you purchase lithium batteries, they can last for years providing reliable power. They don’t last quite as long as disposable batteries, but they deliver consistent results time after time. For items like remote controls or digital cameras, they can be very useful.

David’s Note: I don’t really know enough to say whether rechargeable batteries are or aren’t more expensive. I know they seem cheaper just because you only really see the initial cost once and don’t have to pay attention to the ongoing cost of charging them up. What do you think?

One Caveat on Battery Usage

In life saving devices such as the smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector, you should never use rechargeable or depleted batteries. A remarkable percentage of those who die in house fires would have survived had the smoke detectors sounded properly. In areas of safety, you should purchase high quality batteries and change them at least twice a year.

Although batteries are expensive, they have become ubiquitous. Finding a way to save money when purchasing them is just smart, and should be part of anyone’s strategy to save money.

This is taken from the How to Save Money on Everything ebook. Get your free copy by signing up for the free frugal newsletter.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Marianne O says:

    This is a must-read if you’re serious about saving money on batteries:
    http://www.wisebread.com/the-40-hidden-inside-a-12v-battery

  • I’ve had really bad luck with rechargeable batteries, including top brand names. I personally like using lithium batteries for items such as cameras and portable CD players; I’ve had too many rechargeable batteries conk out on me mid-song or mid-shot. The lithium ones seem to last longer for my needs.

    Peace, love, happiness, and prosperity,
    Stephanie

  • Rachel says:

    My boyfriend and I use rechargeable AA and AAA batteries(all from Radio Shack, most bought on sale). These are what power the wireless video game controllers, remote controls, and calculators at home.

    They’re well worth it. The charge lasts a good while and we’ve always got two more charged batteries than we need on hand so that there’s no wait for a charge if a device runs out. Rechargeable are great from an economic perspective. They pay for themselves with just a few charges. And for us the charges are cheap since our electricity comes from a hydroelectric dam.

  • KM says:

    Rechargeable are only worth it for high-power devices, such as digital cameras. My mom’s camera (mine is DSLR and uses specific rechargeable batteries) lasts maybe an hour of constant usage before the batteries have to be replaced. She doesn’t use it much, but it still adds up. Don’t bother putting them everywhere, especially remote controls. It’s true that batteries with little life left in them can be used for remotes, so don’t throw away used ones from something that eats up the charge quickly. If you replace batteries in a device several times a month, it’s worth investing in rechargeables. Otherwise, stick with regular. Rechargeables can’t be used forever either – each charge eats away at their maximum capacity and after a while they become worthless.

  • Sue Kohler says:

    I agree with you comment on buying in bulk… for me that’s been the way to go. I should really figure out some type of rechargeable option but it seems some stores, like Best Buy, are starting to take batteries in for recycling so that’s good.

  • Ann says:

    I would have to agree with the commenters on this, about the rechargeable batteries. You can get a charger and 4 batteries now for $10 or less. They don’t take long to recharge in an outlet. If you are off-grid, you can use your inverter to charge them. In fact, if you have an inverter for your vehicle, just charge them while you’re going down the road.

    Also, some “rechargeable battery packs” are really nothing more than a few AA batteries. Once you rip off the plastic covering keeping them together, you have more batteries that can be recharged. When you recharge batteries, the charger converts 110/120 power down into a lower voltage, otherwise your batteries would explode. So, you’re consuming a lot less electricity than you’d think. Just be sure to remove the charger (and any other phantom loads) from outlets when you’re finished.

    I have found that the rechargeables last a lot longer in my digital camera than standard batteries, too.

  • Charles says:

    Rechargables not worth it? I disagree. My wife and I would go through 3 or 4 sets of high quality batteries a week without rechargables. We have a pottery business that requires many photographs for marketing purposes. I have bought 3 sets over the last 3 years. We’d have bought less if the darn kids didn’t steal them and not return them to be recharged. Well worth it both environmentally and monetarily.

  • We’ve used rechargeable battery for years and this is the way to go for me. I think it’s cheaper because you only pay the up front cost. I haven’t purchase batteries for 3-4 years. If you’re going through 100 batteries a year, I can’t see how it would be cheaper to buy alkaline.

    • MoneyNing says:

      Again, I don’t know the answer to this but just to throw this out there, have you considered electricity charges? I remember buying 2 rechargeable AAs + charger for something like $20 way back when I bought a Wii. The same amount can probably buy me 50 generics at a discounted battery store.

      I bought the rechargeable because I hate buying batteries, but if I need 4, 6, maybe 8, wouldn’t it take YEARS for my investment to just break even?

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