When is it okay to be a cheapskate?

when to be a cheapskate

When is it okay to be a bit of a cheapskate and go for the generic option?

Seems like an odd question, right? But let’s face it, some products just aren’t worth the full price and often it’s the marketing and reputation that carry it through rather than the product’s actual worth. So, when is it okay to go cheap?

Prescription drugs

Seems an odd one, but hear me out. Generic drugs are the same, just made cheaper. Australia has some strict standards around generic drugs, so if your pharmacist offers you a cheaper generic alternative, you should take it.

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Home brand

If you see one branded product and there is a home-branded product in the same, if not almost the same packaging, it’s generally made by the same manufacturers. The home brand may have a little less active ingredient or flavour, but almost always it will be the same product.

In fact, home brands have come a long way since they were introduced in the 1980s, so it might be time for some experimentation to see if you can swap your branded favourite for a home brand to make generous savings.

Expensive tools or equipment

Unless you are a handyman or tradie, don’t buy a lot of tools. You can rent almost anything from Bunnings or borrow it from a mate (but be sure to give it back).

I get that a wall of shiny tools, neatly laid out on a peg board is a wonderful thing, but if you add up what that would cost and how often you use them it might send your head reeling.

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My daughter collects books, it’s her thing, but I can’t give mine away fast enough. And when I add up what I spent on books over the years, only to have them sit on shelves for decades it makes me want to cringe.

So sure, spend money on fancy books if you like, but for everyday reading either borrow them from a library or buy them for a couple of bucks from an op shop. You might even have one of those little libraries near you, and they are free.

Plus, there are loads of free books online if you want to download them. Here’s a quick sample.


If you want to spend a lot on furniture, go for it, but there are options out there to save money as well.

Online selling sites offer any amount of furniture for a fraction of retail price, even antique pieces.

Often, you don’t even have to pay. Join a local buy/swap/sell group online and find stuff for free. I have given away a single bed, trundle and matching mattress and a shelf all for free. The recipients were grateful and I had them off my hands without having to pay for someone to haul them away. It’s win-win as far as I’m concerned.

And once again, don’t forget op shops. I’ve seen some fantastic furniture at our local going for less than $100.

There’s also a lot of tech out there going cheap on the same online sites. It may not be the latest version, but if it does what you need, do you really need the latest shiny version straight out of the box?

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Cards and wrapping

A well-wrapped present with a card is a beautiful thing, but the prices for what in reality are a piece of paper and a folded piece of card are ridiculous. One Christmas my family agreed to wrap everything in newspaper and we were pretty happy with ourselves.

Shop around at discount stores, recycle previously used paper make your own cards, or even use unwanted fabric in Japanese cloth wrapping. I cut up a pair of curtains a couple of years ago that are still being handed around the family as wrapping. It’s cheap and saves a tonne of space in landfill. 

Cleaning products

Many cleaning products are a scam. Wipes for everything from toilets to leather couches are totally unnecessary. Separate cleaning sprays for every room and surface are also marketing gone mad.

A quick online search will throw up simple alternatives you can make yourself and often use ingredients you probably already have in your home.

And where possible, always buy the concentrate and water it down more than recommended. It will go much further and I guarantee you will never notice the difference.

What products do you buy ‘on the cheap’? Why not share your tips in the comments section below?

Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.

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