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Stepping around marketing markups?
January 9, 2013 11:37 AM   Subscribe

I've noticed that mineral oil marketed to those who will use the oil on butcher blocks is much more expensive than food grade mineral oil that is marketed to those who will use the oil as a laxative. I buy the cheaper version, thank you very much. Are there other items out there where one can save a buck or two by purchasing the more cheaply marketed version of an item?
posted by starkraven to Shopping (56 answers total) 177 users marked this as a favorite
 
Spices in the ethnic food aisle.
posted by ferociouskitty at 11:39 AM on January 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


Buy melamine sponges on eBay instead of Magic Erasers. They're pennies on the dollar when comparing prices.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:45 AM on January 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


The bulk bins at grocery stores come to mind. Rolled oats, for instance, are something like $1.89/lb for the 2ish pound canister of Quaker, but $.79/lb if bought in bulk.
posted by hungrybruno at 11:45 AM on January 9, 2013


The little tubes of miconazole for athlete's foot cost the same as the big tubes of miconazole for yeast infections.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:46 AM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


NOW Foods-brand vitamins are incredibly cheap on Amazon. Sometimes close to 50% less than any brand in a drug store.
posted by griphus at 11:46 AM on January 9, 2013


Baby wipes are much cheaper than the facial and body wipes marketed to adults, although the fragrance isn't quite as nice.
posted by embrangled at 11:47 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


MrMoonPie, the athlete's foot v. yeast infection price disparity is EXACTLY what I'm talking about.
posted by starkraven at 11:48 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


If any woman you know uses primer, either alone or under foundation, lots of major, expensive brands are chemically more or less identical to Preparation H gel (the kind that has a powdery, matte finish.)
posted by superfluousm at 11:55 AM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


I used to buy the expensive "clinical strength" women's antiperspirant, until I discovered that I can get a men's antiperspirant with the same amount of active ingredient for half the price.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:59 AM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


As a relatively recent dog owner, I can tell you that any generic-seeming item is at least twice as expensive when it's branded for a dog.

Want the dog to have a blanket? Buy a cheap blanket from the bedding section of the store (or, better yet, give the dog an old blanket). Buy a blanket from the pet aisle and it's going to be crummier quality and more expensive. (Unless your dog really cares about the paw print design.)
posted by phunniemee at 12:00 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


From mefi's own jscalzi: wraps vs tortillas.
posted by ghharr at 12:04 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Epsom salt!

Marketed to gardeners or bath & body product enthusiasts, plain epsom salt is often priced anywhere from $4 to nearly $10 per pound. Marketed to no one in particular, it costs less than 1/4 as much.
posted by divined by radio at 12:05 PM on January 9, 2013


Water. Very cheap from your tap, very much more expensive in a bottle. And the bottled stuff will probably contain more bacteria.
posted by pont at 12:08 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


The small blue/pink super absorbent swim towel from Speedo? You can buy more of the same material in the auto section for less. Awesome for travel.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 12:09 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Excedrin Extra Strength is identical to Excedrine Migraine and usually cheaper. (Though obviously generics are cheaper still)
posted by reptile at 12:13 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, a number of items sold at Aldi are identical to items sold at Trader Joe's but in cheaper packaging. (Same corporate owner but TJ gets the marketing budget)
posted by reptile at 12:16 PM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Drugs are notorious for being priced by the dosage unit (pill) rather than how much drug is in each dosage unit.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:26 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Plantronics headphones.

I was looking for a pair for gaming (just for talking to people, not fancy 5.1+ solutions) the other week. Went to Best Buy. The version sold with the "gaming" stuff were like $80. I knew it had to be a rip-off so I found the webcam/microphone section and found basically the same pair for $35. The cups around the ears/drivers/etc are exactly the same, the only difference was some of the molding on the microphone and the package said GAMING on it.

Spice has been mentioned. The price at a grocer vs an Asian market is usually a lot different for the same stuff. Herbs too. $.69 for a baggie full at the Asian market vs $3 or $4 for fancy packaging at the supermarket.
posted by thylacine at 12:27 PM on January 9, 2013


Many brands of plain margarita salt or rimming salt are just kosher salt, which is much cheaper when bought in the baking section.
posted by jedicus at 12:30 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Baking soda sold as a deodoriser.

The Aldi/TJ connection is not "same corporate owner" but they do seem to use the same suppliers.
posted by holgate at 12:30 PM on January 9, 2013


*NEVER* buy anything that says 'Wedding' anywhere near the name... and when looking for wedding type accessories, think of alternative words that you can use such as 'white lace', 'victorian' etc...

This also holds true for pretty much any pop/fad
posted by anthroprose at 12:31 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pine cat litter. Buy 100% pine horse bedding at the nearest Tractor Supply Co. store and pay like $6 for a 40 lb. bag, compared to way more in the pet store with the cat on the front of the box.
posted by Falwless at 12:32 PM on January 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


On the pet owner tip: some anti-flea medication/treatment is the same content, though it's packaged and sold differently for small cats to large dogs. The price varies slightly for these categories, but the quantity is greatly increased for large dogs, compared to small cats. One of our vets did this for us, allowing us to buy one vial of treatment and have plenty for our three cats, and then some left over for our 2nd treatments.

In short: buy the Big Dog quantity of anti-flea treatment, and dole out small quantities for your little cat(s) and/or small dog(s). Just make sure there are indeed the same ingredients.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:34 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pine cat litter. Buy 100% pine horse bedding at the nearest Tractor Supply Co. store ...

According to this AskMe question, wood pellets, as used for wood-burning stoves, are also suitable replacements for pine cat litter. I'm not sure which would be cheaper, but at least you have options.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:39 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


For anyone in the UK or Germany, Lidl's toiletries and cosmetics are manufactured by Nivea, but packaged under Lidl's 'Cien' brand.
posted by essexjan at 12:47 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Continuing the cat poo theme, corn litter (World's Best...) is supposedly interchangeable with chick crumbles.
posted by holgate at 12:49 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find men's shaving cream to sometimes be cheaper per oz. than women's. (The colours/smells might be different, but IMO they function equally.) Ditto for razor blades, though that distinction is disappearing.

Generic or store-brand OTC (and even prescription) drugs come to mind. My giant bottle of Costco ibuprofen might outlast me, at this rate.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 12:58 PM on January 9, 2013


Diphenhydramine sold as a sleeping pill costs about a hundred times the same drug and dosage when sold as an antihistamine.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:06 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


it annoys me that the active ingredient in Advantage is the same for every size pet, and the tubes cost around the same -- they're just smaller for smaller pets. amusingly, this amazon vendor has it all figured out.
posted by changeling at 1:08 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sesame oil is expensive by the fancy olive oils, but cheap in the Ethnic Food aisle.
posted by juliplease at 1:13 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


(oops, I realized I missed filthy light thief's comment! that's what I've done myself -- buy an "extra-large dog" vial, then halve it for my 30-pounder.)
posted by changeling at 1:18 PM on January 9, 2013


Sesame oil is expensive by the fancy olive oils, but cheap in the Ethnic Food aisle.

Sesame seeds, too. Tiny little bottle in the spice section? Probably $4-5. Giant bag of sesame seeds from an Asian supermarket? Probably about the same, for many times more seeds!
posted by alaijmw at 1:26 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure I found out about this from a previous AskMe: you can get pregnancy test strips for super cheap on Amazon. They don't have the bulky plastic holders that the drugstore tests come in, but unless you're really squeamish about getting pee on yourself, there's no need to pay more for the extra waste.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:35 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Poppy seeds too.
posted by fshgrl at 1:37 PM on January 9, 2013


Ginger roots are also way cheaper in Asian supermarkets than normal grocery stores.

That high-end makeup primer (mentioned above) is also identical to Monistat's silicon anti-chafing gel, which is up to an order of magnitude cheaper.

Nail polish is incredibly cheaper than fancy metallic paints for plastic models. Similarly, acetone from the beauty aisle and emery boards are way cheaper as beauty supplies than as modeling supplies.
posted by bookdragoness at 1:37 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sesame oil is expensive by the fancy olive oils, but cheap in the Ethnic Food aisle.

You can also get sesame oil cheaply at Indian grocery stores - it comes in big bottles marked "Gingelly Oil" (pronounced jin-jelly) but that's just another name for light sesame oil.
posted by embrangled at 1:41 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The cat vs. dog Furminator grooming combs are the same, but are sometimes priced differently.
posted by illenion at 1:44 PM on January 9, 2013


Pistachios at your local 'Mediterranean' market (code for an ethnic shop selling middle-Eastern food). Not only cheaper but they'll be shelled, contrary to the bizarre American custom.

And of course all nuts are cheaper at Trader Joes.
posted by Rash at 1:49 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Those expensive silver polishing kits that really just a piece of aluminum and some baking soda.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:56 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Monistat Chafing Relief Powder-Gel instead of expensive face primer.
posted by Vaike at 1:58 PM on January 9, 2013


holgate: Baking soda sold as a deodoriser.
Also, it doesn't work.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:50 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Safety razors, aka Double-edge Razors, or their single-edge cousins, can shave you just as well as your n-bladed cartridge razor. Next time you take a swipe with your multi-blade cartridge, look at the razor before rinsing-- all the whiskers/leg-hairs are on the first blade. (hopefully not both on the same razor)

Safety razors with replacement blades are definitely cheaper... but if you get into the whole wet-shaving thing, and the opportunistic infection known as razor acquisition disease sets in, well, you'll have a new, moderately expensive hobby and better shaves, but you won't save money. At all.

Also wart-removing patches (which use Salicylic Acid) for feet (e.g. plantar's warts) appear to be the same as, and cost half as much as, those used for general purpose wart removal.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:43 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fuel line anti freeze is just methyl hydrate which can be bought way cheaper in the solvents aisle than the fuel additive aisle.

RE: multi blade razors: YMMV as I definitely get cutting action from at least the the second blade. But more importantly the multi blade razors work better for me either because they align the blades at a good angle better than single blade or they stretch out the skin from the increased drag (or maybe both).
posted by Mitheral at 4:38 PM on January 9, 2013


Almond oil marketed as "massage oil" is usually more expensive than the same sized bottle at the grocery store in the international section.
posted by windykites at 4:53 PM on January 9, 2013


I find men's shaving cream to sometimes be cheaper per oz. than women's.

On that note, with many products that are gendered for no reason, one version will be cheaper.
posted by threeants at 5:26 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Baking twine or kitchen twine usually costs about 10x per foot when compared to simple cotton cord intended for use in every other room of the house.
posted by anildash at 7:15 PM on January 9, 2013


To control oil on the face, you can apply a thin layer of milk of magnesia before applying makeup, instead of a mattifying primer.
posted by neushoorn at 12:34 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someone upthread mentioned that acetone is cheaper in the beauty aisle than in the modelling supplies aisle, but it's even cheaper in the paint aisle at the hardware store. Buy a quart and refill your small nail polish remover bottle.
posted by echo target at 6:50 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mexican sardines and Nesquik. All kinds of stuff on the Mexican aisle if you live somewhere that has one. The caveat is that they aren't exactly the same as their American counterparts, but mostly just as good or better.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 8:56 AM on January 10, 2013


Spices in general (like the specific examples noted above) are much cheaper in bulk. It's absolutely worth a trip to the food co-op or Whole Foods to refill your spice jars. In my experience they're fresher than pre-packaged and the selection is broad enough that you can buy all of your spices, not just the ones available in the Mexican/Asian/etc. section at the grocery store.
posted by pullayup at 9:37 AM on January 10, 2013


If a cable used to transmit a digital signal works, it's working perfectly. The cheapest functional HDMI cable has the same exact signal as the most expensive functional one. Any cables for electronics are 10x more expensive in the store than they are online.
posted by talldean at 11:11 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


To expand on talldean's comment above, Monoprice has any cable you might need for a fraction of the price.
posted by papafrita at 8:18 AM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Restaurant supply for everything kitchen-related. Tools, bakeware (esp sheet pans, aka cookie sheets), mixing bowls, glasses, towels, pots/pans... and it's all of superior quality to boot.

Bonus: If you have a chinatown, you can get it all even cheaper.

I'd be completely broke if I went to Williams-Sonoma or Sur le Table for this stuff.

...but then again, I'd also be broke if I bought all the obscure commercial kitchen gadgets I want (e.g. Electric Butter Spreader, Single-Action Lettuce Cuber, Food Rotation Label Kit, 8-channel kitchen timer, Ice Sculpture Molds...)
posted by joshwa at 9:09 AM on January 11, 2013


Just remembered another one that I don't think was mentioned. Little bottles of "swimmer's ear" drops are just rubbing alcohol sold for $5 whilst big bottles labeled rubbing alcohol are like 89 cents.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:56 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Spectacle cleaner is just a quarter alcohol, a quarter liquid soap, and half water.
posted by tel3path at 5:10 PM on January 20, 2013


Thanks for reminding me, tel3path:

Ordinary facial tissues make fine optical cleaning cloths. The only problem is they tend to leave a couple dust-like pieces of themselves behind, but these are easily brushed or blown off. No need for expensive or hard-to-find special cloths.

I was taught this by a high-tech lensgrinding firm, where they've always used Kleenex brand in their labs - then follow with a couple pumps from an air bulb.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:43 AM on January 21, 2013


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