K-Cup Coffee Pods
littleny/istockphoto
K-Cup Coffee Pods
littleny/istockphoto

Skip These Bad Buys

Every year we spend money on purchases that may be falsely advertised, environmentally harmful, or simply overpriced. But we don't have to keep making those same mistakes. Here are some of the worst offenders you should avoid in 2021, along with more practical (and cheaper) options. 

Related75 Things You Don't Need to Buy

Disposable Wipes
CiydemImages/istockphoto

Disposable Wipes

Handy? For sure. Good for the planet? Not even a little. The use of baby wipes, disinfecting wipes, and their ilk has grown substantially in the last decade... and that was before the coronavirus pandemic made disinfecting wipes a must-have product for many people. Consider biodegradable, compostable wipes for baby or yourself, and reusable microfiber cloths for cleaning and dusting around the house.

Related: Handy Products for Spring Cleaning

Immunity Boosters
Amazon

Immunity Boosters

Airborne is a popular supplement that has been marketed as a cure for the common cold and general immune booster. The product contains vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other supplements like ginger. But as researchers at Ohio State University point out, there's no scientific evidence that Airborne and similar products can prevent or cure a cold.

Related: 30 Things You Need to Know About Cold and Flu Season

Plastic Straws
NoDerog/istockphoto

Plastic Straws

Straws have become the poster child for society's plastic overuse and, while reducing the millions of drinking straws used each day alone won't save the planet, it's not a bad place to start. Especially when it's so easy to either replace them with a stainless-steel version or just not use one at all.

RelatedProducts to Help You Use Less Plastic

Diet Soda
LunaseeStudios/shutterstock

Diet Soda

In their efforts to cut out sugar and calories, diet soda drinkers may be exposing themselves to entirely different health risks. Numerous studies have linked excessive diet soda consumption to developing metabolic syndrome, which often leads to diabetes or heart disease, as well as stroke and dementia.

Related29 Foods Diabetics Should Avoid

Keurig K-Cups
Amazon
Plastic Cutlery
EricFerguson/istockphoto
Plastic Sandwich Bags
Yoela/istockphoto

Plastic Sandwich Bags

Americans used about 225 million plastic sandwich bags in 2019, according to Statista. That doesn't account for other countries, or for the quart- and gallon-sized versions we also use. At an average cost of 1.7 cents per bag, that's about $380 million we are, quite literally, throwing in the trash each year. Instead, buy yourself some reusable beeswax paper, and save money and the planet at the same time. 

Related: 21 Frozen Foods You Should Never Put in Your Cart

Brand-Name Drugs
Amazon

Brand-Name Drugs

There are ways to save on prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs. Ask your pharmacist about generic substitutes and compare prices at warehouse stores like Costco or Walmart as well as mail-order suppliers like Express Scripts.

Related18 Prescription Drugs That Cost More Than a Car

Disposable Razors
Praisaeng/shutterstock

Disposable Razors

About 150 million Americans used disposable razors in 2020, according to Statista, and all that plastic eventually ends up in a landfill. Those who shave regularly would do better to invest in an electric shaver, straight razor, or refillable razor. Just be sure to compare prices on blade refills, which can be the most costly component in the long-run.

Cleaning Supplies
DNY59/istockphoto

Cleaning Supplies

Thousands of accidents involving children happen each year due to harmful ingredients like bleach and ammonia, linked to liver and kidney damage, being consumed. Choose non-toxic or natural cleaners found in most markets, or save money by making your own cleaning solutions from vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda.

Related: 30 Cheap Choices That Can Cost You in the Long Run

Dryer Sheets
Amazon

Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets contain chemicals called quaternary ammonium compounds (QACS) that coat clothes to make them seem softer, without actually doing so. QACS not only affect fabric quality — making certain fabrics less wickable and fire-resistent — but can gunk up your dryer's lint trap over time, irritate sensitive skin and, worst of all, have been shown to cause or worsen asthma. Invest in some wool dryer balls instead, which are just as effective while also reducing drying time and cutting energy costs.

RelatedDo Wool Dryer Balls Really Work as Well as Dryer Sheets?

Buying Single-Serve Bottled Water
Tarasyuk Igor/shutterstock
Designer Jeans
klaptoman/istockphoto

Designer Jeans

Brand-name clothes are among the most brazenly overpriced of all retail products. While designer jeans like a $425 pair of PRPS may be marked up as much as 300%, even jeans from discount stores may be marked up by 100% or more.

Related: 50 Well-Made Products You'll Never Have to Buy Again

Laundry Detergent
Andrey_Popov/shutterstock

Laundry Detergent

Conventional laundry detergents can contain toxins that cause adverse effects ranging from irritated skin to discolored clothing, especially the cheap, off-brand stuff. To avoid contact with such chemicals, look for 100% non-toxic detergents, or make your own homemade powder solution.

Related: Are You Making These Laundry Mistakes?

Greeting Cards
nito100/istockphoto
Acne Treatment
Peopleimages/istockphoto

Acne Treatment

The product you purchase to clear acne may end up making the problem worse. Many drugstore brand treatments contain irritants ranging from witch hazel, which can increase redness, to eucalyptus, which stimulates oil production. Start with benzoyl peroxide and consult the Mayo Clinic's guide for more detailed advice on finding the right acne treatment.

Roses
lisatop/istockphoto

Roses

A dozen roses sell for $10 or less wholesale, but certain florists and grocery stores can resell them for as much as $20 to $60 or more when demand is high around Valentine's Day. Save money by comparing prices between grocers, farmers markets, and online retailers like The Bouqs Co.

Related: Great Gifts for Plant Lovers

Fountain Drinks
piyato/istockphoto

Fountain Drinks

The price you pay for a cup of soda dining out can be 300% to 600% more than what it costs the restaurant. When dining out, forego the markup and caloric intake of fountain drinks (not to mention alcoholic ones), and just drink water until you get home.

Pre-Cut Produce
petrych/istockphoto

Pre-Cut Produce

Packages of pre-cut fruits and vegetables found at many grocers may save time, but they're likely to be less fresh and cost as much as 40% more than their uncut counterparts. Produce is easy to find cheap, so don't give into this supermarket ploy to get customers to spend more money on the same product.

Tea Bags
winterling/istockphoto

Tea Bags

Cardboard boxes of tea bags create unnecessary waste for a beverage that could easily be consumed without excessive packaging. It's much more environmentally friendly, and often tastier, to use loose-leaf teas that can be stored in refillable tins and brewed with reusable infusers.

Eyeglasses
Wavebreakmedia/istockphoto

Eyeglasses

The retail markups for eyeglasses can be as high as 1,000% for designer frames from some opticians, chain stores and mall kiosks. The best ways to find reasonably-priced frames with your prescription are through warehouse stores like Costco or online retailers like Zenni Optical.

Antibacterial Soaps
terra24/istockphoto

Antibacterial Soaps

Soaps that more effectively kill bacteria sound like a win-win for consumers, but they're no more effective than conventional soap and water. In fact, they contain a chemical called triclosan that can enter the bloodstream, leech into waterways, increase the risk of developing allergies, interfere with thyroid regulation, and even spur the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Chemical Insecticides and Herbicides
bluecinema/istockphoto

Chemical Insecticides and Herbicides

It's no surprise that products intended to kill insects and invasive weeds can also harm humans. Common products like the weedkiller Round-Up and insecticide Raid are known to cause kidney damage, respiratory irritation, and negatively impact the central nervous system. Such harm can be easily avoided with organic pest-control products like boric acid or white vinegar.

Related: 22 Tips to Keep Gardening Dirt Cheap

Air Fresheners
belchonock/istockphoto

Air Fresheners

The market for air fresheners in aerosol, solid, or plug-in form has grown along with concern over harmful pollutants they often contain. Phthalates, which are banned in children's toys in some states due to hormonal and reproductive disruptions, and carcinogens like naphthalene and formaldehyde are just some of the common toxins.

Diamonds
dwart/istockphoto

Diamonds

Diamonds can sell for as much or more than 200% over their wholesale prices. It was only an artificial shortening of supply and clever marketing that led to the tradition of diamond engagement rings costing the equivalent of two months' salary. Synthetic diamonds and similar gemstones like Moissanite are a fraction of the cost and can be almost indistinguishable from the real thing.

Textbooks
slpu9945/istockphoto

Textbooks

Like most costs associated with higher education, college textbook prices have been climbing in recent years, yet undergrads are spending $100 less on their required course materials than students a decade ago. The decline is thanks to a proliferation of online shops that resell or rent books, so there's less reason than ever to pay full price.

Multivitamins
Amazon

Multivitamins

About half of Americans take a daily multivitamin, despite a lack of evidence that they make any positive impact on health, according to Johns Hopkins University. Eat a balanced diet to obtain your vitamins and minerals rather than spending money on supplements that provide no nourishment or measurable health benefits.

Car Sharing Renter
puhhha/shutterstock

Auto Rental Insurance

Car rental companies often push temporary insurance policies that can cost even more than the vehicle rental itself, so you'll be paying $30 per day for a service that costs the company $3 to $4. These overpriced collision damage waivers are good for peace of mind, but it's usually more cost-effective to rely on your own insurance — though in the event of a crash, this will require paying for damages up-front, then recovering funds by filing a claim.

Non-Stick Cookware
KucherAV/istockphoto

Non-Stick Cookware

Non-stick pots and pans that wash easily save time, but come with hidden drawbacks. What keeps food from sticking on this kind of cookware is a chemical coating called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, or Teflon), which when heated to very high temperatures releases carcinogenic gases like tetrafluoroethylene and perfluorooctanoic acid. Already own non-stick cookware? Play it safe by using them for low-temp cooking only.

Related: The Best Cheap Cookware Sets