5 Consumable Products That Aren’t Worth the Extra Cost

by Jamie Simmerman · 18 comments

Are you throwing money away by spending more on products that have little to no lasting effect on your life? If we examine the why behind a purchase decision closely, we might find that just because mother paid $4.99 for Mead writing tablets, it may not be the wisest shopping choice today. One of the quickest ways to run up a shopping bill is to splurge on name brand or specialty consumables, so let’s take a look today on the 5 worst products to spend more on and reduce that bill.

What Qualifies as a Consumable?
Technically, everything we purchase is a consumable. Consumers devour ideas, information, products, and services around the clock, but a more refined definition of a consumable product would be anything that gets washed down the drain or thrown out with the trash.

Which consumable products should you be thrifty with and which are worth paying more for?

Products Worth Splurging For

  1. Toilet paper. Let’s be realistic. If you buy the cheap stuff, you’re just going to use more and you really don’t end up saving money unless you have a way to enforce Grandma’s “two squares” limit for everyone in your house.
  2. Hair care products. If you have color treated hair or if you use styling products everyday, it pays to spend more for the good stuff. You get better results with a smaller amount of product if you upgrade to a quality brand. However, if you can buy with the Dollar Store knock-offs without walking around with hag hair all day, by all means, save a few bucks.
  3. Make up. Cheap make up is not only bad for your skin, but it wears poorly over the course of a day. You end up having to reapply several times a day and you’re more likely to experience skin issues like rashes, dry patches, and pimples. Get the good stuff and use it wisely.
  4. Light bulbs. Spending a little more for high-efficiency or LED light bulbs can actually save you money in the long run, so do your homework and compare prices before making a final decision.

5 of The Worst Products to Spend More On

  1. Dish soap. Spending more for name brand or scented dish soaps is a little fruitless since it gets washed down the drain on a regular basis. A common sense exception would be if you have hard water or an allergy to certain types of soaps.
  2. Toilet bowl cleaner. If it cleans and disinfects, go the cheapest route you can find. This may mean switching to vinegar or straight bleach and doing away with the Scrubbing Bubbles.
  3. High-grade gasoline. If you have a newer (non-high performance) car, it most likely runs equally well on 87 octane as it would on 92 octane gasoline. This doesn’t include high performance vehicles or those with manufacturers that recommend Top Tier fuels, but most people will likely save money by going with cheaper gas.
  4. Paper (especially school paper). The majority of your writing paper probably ends up in the wastebasket over the course of a year, so purchasing the most inexpensive paper you can find makes sense. Your kids may not like the slight discoloration of the off-brand recycled notebook paper, but you can compromise by buying a single notebook of quality paper for presentations and important assignments. If you journal or keep your notebooks long-term for reference, it’s probably a good idea to exercise your best judgment in determining what price range is acceptable to meet your needs.
  5. Paper towels and napkins. These consumable items generally end up in the trash mere minutes after removal from the package. Opting for unpatterned, unquilted, boring paper towels and napkins for everyday use is a smart buy. (Most of the inexpensive brands of paper towels now come with extra perforations that create mini-sheets and help make the roll last longer.)

What consumable products can you not live without and which are on your “grab the cheap one” list?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • karen says:

    Saving money by using cloth napkins, cloth dish towels, so you are also saving the environment ? well you do have to launder them , so what about the soap you use & the hot/warm water? plus your time? you are using energy plus dumping soapy water into the ground water somewhere. Yes you are saving some, but also wasting some.

  • Michelle says:

    Paper Plates –

    My parents will buy the super cheap ones but use 5 or 6 so they don’t leak. I’ve always bought a better brand and they fret that I spend to much. I wonder who spends more in the long run.

    And I’ve actually bought them the paper plate holders (wicker and plastic) but they still use multiple plates so they don’t leak.

    • Ruth Cooke says:

      Paper plates and paper towels and paper napkins are all on my “Save 100% all the time by not buying any” list. The one time every few years when I do need to buy paper plates, though, I agree with Michelle–the cheaper thin ones just don’t work.

      I also never use make up or skin care products other than soap, and my skin is healthy and young looking. I’ve only recently started colouring my hair (my white is coming in in streaks) and have so far found the cheaper brands (but not the dollar store brands) to be fine.

      Vinegar can substitute for a lot of nasty cleaning chemicals, and soap is soap is soap. Though I use cheap brands, I find they do vary in how much the soap is diluted–shop around until you find a brand that’s more soap than water. That goes not just for dish soap, but for EVERY kind of soap, by the way. The only difference between the expensive salon shampoos and the store brands is the perfume and fragrance, neither of which have anything to do with how clean your hair gets. Oh, and the price, too…

  • Jeanne says:

    Mead writing products to teach young children how to form the alphabet: Lines too close together for a young child, goofy arrows intended to show the direction to make the strokes are distracting to a 5 year old and they just don’t “get it,” The Primary Journal says that it conforms to the D’Nealion handwriting methods yet the alphabet in the front of the notebook (an example?) is NOT D’Nelion, which has “tails” on the letters in prep for learning cursive. As an expert in teaching children handwriting, very disappointed by the advertising of these products. Purchased and field tested them on children, I learned first hand the inadequacies of the Mead handwriting products. Too bad the company didn’t do the same before marketing the products.

    • Jim says:

      Jeanne, did you forget to take your meds this morning? What does an analysis of methods of teaching children how to write have to do with this article?
      The article was about the best way to save money on consumable items. Yes, they did mention writing paper, but they said to buy the cheap writing paper, not have an apoplectic fit because Mead doesn’t conform to the educational methods you subscribe to. Do you scream at the employees of the supermarket because they aren’t buffing the floor the way you want them to? I would discuss these anger issues with your therapist. Nurse Ratchet will come and give you your meds now. I’ll ask her to mix them in with the pudding. Just sit in the Day Room quietly and watch TV. No bad Mead hobgoblins to bother you any more. That’s a good girl.

  • Sunny says:

    Don’t we have a responsibility to the environment as well as our budgets? That’s another reason for using cloth napkins and paper towels.
    I pay a little more for recycled paper in toilet paper — but it’s still less than the super-soft but pilling stuff.

    • Glenna says:

      All in all, I think it all depends on the needs of the person, family or household. You have to go with what works for you, your household and environment. The uptick in products towards these ends has been impressive the last few years and I’m sure we all do what we can. I am very fortunate to have a sister to bounce ideas off of and we share what works in case the other can benefit, much like what you are doing here. I thank all for their ideas and food for thought. It remains stimulating and motivating.

  • Deette says:

    I don’t buy paper towels either. I use cloth napkins, or when ever I have extra napkins, even from fast food places I never throw them away, I keep a stash of assorted napkins in my pantry as well as my vehicle to use as paper towels when needed.
    Have a Fabulous & Frugal Day!!

  • Jamie Simmerman says:

    We actuality don’t buy paper towels at all. I purchased a big bag of dish towels at a yard sale and have been using those for the last several years. I have no idea how much it saves, but I know I don’ t miss buying paper towels. And if anyone cares, we use the Scott toilet paper. It’s not too thin, not too expensive, and it’s easy on septic systems. 🙂

    My husband is a journeyman mechanic and he recommends consumers use a fuel injector treatment and an oil change every 3,000 miles with a synthetic oil to help a newer car run better longer. He’ll still occasionally fill up with the good stuff, but for everyday driving, it’s 87 octane in the newer vehicles, and 89 octane in the older truck he drives everyday (The 1988 Chevy with over 300,000 miles he drives everyday does require a higher octane fuel to run well.) My 2012 Equinox’s manual recommends 87 octane, and a gas treatment with every oil change if you don’t use the Top Tier fuel. It’s not high performance, and other than requiring the extra cleansers in the Top Tier fuel, it doesn’t need a higher octane.

  • Jean says:

    I agree with all five of the worst products to spend more on, especially high grade gasoline when you’re putting it into a not so high grade automobile. I have tried on many occasions to explain to my friends that same thing but they think there is still some sort of gain. Maybe there is but it’s really negligible for the price you pay extra, in my opinion from trying it one time.


  • Sam says:

    Jamie, nice collection of products. Napkins are any ways not likely a product that has to be spent. I wonder how people spend more than $50 of napkins every week! And the amount these companies spend on advertising their products on TV is really crazy.

  • Glenna says:

    I heartily agree with all, except the gasoline. When I was younger and saving pennies like a fiend, regular gas had to do. It got me down the road. Now that I am considerably older and owned more cars down the road, I have done what I can to make them last as long as I can. Upon the advice of a friend, regular maintenance and high octane gas have been made my cars last longer and avoid costly repairs. I have owned my present 2001 car since 2003 and have not had any repairs. Yes, gas prices are outrageous, but Consumer Report homework in the beginning for a sturdy auto, as well as consolidating errands has kept that part of my budget within means.

  • Carrie @ Careful Cents says:

    I definitely agree that splurging on toilet paper is important. I hate when I go to other people’s house and they have cheap toilet paper. It’s tragic. Buying quality hair products and makeup is good advice too, I wouldn’t sacrifice my skin/haircare regime just to save a buck.

    I didn’t realize most cars are okay running on regular gasoline. I’ll have to look into that for my car. I also agree that cleaning a toilet can be a cheap method and it will do the trick.

    I will probably still purchase the more expensive paper towels, not go crazy but I just don’t like the cheap brands.

    Great tips.

    • KM says:

      Don’t forget that people have different tastes when it comes to toilet paper and they don’t always consider just the cost. For example, the toilet paper I buy is cheaper than most and it’s very thin, but even with rolling out more of it than others, it lasts longer because the thicker “quilted” ones are so thick that they don’t roll up as well. Just compare the weight of the thin ones and the thick ones. The thin toiler paper roll is heavier because there is actually more paper there and less air between the sheets and the quilt designs. Also, I noticed that the thicker toilet paper leaves a ton more lint and rips a lot easier than the thin kind (at least the one I use), so I will never use that again and I could just as easily think it’s tragic that people whose houses I visit use them. Don’t be so narrow minded. People are different.

  • Christopher says:

    It takes several sheets of cheap paper towels to do the same work as one sheet of good paper towels. I always go for the better stuff.

  • Carolyn says:

    I like the cloth napkin idea.

  • guest in ca says:

    Instead of buying a lot of cheap napkins, buy mid-priced cloth napkins – I prefer white because then they can be bleached. We used our first set of good cloth napkins for almost 15 years before they had to be replaced.

    I find paper towels to fall under the same rule as toilet paper -worth paying a little extra for. But we are a household of 2 adults – with kids it might be better to go cheaper. We don’t need to use as many of the better ones; we like the ones that are half-sized since we often use them just for a little spill.

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