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15 Things Money Experts Tend to Buy Cheap

The moral of the story: Know when to splurge and when to save. Here's a rundown of what money experts don't spend a bundle on—and why.

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How to shop smarter

To save … or to splurge? That is the question so many of us struggle with when it comes to everything from household essentials to big-ticket items. Whether you’re on a tight budget or have millions in the bank, nobody likes to waste money, but money experts really keep unnecessary spending in check. “Money experts typically aren’t big spenders and definitely don’t buy things they can’t afford,” says WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez. “They tend to look for quality over quantity and avoid paying interest on credit card purchases by not carrying a balance from one billing cycle to another.”

They also know when the best sales are and often shop at places like Walmart, Costco and Target. Believe it or not, one survey found that even people with a net worth of more than $5 million often shopped at these discount stores too. And those are just a few of the smart-shopping techniques employed by the experts (and the people they advise).

To find out how you can keep more money in the bank, we spoke to money experts to find out which items they buy on the cheap—and some of them may surprise you. Once you’re up to speed, save even more money by learning how to lower your household bills and which bills you shouldn’t put on AutoPay.

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Sheets

Gone are the days when high-quality bedding cost a fortune. “You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars or travel to Florence to get handcrafted luxury Italian sheets,” says Rana Argenio, founder of the direct-to-consumer luxury bedding line 10 Grove. In fact, you can find tons of options for high-thread-count sheets, even those that are deemed “luxury,” for under $200.

“Better yet, a money-saving expert will purchase their sheets strategically when bedding is on sale, which tends to be over three-day weekends, like Presidents Day and Memorial Day,” adds smart-shopping expert Trae Bodge. It’s also smart to check websites for fan favorites that don’t disappoint. This set of Mellanni bed sheets, which is made of super-soft brushed microfiber, costs under $35 and has more than 200,000 glowing five-star reviews on Amazon.

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Cars

Mercedes, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and Ferrari. Those are the first cars that people with a high net worth splurge on, right? Nope. According to research from Edmunds.com in 2016, the most popular car among those with incomes over $250,000 a year was the Ford F-Series, followed by the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Jeep Wrangler. The Lexus RX and BMW X5 came in fourth and fifth on the list!

“Cars are one thing money experts don’t splurge on,” says Gonzalez. This is because the value of a new car depreciates very quickly—at least 20% in the first year. “They don’t want to take in such a loss. They know that the best value comes from buying a used car, and keeping it for a longer period of time will save money.” Here are some of the most reliable car brands to consider buying.

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Moisturizer

Sure, you can spend oodles on a fancy designer moisturizer—but why do that when you can get something great for a whole lot less? While some $300 creams are admittedly amazing, Bodge won’t spend that kind of money simply on principle. “Thankfully, there are $30 creams that work very, very well,” she says. For example, Aquaphor, which is dermatologist recommended and celebrity endorsed, can be used on anything from dry lips to cracked skin, and it costs a fraction of the price of luxury alternatives. We’re talking under $10 for seven ounces! Meghan Markle is reportedly a huge fan and incorporates it into her skin-care routine.

Bodge adds that money experts will also look for deals on those long CVS coupons or wait for semi-annual sales at Sephora or Ulta. To save even more money, buy moisturizer in bulk when you find these kinds of deals.

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Gas

Gas is something nobody wants to overspend on. “Gas prices are incredibly high at the moment, so we should all be looking for ways to save at the pump,” says Bodge. Luckily, saving money on gas can be as easy as installing a money-saving gas app on your phone. “Experts will use an app like GasBuddy to find the best gas prices nearby, as well as use the credit card that offers the highest points on gas,” Bodge explains. “Or better yet, we pay in cash, which is always cheaper.”

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Gift wrap

Beautiful wrapping paper, gift bags and cards can easily cost as much as a gift itself. Money-saving experts recommend spending more on a high-quality gift as opposed to extravagant gift packaging, since the latter will just get tossed. “Fancy gift wrap can make for a nice presentation, but there is a lot you can do with wrapping paper, ribbons or gift bags that you’ve purchased at a dollar store,” says Bodge. “I also save salvageable gift wrap for repurposing, and I would assume other penny-pinchers do the same!” You can also shop for cheap but chic gift packaging at wholesale warehouses and on Amazon, where you can purchase a variety of Hallmark patterns in three-roll sets.

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Household essentials

It can be tempting to splurge on fancy household essentials such as toilet paper, cleaning supplies or laundry-room products, but resist that temptation! Many of the basics work just as well, and of course, you’ll also want to look for sales and coupon codes before checking out. Experts also install browser extensions on their computers and phones that automatically alert them to available savings as they browse online. Favorites include Sidekick from CouponCabin, Cently and Slickdeals. Plus, adds Bodge, “If money-saving experts have the space, they will buy many of their essentials in bulk, which saves both time and money.” Here are more simple money tricks that saved one woman $1,000 per month.

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Travel

Everyone has a different opinion about travel and splurging, but Bodge maintains that money experts seek out the best deals while also considering travel time. Why? “Because time is money,” she wisely notes. “You’d be unlikely to see a money-saving expert saving a little bit of money on a flight that involves a layover of many hours. But we’ll always look for ways to save, whether it be a discounted package rate or timing our travels strategically when it costs less to go somewhere.” Many of them use the same online search tools we do to find their next travel deal—such as TripAdvisor, Expedia and Hotels.com—and some opt to fly coach over first class to save even more.

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Jewelry

Even people who adore Cartier, Tiffany and Rolex likely have a few frugal finds mixed in with their stash. “I think it’s important to have a few classic pieces that you pay more for, but otherwise, I love costume jewelry,” says Bodge. “You can find unique and affordable pieces at big-box stores, like Target or Walmart, that will dress up your outfit without costing a fortune.” Personal shopper and stylist Lauren Rae Levy confirms that even her most financially secure clients buy cheap costume jewelry. “They’ll buy it and make it look real by mixing it in with their authentic pieces. Sometimes the costume jewelry photographs even nicer than the real deal!”

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Sunglasses

Even if they can afford Chanel, Dior and Tom Ford, money experts aren’t spending $500-plus on plastic shades. “Designers are charging more and more for fun sunglasses each year, but sunglasses are one of the most commonly broken and misplaced items one can have,” explains Levy. “Some of my wealthier clients tend to buy one to three pairs of new designer sunnies that they love per year, then fill the rest of their collection with fun pairs that look almost exactly the same but cost a fraction of the price.”

For example, a popular item with many of her clients are these Gucci-inspired crystal shades from Amazon. The authentic ones will set you back more than $750, while these dupes retail for under $15. “It’s super hard to tell the difference,” Levy adds, “and when the shades are so fab and fun, who really cares where they came from?” Here are more affordable sunglasses with UV protection to suit your style.

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Mascara

“Designer makeup costs add up, and considering you need to replace certain items often for cleanliness reasons, the first item I see my wealthy clients cut from the designer list is mascara,” says Levy. Instead of stocking your makeup kit with YSL, NARS or Chanel, try affordable drugstore brands (and makeup-artist favorites) such as Maybelline and CoverGirl. “The truth is, with daily mascara, I don’t see the difference,” she adds. Another one to consider: Essence Lash Princess False Lash mascara, Amazon’s top-selling mascara.

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Candles

Levy’s clients love filling their homes with candles, but they often opt for thrifty picks. “I’ve noticed a lot of my wealthier clients buying candles in bulk at stores like Home Goods and Marshalls and putting them away to use throughout the year,” she says. “Everyone used to spend so much on their name-brand candles, but now I’ve noticed they love getting a good buy on candles and buying them in bulk.” They may invest in one or two more expensive candles to use when company is over, but “the rest of the time, the great scents for less are good enough to get the job done.”

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Designer clothes

Money experts usually don’t pay attention to brand names when it comes to everyday clothing items, says Gonzalez. “They are less interested in luxury goods or brand-name material items, and tend to focus more on investing in their privacy, wellness or education,” she explains. “Things like clothing and accessories are purchased based on quality, not quantity. This way, they last longer and thus end up being cheaper in the long term.” Knowing the best time to buy new clothes, paired with a few well-chosen investment pieces will upgrade your wardrobe instantly.

Cropped shot of an unrecognizable businessman standing and using his cellphone during the dayPeopleImages/Getty Images

Wireless plans

While investing in a secure phone is a must, money experts try to avoid money traps, including pricey mobile plans. “I’ve been overpaying for my phone service for years, and I bit the bullet at the end of 2021 and switched my family over to Mint Mobile for wireless service,” says Bodge. “This saves us over $100 a month, yet has premium service and plenty of data.” It’s always a smart idea to shop around for the best plan or call your current provider to see if there are any more cost-efficient plans available.

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Cable

Similar to cellular plans, cable costs may be something you can lower easily. Consumers should evaluate their regular monthly expenditures and be prepared to make a drastic change if necessary. “I ditched cable and opted for a Roku and several streaming channels, which is saving us about $50 a month,” Bodge says. All these little changes add up, of course. For more small ways to make a big impact on your bottom line, read the story of one woman who stopped buying three things and saved $5,000.

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Houses

A home is the biggest purchase you will make, and you need to be realistic about what you can afford. That’s why money experts make sure they don’t sink every penny they have into a home, says Gonzalez. “By choosing to spend less on a home,” she adds, “they’re able to pursue other financial goals, such as early retirement, traveling more or even becoming mortgage-free sooner rather than later.”

Sources:

  • Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst
  • MediaPost: “Millionaires Love Costco, Home Depot and Lowe’s”
  • Rana Argenio, founder of 10 Grove
  • Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com
  • Forbes: “Affluent Car Buyers Are Surprisingly More Practical Than Indulgent”
  • Lauren Rae Levy, celebrity stylist and personal shopper

Leah Groth
A general lifestyle writer, Leah covers everything from cleaning hacks and consumer products to travel and pets for RD.com. When she isn't working you will find her chasing after her four children (two humans, a Vizsla and a German Shorthaired Pointer) or working on her 100-plus year-old-home outside of Philadelphia.