Cellphone carriers jacking up the costs of text messages 6,500 percent? Hot, buttered popcorn at the movies coming with a whopping 900 percent markup?
Yep, the cover has been yanked back on what CNNMoney.com calls “America’s Biggest Rip-offs.”
And the the list of exorbitant expenses is enough to make you choke on that bag of cookies in the hotel mini-bar and fall over after sipping that glass of wine at your favorite restaurant.
The final tally wasn’t pretty: College textbooks tripled in price from 1986 to 2004. Brand name ibuprofen like Advil is as much as 160 percent higher than a generic brand — brands required by the Food and Drug Administration to work as well as the higher-priced, supremely advertised name brands. As for the “free” credit reports advertised by the company FreeCreditReport.com, they aren’t so free at all. Ordering wine in a restaurant can cost up to six times as much as drinking the same bottle at home.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to counter some of these expenses.
Free credit reports — for real
– Why pay $14.99 per month for a “free” credit report from the company with the catchy jingle when you really can get it for free from annualcreditreport.com. Everyone is entitled to one free report every 12 months, and in Georgia, residents can request an additional two free credit reports per year from the credit reporting agencies. These requests, however, need to be made directly to the credit bureaus themselves. Click here to go to Georgia.gov for details.
Save on college textbooks
– Why spend $200 on a textbook that will be revised in a year and that you might get only a few dollars from when you try to sell at the end of the semester? It’s the way it has always been done — until now. Today, textbooks are available electronically, you can rent them and you can buy brand new ones from discount Web sites. There are numerous resources out there for college textbooks available below the cost you’ll find at your campus bookstore.
Bust Brand Names
The markup for brand name items extends well beyond a bottle of ibuprofen. In this case, Advil isn’t the only one causing headaches at the cash register. In many instances, the store brand or generic brands are just as good, if not better. Consider trying out a new store brand item each week to see where you’re willing to make a change. Research shows that store brand over name brand purchases can save you an average of 30 percent.
Know Your Phone
The most egregious of markups may come from cellphone providers, according to the CNNMoney.com. Text messages cost providers about one-third of cent to deliver, but most consumers pay 20 cents for outgoing texts, and 10 cents for incoming text messages. Even if you pay a flat-rate of $10, the providers are delivering messages with essentially no cost to them. While you may not be able to get around it, it does pay to be well-informed about the product you purchase and the plan you use. ConsumerReports.org just published an article on the best cellphone services and providers, looking at the phones, customer service and service plans.
Some people cannot sit through a movie at the theater without some kind of snack. If that’s you, consider a few cheaper alternatives than buying from the popcorn counter. If it’s a candy bar you crave, how hard is it to throw one in your purse that you’ve picked up from the convenience store? For popcorn, how often do you eat the entire bucket? It cost the theater about 60 cents for a medium-sized bag, but you’ll pay $6. Instead, I go for the kids’ pack that includes a small drink and a little bag of candy.
Hotel snacks and movies
I do not know anyone who actually buys drinks and snacks from the hotel mini-bar. Why would you when you can get the same thing for a whole lot cheaper from a nearby convenience or grocery store? You can always bring little snacks with you on road trips. Sometimes, I even save the airplane snacks and bring them to my room with me.
What would you consider huge wastes of money? How do you get around paying for it?
Follow me on Twitter @atlbargains or on Facebook at AJC Atlanta Bargain Hunter