We are a society of consumers. Showing off lavish items is an undeniable aspect of American culture. A lot of the time, we approach shopping with the mentality that more expensive products equals better products. But when it comes to making sound investments in expensive items, there are some purchases you should exclude from your budget.
7. Unlimited-data plans
Unlimited-data plans look attractive on the outside, with a lure of saving. But the average person used about 4.6 GB per month in 2018, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“People should stop paying for data that they don’t use,” said Rob Webber, the founder and CEO of MoneySavingPro and an expert on saving.
One key thing to remember is that unlimited data doesn’t mean unlimited LTE or 4G data. Major carriers typically provide 22 to 50 GB of high-speed data before reducing speeds. If you do decide to go with an unlimited data plan, you would not need unlimited text at the same time.
6. New smartphones
Most of us rely on our smartphones to stay connected, but do we really need the latest and greatest version? Apple typically releases multiple iPhones each year, and too often, people buy into the hype, shelling out thousands for a phone that isn’t all that much better than previous editions. And it’s not just Apple – most of the major phone manufacturers produce new versions almost as frequently, long before the version you have becomes unusable.
Before running to the nearest store to buy the newest phone, take a step back and consider the necessity of an upgrade before spending a boatload on it. Research the differences between the newest model and what you currently have.
5. Cable TV plans
Netflix and save? The large, legacy cable companies cling to the model of offering 200-500 channels for a boatload of money. Many millennials are not purchasing the large cable packages that their parents did. More and more people are ditching the dish and sticking to streaming because they don’t want to pay for hundreds of channels when they watch only a few. Now, if you need it for your job or you spend 40% of your life watching sports, you’ll might want massive cable package. But for the rest of us, go ahead and get the streaming service that costs much less.
4. Self-charging robot vacuums
Robotic vacuums are cool to begin with, and when you add smart technology, these hands-off cleaning gadgets are even more efficient. They take care of a task no one likes to do. However, there are definitely some models out there that are way too expensive – we’re talking $1,000 or more.
Though these vacuums are popular, they tend to leave a spot. Additionally, they have little resale value if you decide you don’t want an automated machine wandering around your house. They will also leave you open to mocking by the neighborhood conspiracy theorist that will regularly remind you that the robot vacuum is going to rise up, take control, and physically throw you and your family out of the house.
3. Overpriced steakhouse dinners
There’s nothing more American than a steak dinner. Most of us love them. However, a luxurious date or group outing that includes an over-the-top steakhouse dinner that you could easily enjoy for less money. This is a prime example of the fallacy that spending more always equals higher quality and better results.
Experts recommend trying local, lower-priced foods that can give you a great experience without hurting your wallet. There is also some civic pride in supporting local merchants, not to mention helping your local economy.
Better yet, make it at home – you can make a restaurant-worthy steak in your oven in 15 minutes that costs $9 tops. Throw in some steamed broccoli, a baked potato, and a bottle of wine, and you’re basically eating the same meal for a quarter of the amount you’d pay at the steakhouse.
2. Gourmet coffee
The difference between gourmet coffee and coffee you make at home is the price and place of consumption. While many people prefer high-end coffee, it can be a spending trap, especially when you’re paying for the coffee to be made in front of you.
“You can make it yourself at home for much less,” said Megan Luke, a senior vice president at PNC Bank. High-quality coffee makers can be had for $200 or less, and whether you go with single-serve pods or bags of beans, you can get the same coffee for less than $1 per cup. On the other hand, going to Starbucks once a day, for example, and spending $3 to $5 on a latte could cost you hundreds per month and thousands a year.
1. Name-brand everything
Making an investment in a luxury handbag or designer shoes can be worth the money if it spends more time on the streets than in a closet. But purchasing an entire wardrobe of name-brand clothes isn’t worth the investment. The big brands will put on the full-court press to make you believe that anything off-brand is of zero quality and will not last. There are some off-brands to avoid, but the difference isn’t anywhere near as significant as the brands want you to believe.
Sometimes splurging on clothes can save you money in the long run, but printed items (T-shirts, caps, bags) will inevitably seem dated. Although, granted, that Von Dutch hat is poised to make an ironic comeback anytime now.
Many of these and other expensive items we purchase can be attributed to response to pressure from advertisers and culture in general. There is always a new version of just about everything, and we need the most up-to-date version or the biggest name, don’t we? Not necessarily. You can have plenty of nice things without emptying your coffers and running up large amounts of debt. All it takes is a little research and patience, and you can have the things you want without laying out huge piles of cash.