8 Things I’ve Replaced With Cheaper (And Better) Alternatives

1. My moisturizer — more than once.

I’ve always been here for drugstore makeup, but when it came to skincare, I always felt like my problem-skin warranted some pricier goods. I wrote last year about a moisturizer from Lush that I spent $80 when my skin was particularly terrible and I was willing to do anything in my power to repair it. The product definitely helped, so I don’t necessarily regret that I spent that much on moisturizer — but I certainly hope I never have to again. After about six months, I switched to another Lush moisturizer, which was significantly less expensive, but still over $30.

However, I’ve recently replaced it with a cheaper and much more effective alternative — Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Heavenly Night Cream (which I wrote about in this article here). I had pretty much stopped searching for the ~holy grail~ of inexpensive-yet-effective moisturizers, and luckily just happened upon this one when I left my moisturizer at home and borrowed this while visiting with my mother. It is amazing, and although I always came from the “more $$$ = better results” school of thought when it came to skincare, I think this moisturizer is the best one I’ve tried — all for under $20!!!

2. Almost all of my groceries.

Trader Joe’s has a reputation for being bougie as hell, which keeps a lot of people away from it. The people (like myself) who pretty religiously grocery shop there are laughing all the way to the checkout, because we know the secret: it is cheaper than pretty much every other grocery store. I spend about $60 on groceries that last Drew and I for 2-3 weeks — a haul that would cost somewhere around the $110 mark if I were shopping at Stop & Shop or BJ’s like we sometimes do.

If there is a TJ’s near you, give it a shot — it takes some getting used to if you’re religious about your brand-name food, but you can find suitable replacements there, and tbh, Trader Joe’s Honey Nut O’s taste exactly the same as Honey Nut Cheerios if you ask me — and they’re cheaper (provided that you buy them in-store).

3. My coffeemaker.

I was a Keurig person for a good while, which is, in my opinion, a terrible waste of money if you’re a moderate-to-intense coffee consumer. The upfront cost of a Keurig is about 5x more than a run-of-the-mill Mr. Coffee, and K-Cups can be twice as expensive as ground coffee, depending on where you buy them. So if you’re someone who has one cup sometimes, maybe a Keurig is a good deal if you get one on sale somewhere — but if you’re someone who routinely drinks 3-5 cups in the morning (and lives with a partner who has the same amount), you may need something that yields a bit more coffee for the money. When I moved in with Drew, I left my Keurig with my parents (who enjoy it regularly, and, to be fair, have a lot more money than I do) and instead of buying a new one, replaced it with a $25 coffeemaker from Target. I get a 12-cup pot of coffee in the morning for less money than it would cost me to brew half that amount in a pricey Keurig

4. My floss.

Ok, I haven’t fully switched this yet (as I still have some of the old stuff left), but I’m working on it. I am weirdly passionate about flossing — it is one part of my daily routine that I genuinely notice if it doesn’t happen, and I feel terrible and gross if I miss it. To make it easier and more convenient, I bought those little plastic floss-picks and have been using them for a long time now. However, recently I noticed at the store how much cheaper it is to get regular dental floss — the amount of regular floss you can get for about $3 compared to the amount you get in a $3 package of floss picks is wild (about 200 yards of regular floss, and about 100-150 floss picks depending on the brand) Also, when I consider the fact that I’m literally using and tossing away single-use plastic floss picks twice per day, I want to hang my head in shame because I need to be better than that to Mother Earth. Also, it is just as effective — if not more. (But don’t quote me on that part — you can maybe ask your dentist instead.)

5. Puppy training pads.

The “Wee Wee Pad” brand is well-known, but holy hell is it expensive. I bought a pack once when I got my last dog, Lilo, a few years ago after trying the much less expensive Target brand (which kind of didn’t work for me at all). I gave up on trying to find a store-brand package of training pads that actually soaked up puppy messes, and gave up, continuing to use pricey brand name ones until Lilo was entirely trained.

When I got Gaston a few weeks ago, I thought I was going to end up sighing and swiping my card on a $50 box of training pads when something possessed me to give the Stop & Shop brand a try. It was only $14 for 150 pads, and they actually are amazingly absorbent and work just as well as the more expensive brands. If you get a puppy, I recommend giving a few different types of training pads a shot to see which ones actually work, and how you can spend the least amount of money on something your dog is just going to pee on anyway.

6. $10+ nail polish.

I’m a sucker for an aesthetically-pleasing bottle of Essie like any other girl, but the truth seems to be that the $9 bottle of nail polish chips just as quickly as the $2. I had quite the Essie collection building up (funded mostly by Kohl’s Cash that my mom gave me when she didn’t need to use it for anything), but have switched over to a pretty exclusive relationship with the basic Sally Hansen nail polish range. There are tons of colors, they never cost more than three bucks, and they stay on my nails as long as I respect my hands and don’t bang them into stuff — just like the more expensive brands.

7. My bronzer.

A long-time favorite makeup product has always been Smashbox Bronze Lights bronzer. I love the color and matte finish, but I don’t love the $35 price tag. I couldn’t bring myself to buy it again last time I ran out of it, and ended up picking up this Wet n Wild contouring palette, which has a nice matte-bronzer on one side that is perfect for my skin tone, blends easier than the pricey Smashbox one, and costs under $4. Yasss.

8. My ~girl products~.

I’ve tested a wide range, and I have to be honest here: Target brand pads and tampons appear to work just as well as Tampax or Playtex or whatever other name-brand you may spend $7+ on for a package that will barely last you two cycles. It is bad enough that most women have to shell out cash each month just to exist with a uterus (we didn’t ask for this!!!) so I’ll do just about anything to make it slightly more bearable and affordable. To be honest, I find that I’m more comfortable with some of the off-brand ones anyway. Is this too much info for TFD? Oh, well.

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

Image via Unsplash

  • Mao

    As a coffee lover, I often use pour over. It’s such a simple technique and yet produces gorgeous cup of coffee. It’s also great that all you need is a dripper which you can get for less than $10.

    • Mj D’Arco

      I love my French press 😁

      • Kayla Sweeney

        Yep, me too.. got a $12 2-serving French press at IKEA last year after my Keurig kicked the bucket, and haven’t looked back since.

        • Hailey

          I LOVE my IKEA French press! Literally the only brunch-tipsy purchase I’ve never regretted.

  • Mj D’Arco

    the whole andalou line is fantastic! For your period try a diva cup. I got mine a year and a half ago for 30$ and I haven’t looked back. It’s also better for you and the environment and can last a very long time. See also electric razor

    • JC

      I totally agree with getting a menstrual cup of your choosing. I use the Lily Cup compact and it is great. While it’s more expensive upfront, you have a lot of money (and waste) in the long run.

      • Johanna

        I also have the lily cup compact, I always bring it with me in my bag in case I get my period.

    • nancxpants

      I also highly recommend the Diva Cup — I’ve had mine for 3+ years and I have never looked back! I’m also considering Thinx or some similar panties and/or reuseable pads for spotting/light days. Anyone have suggestions for particular brands that have worked for them?

      • MH

        I’m not aware of other brands, but I’ve used Thinx and have had a positive experience so far! My favorite one is the cheeky. I normally wear a cup with them, but on light days i forgo the cup and just wear the underwear with no issues. Since they are pricey, you can decide if you’d like to wait for a sale to drop down the price a bit.

        • nancxpants

          Thanks! I’ve been thinking about it for months now but I have a little extra cash at the moment so figured it’s a good time to make the investment.

      • Johanna

        I’ve used thinx for a while, just as a back up with my period cup (sometimes I work late or might not be a in a good place to change them) I love them! I have a few “sport” ones for lighter days the “hiphugger” ones for heavier days.

    • Monica

      Yes to menstural cups! I got the Lena from Amazon and absolutely love it. It was an idea that I wasn’t sure I could get behind but once I got used to it (it can be tricky the first few times), I was a believer. I actually wear mine with Thinx underwear, and love both products. Like others said, it’s an expense upfront but definitely pays for itself within a year.

  • Smashley

    Good suggestions! I’m absolutely going to try the Andalou cream. And nope, not too much info! Gotta help let go of that weird menstruation stigma our society has 😉

  • Desirae Odjick

    Just to go full TMI here, the OB tampons without applicators are so cheap, and they’re honest-to-god not that hard to get used to! I love that a) I can easily carry one without being like LOOK AT THIS GIANT TAMPON IN MY HAND and b) it uses so much less plastic than applicator ones.

    • Holly Trantham

      Hell yeah Des, I haven’t bought a non-OB tampon since college. They are a godsend.

      • Desirae Odjick

        RIGHT?!?! Plus you can just like, sprinkle them around like confetti. I always find at least a few in my desk drawer and my purse if I need them. They’re everywhere.

        • Holly Trantham

          Also always being the girl with tampons readily available is a Nice Feeling!

        • Jack

          Confetti! hahahahaha. Made my afternoon.

    • Johanna

      Period cups are great option as well 🙂

  • nicolacash

    I think for #2, it entirely depends on your area. I’ve tested it out in my neighborhood in Boston and Stop & Shop is the cheapest for my staples such as rolled oats/produce/most vegetables, Trader Joes is my go-to for bananas and pantry essentials like spices/condiments/specialty snacks, and I go to Whole Foods for things I can’t find at the other 2 like vegan cream cheese/pre-shredded sweet potato noodles/plant-based milk.

    So yeah, I’m a weirdo that takes pleasure in regularly going to 3 grocery stores every weekend so I can get the best deal.

    • Jack

      Girl, I think grocery shopping is one of my fave hobbies. I am also vegan. Are we soul sistas?!

    • Dana Ernest

      I agree, #2 definitely depends on your area. Trader Joes is not the cheapest where I live (Ohio). Aldi is by far the best where I live when it comes to pantry items, snacks, condiments, etc. but I usually go to Kroger for produce and get good deals. Don’t feel weird about going to 3 stores: I usually hit up Aldi, Kroger and Walmart all in one day to get the best prices!

  • Dana Ernest

    Thanks Mary! I’ve been looking for a less expensive way to try contouring, so I will try the Wet N Wild! Any suggestions on cheaper brushes or applicator sponges?

    • Mary Parisi

      I’m all about BH Cosmetics brushes, and I get all of my beauty sponges at TJMaxx!

    • Dana, I just love it whenever you show up here. 😛 It’s so fun seeing someone I know in the comments! hehe

  • Jdjf

    I have an IUD and while it’s an upfront cost, I spend less on midol/Tylenol since I don’t have back pains and cramps anymore. And since my period is lighter now, less tampons. Obv, ymmv. And the other obvious, I save on not having kids and I don’t have to remember to take something everyday.

    • lazuliz

      I am so, so happy I got an IUD. One of the best decisions I have made for my health.

  • lazuliz

    #4 – I am also a bit addicted to flossing. It feels so nice. If you’re ready to switch over, try Glide floss. It is very smooth and doesn’t shred while you’re using it.

  • Michelle

    I love the E.L.F. cosmetics line! All my makeup is $8 or under 😀

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