16 Things That Just Shouldn’t Be So Expensive (#10 Is Ridiculous!)

These common products defy all economic sense in their pricing.

Expensive restaurant bill
Updated July 18, 2024
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Inflation has run rampant in the past few years, and a handful of items have gotten especially expensive. Some of these products just seem pricier than they should be.

These items may not always justify their price tag based on the value they provide. Here are some of the worst offenders to avoid if you want to keep more cash in your wallet.

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Name-brand cereal

pauchi/Adobe bowl of cereal

Cereal has just gotten too dang expensive! But here is a smart shopping hack: Purchasing the store-brand counterpart to your favorite name-brand cereal is often much cheaper.

For instance, a box of Reese’s Puffs costs 30.3 cents per ounce at Walmart, while the Great Value version costs 22.1 cents per ounce.

In many cases, you would be hard-pressed to taste the difference between the name-brand cereal and the generic version.

Pre-cut produce

IdeaBug, Inc./Adobe fresh vegetables on party tray with dip

Pre-cut produce is much pricier than it should be. The only difference between pre-cut and uncut produce is that someone else took the time to slice up the former.

It doesn’t cost much time or labor to cut up a pineapple or an onion, and doing so yourself can save you a lot of money.

Coffee to go

Farknot Architect/Adobe hostess serving coffee in paper cup

Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Dunkin’ Donuts, and many other chains make a killing by selling convenient coffee.

According to the Krazy Coupon Lady website, you can expect to pay about $2.95 for a 16-ounce Grande at Starbucks. Or, you can buy your own bag of coffee — including java under the Starbucks brand — brew it at home and save a bundle.

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Bottled water

Sergey Ryzhov/Adobe drinking water in hand at shop

Bottled water is not that different from the water you get from your tap, but it is much more expensive.

When you buy bottled water, you pay for packaging, distribution, marketing, and retailer markup. Do the planet and your wallet a favor by getting a reusable bottle and filling it up at the sink.

Movie theater popcorn

nyul/Adobe spectators in multiplex movie theater

The AMC movie theater chain sells a bag of Traditional Popcorn for a whopping $8.99 or $9.99. But if you go to Walmart, you can get a 32-ounce bag of unpopped Great Value Yellow Popping Corn for $2.28.

As usual, the do-it-yourself, at-home version saves you a ton of money.


Nicholas Felix/peopleimages.com/Adobe woman trying glasses at optometrist store

Eyeglasses are essential for millions of people who could not see well without them. But the price of these glasses can run into the hundreds of dollars, which seems excessive.

A few decades ago, if you needed vision correction, you had few options other than to pay up. Thankfully, this industry has been disrupted by cheaper options, including the ability to purchase eyewear at a better price online

Fine jewelry

Petro/Adobe couple at jewelry shop

If you’re in the market for an engagement ring or another piece of fine jewelry, be wary of retailer markups. You are especially likely to pay large markups for prestige brands such as Tiffany and Cartier.

If you’re looking for the lowest prices, pawn shops and resellers might save you money compared to shopping in fancy jewelry stores.

Funeral caskets

auremar/Adobe senior lady choosing coffins

The price of a casket is often quite expensive. Lincoln Heritage Funeral Advantage says you can expect to pay between $2,000 and $5,000.

However, there are ways to save. For example, members will find that a great Costco hack is to buy a casket from the retailer. You can pay as little as $1,149.99.

Fancy watches

hedgehog94/Adobe showing expensive watch

With cell phones in our pockets 24/7, do we really need watches anymore?

Yes, they do exude a sense of class and importance. But a Rolex can set you back tens of thousands of dollars. At this point, watches are just expensive bracelets that tell time.

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Extra cheese

volff/Adobe delicious burger with cola and potato fries on a wooden table

You might not think twice about paying an extra buck or two to add cheese to your burger or sandwich. But if you break down the price of the cheese, it’s far more expensive than it should be.

For example, adding extra cheese to a footlong sandwich at Subway costs $1.30. Meanwhile, 24 pieces of Great Value Deli Style Sliced Pepper Jack Cheese — 19 grams each — will cost you $4.22. That is roughly 18 cents per piece.

Designer jeans

opolja/Adobe young man in jeans skirt

It can be worth paying for jeans that fit just right, but there’s a staggering divide between the price of department store and designer brands.

Balenciaga Bootcut Jeans at Saks Fifth Avenue cost $1,150. A pair of Levi's 517 Bootcut Men's Jeans retail for $69.50 or less when they're on sale.


Drobot Dean/Adobe beautiful girls sitting at table talking to each other while drinking soda

Who doesn’t love a Coke or Pepsi with a meal? Unfortunately, sodas are on the list of overpriced items.

It only takes a few cents for a restaurant to combine the syrup, water, and other ingredients that make a soda. That means there is a huge markup when you pay $1 or more for that drink.

Brand-name drugs

Lisa F. Young/Adobe shocking cost of medical care

The Food and Drug Administration spells it out pretty clearly: “Generic medicines work the same as brand-name medicines.”

The active ingredients, dosages, strength, and quality of generic drugs are all required to be exactly the same as what you would find in brand-name drugs.

So, when you buy Advil instead of store-brand ibuprofen or Tylenol instead of store-brand acetaminophen, you’re paying for nothing more than a fancy label and some advertising.


Anne Schaum/Adobe woman wearing a fun graphic tee

T-shirts are some of the most basic clothing items on the planet. According to clothing manufacturer Purnaa, they typically cost just a couple of dollars to make and a bit more if they feature a logo.

Yet, a T-shirt featuring your favorite band can easily run you $15 or more at a store and far more than that if you purchase the shirt at a concert venue.

Greeting cards

Kate/Adobe card with the inscription

It’s no wonder that email and texting have replaced good, old-fashioned greeting cards. With a plethora of memes, GIFs, and emojis at your fingertips, who wants to pay several dollars — plus postage — for a greeting card?

Greeting cards seem like a waste of money, even if they have cute cats on them.

Graphing calculators

Nuttapong punna/Adobe calculator and laptop with tablet

Back in the day, a TI-83 from Texas Instruments was the gold standard for a graphing calculator, and you wouldn’t pass trigonometry without one.

These fancy calculators are still available and cost $75 or more. But here's a tip: There are also free apps that promise to do everything a graphic calculator does.

You might want to try such an app and see if it meets your needs at a price that can't be beat.

Bottom line

Timeimage/Adobe asian men disagreeing overwhite backdrop

In every corner of the store and the online marketplace, we see products whose high price tags leave us shaking our heads and asking, “Seriously?!”

The sad truth is that these products wouldn’t exist unless someone were willing to pay the price for them. 

But if you want to save money shopping, you should avoid purchasing these items whenever possible.

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Author Details

Jenni Sisson

Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.