Every year we spend money on purchases that may be falsely advertised, environmentally harmful, or simply overpriced -- but the good news is that we don't have to keep making the same mistakes. Here are some of the worst offenders you should avoid in 2018.
Keurig's brewing system may be convenient, but the non-recyclable, non-biodegradable single-serving K-Cups required have long been criticized for their environmental impact. Nearly one in three American homes has a Keurig or other pod-based coffeemaker, which adds up to billions of pods placed in landfills every year. Until Keurig comes through on biodegradable cups, seek out a more eco-friendly alternative.
Airborne is a popular supplement that has been marketed as a cure for the common cold and general immune booster. The company was fined by the FTC for deceptive advertising of what is essentially an expensive multivitamin -- with additions like echinacea that are merely rumored to help the common cold (like many cheaper home remedies).
In their efforts to cut out sugar and calories, diet soda drinkers may be exposing themselves to entirely different health risks. Diet soda consumption has been linked to developing metabolic syndrome, which often leads to diabetes or heart disease, as well as stroke and dementia.
Plastic utensils may be cheap and convenient, but like many non-recyclable plastics, they contribute to mounting environmental issues. They cannot be used again and end up adding to landfills and sometimes polluting waterways, while more plastic cutlery is manufactured from non-renewable petroleum. Consider switching to compostable cutlery made from cornstarch-based CPLA.
The lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical distributors like McKesson Corp alleging excessive markups on brand-name drugs like Allegra, Celebrex, and Valium have done little to stem the problem. Thankfully, there are still ways to save on prescriptions. Ask a doctor about generic substitutes or compare prices at warehouse stores like Costco or Walmart as well as mail-order suppliers.
The price you pay for a cup of soda dining out can be 300 to 600 percent 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.
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.
Greeting cards may come with neat designs or jokes, but they aren't worth the $5 to $9 apiece supermarkets and specialty stores sometimes charge for them. It's almost always more cost effective and memorable to simply make your own.
Brand-name clothes are among the most brazenly overpriced of all retail products. While designer jeans like a $300 pair of True Religions may be marked up as much as 300 percent, even seemingly cheap jeans like a $22 pair from Kohl's can still have a 112 percent markup over wholesale prices.
The retail markups for eyeglasses can be as high as 1,000 percent 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.
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.
A dozen roses (most of which are imported to the US) sell for $9.50 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 buying locally-grown flowers and comparing prices between grocers, farmers markets, and online retailers.
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 (CDW) 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.
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 percent 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.
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.
Two billion disposable razors made from cheap plastic and steel end up in landfills across the nation each year. 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.
Facial cleansers, toothpastes, soaps, and body scrubs are just some of the personal care products to include plastic microbeads in recent years. Many states have banned or tried to ban the beads for the sake of environmental health -- the tiny beads filter into waterways and are consumed by aquatic animals -- and because they may harm skin or contribute to tartar buildup when used orally.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Despite the environmental harm caused by plastic consumption, the world's use of non-recyclable plastic bottles has continued to rise to the point of a million being bought every minute. Do your part by replacing bottled water with tap, especially given that there's little difference between the two and it saves money, too.
Diamonds can sell for as much as 200 percent over than their wholesale prices -- and sometimes more. 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.
Almost 40 percent of Americans take a daily multivitamin, despite a lack of evidence that they make any positive impact on health. Eat a balanced diet to obtain your vitamins and minerals rather than spending money on supplements that provide no nourishment or measurable health benefits.
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.