Ever since the Great Recession of ’08, most shoppers have cut back on extravagant purchases. Lots of consumers have also pinched pennies on everyday items, from bottled water to gasoline. Simultaneously, manufacturers and retailers have been trying to sell a myriad of items to budget-minded consumers that purport to be effective tools for saving even more money. But are these gadgets and services worth it?
PUR Advanced Faucet Water System
Why buy bottled water when you can get crisp, clean water straight out of the tap for much less? That’s the logic behind filter brands such as PUR, and the entry costs seem low enough: You can get a PUR Advanced Faucet Water system for $29.99 (with free shipping, a low by $5); replacement filters cost $12.60 each (with free shipping, a low by $7). But PUR filters don’t hold up the 2 to 3 months they’re supposed to. Consumers should count on replacing them about once a month, for an average yearly cost of $189 or $0.16 per gallon (including the original cost of the system). Compare that to the highly rated, though lesser-known Aquasana AQ-5300 with Water for Life subscription ($124.99 with free shipping, $125 off), and you’ll spend $0.15 a gallon. Hey, every cent counts!
At-Home Dry Cleaning Kits
The allure of such kits from Woolite and Dryel is understandable. In 20 minutes or so your dry-clean only clothes can look like they’re fresh from the dry cleaners. Most kits cost between $9 to $12, and can launder anywhere from 8 to 32 garments, amounting to about $0.60 per item. But as New York Magazine uncovered, “Every single kit left clothes with some slight wrinkling and none of the kits trumped a professional dry cleaner.”
Perhaps you’ve heard the pitch behind products such as the PowerGard CT1688, which costs $125 (with free shipping): install it and you’ll save lots of money from reducing you power consumption by as much as 40%. But unfortunately these kinds of energy-saving devices are 37% hype: at best, consumers can save 1% to 3%.
Purchasing any assortment of new Duracell or Energizer (or even off-brand) batteries adds up — a reality the mass marketing of rechargeable batteries promised to do away with. Unfortunately, it’s going to take time for rechargeables to catch up to disposable alkaline batteries on the cost front, especially if you have lots of gadgets running. If you buy in bulk and use 144 batteries a year, you would pay $61.60 for 8 20-packs of Amazon Basics Alkaline Batteries via Subscribe & Save ($0.38 per battery). Or you could spend $107.91 on 9 4-packs of Sanyo Eneloop AA NiMH Batteries ($3.72 per battery) and tack on another $38.97 for 3 4-slot chargers (with free shipping via Prime, a low by $2). Fortunately, after a year or so you’ll be coming out ahead on batteries … assuming you can avoid losing any of those rechargeables under the couch.
Never before has our consumer-oriented culture offered so many products and services that strive to make our lives more convenient and cost-effective. Some work, some take a long time to pan out, and some are not worth the trouble. But have you, DealNews reader, tried any of these items (or others) and found them to be wasteful? Alternatively, are there any must-buy money-saving gadgets you’ve come to know and love? Share with us your thoughts in the comment section below.
As deal hunters, it typically pays to buy slightly older devices in favor of tempting deals on newly released tech. But, of the aged and dated items we’ve spent money on, there are some electronics that are now approaching outright extinction and would make for silly purchases. Some consumers may need the complete functionality of a point-and-shoot camera, for example, but for the majority of us, a smartphone already accomplishes everything we need.
So before you consider buying any of these items below, think long and hard about whether such a device is actually a redundant purchase and, thus, a big waste of your money.
When Google released Google Maps Navigation for Android it knocked 20% off the value of big turn-by-turn navigation players TomTom and Garmin in a single day. Since then, Google Maps has spread to other mobile platforms like iOS, and its accuracy and usability has improved.
So we ask, why would someone pay hundreds of dollars for something we all can get for free? Sure, there are weaknesses with Google Maps, such as the need for cellular service, but it is now possible to load up a map and directions before a journey. Standalone GPS devices simply don’t offer enough extras to make them a worthwhile buy anymore.
Blu-rays Discs, DVDs, and Their Players
Where did you last see your VHS player? The garage? Or at a garage sale? Really, who wants to clutter their house up with more junk that will end up in the garage in a few years? Instead, with a media player, a decent Internet connection, and a subscription to some streaming movie and TV show services like Netflix, you can dispense with the need for a DVD or Blu-ray library. Collections are nice, but how many of your DVDs or Blu-rays do you honestly watch more than once?
The point-and-shoot compact camera industry is another victim of the smartphone revolution. As a separate device, you’ve got to remember to bring your compact camera along if you want to use it. Moreover, most cameras require users to plug into a computer to upload and access photos, although there are a few wireless options now. And above all, basic compact cameras no longer offer better specs over smartphone cameras: the Nokia Lumia 1020 32GB Windows Smartphone ($149.99 with free shipping, a low by $49; 2-year contract required) boasts a 41-megapixel camera, and it’s easy to share photos because it’s connected to the Internet.
The cloud is here to stay and there’s an impressive wealth of free cloud storage out there. Set up multiple accounts and you can store everything you need on remote servers that you can access from anywhere. And while a flash drive might seem like an easy solution for transmitting files to friends, many services offer such a utility without having even having to hand out your password.
Most of us have already left a physical music collection behind (see VHS player). We traded our CDs and tape decks for MP3 players, but these too will be redundant soon. It’s so easy now to maintain a digital collection online; all we need is a device that can access it whether it be a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or speaker system.
Handheld Gaming Consoles
Generally speaking, sales of the latest handheld gaming consoles are pitiful. The dedicated portable gaming industry has tanked, perhaps because handheld consoles and the accompanying games are expensive and their battery life is poor. And beyond employing better graphics, there simply isn’t enough innovation or creativity in the industry: most people are content to play casual games and ports of old classics on their phones and tablets. Free-to-play games have made gaming on-the-go cheap and accessible for the masses; while the PC and console game industries cater to the more serious gamer.
People have been buying overpowered computers for years. For every power user who genuinely needs a cutting edge PC, there are 10 people who will just surf the web, check email, and occasionally play a casual game. For the majority of people, a tablet offers a much better user experience, takes up a lot less space, and is far more intuitive to use.
Video camera manufacturers have tried in vain to keep up with the digital revolution. For the everyday user, there’s very little incentive to buy an expensive video camera. The mass market for home videos is well-served already: many smartphones and tablets have HD recording capabilities, and b built-in software makes video easy to edit and share.
That’s right, even the humble alarm clock isn’t safe. Why buy a standalone device that tells the time and plays the radio, when you already own one? You can set your smartphone to operate as an alarm clock and more! No more random wake-up calls from that radio song that gets stuck in your head all day; instead, you can set a tune to wake up to from your own library. Even most TVs have alarm functions now. These days, the only reason to buy an alarm clock is for the gimmick or décor factor.
Keep in mind that, despite our griping, there will still be reasons to purchase some of these items. But for the average tech Joe, avoiding them might be easier than you think — resulting in some extra cash in your bank account to spend elsewhere.