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10 dumb deals we all fall for

Did you get a great bargain last week? Hate to tell you, but if it fell into one of these 10 categories, it was probably a dumb deal.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 2, 2014 12:44PM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyAs a smart shopper, you probably spend lots of time searching for the best deals. However, we're here to tell you some of your great finds aren't really all that great.

In fact, a lot of "good deals" are actually for items you could get for a lot less or totally free.

Here are 10 examples:

1. Book downloads

There's no excuse for paying to download e-books. You can probably download just about any bestseller your heart desires from your local library. If you have an Amazon Prime membership, you get free downloads there as well.

Amazon also maintains links to databases with free public domain books. Finally, plenty of e-books get marked down to free on Amazon as promotions. Blogger Crystal Paine at Money Saving Mom keeps a fairly current list of free e-books in the parenting, family and food genres. For everything else, you might want to head to Freebook Sifter.

By the way, as a writer, I have to tell you it's not all that hard to publish an e-book and have it listed on Amazon. Some of what's out there is embarrassingly thin on content, so before spending $1.99 on a 25-page e-book, head to Google first. Whatever information is in a book that size can probably be found on the Internet for free.

2. Movie rentals

In addition to e-books, your local library likely has at least a couple shelves of DVDs and Blu-rays just waiting to be picked up for family movie night. If your library doesn't have the title you want on the shelf, it may be part of a larger network of libraries and can request the movie from another branch.

Another free movie rental option is the Redbox Text Club. Send the word SIGNUP to 727272 to receive promotional messages from the company. At least once a month, I receive a code for a free rental.

3. Magazine subscriptions

While we're discussing the great things you can get at the library, let's not forget magazines.

How many times do you spend 15 minutes flipping through a magazine and then toss it in the recycling bin? Sure, you may use a cooking or woodworking magazine again and again, but are you really going to look at the wedding photos from Kim Kardashian and Kanye West more than once? Get those quick reads from the library.

If you really want to have magazines delivered to your house, ValueMags has a selection of free subscriptions, or see if you qualify for some free business-related titles through Mercury Magazines.

4. Bottled water

Back when I was a staff member for a Michigan legislator, one of the hot topics of the time was a proposed Nestle bottled water facility. After a lengthy battle, the company eventually won the right to suck up groundwater near the small village of Stanwood and sell it under the Ice Mountain label.

I've never been to Stanwood, although I do live a few counties over. I’m sure it's quite nice, but I assure you there's nothing special about the town that would make you want to pay a premium for its water.

That's the secret behind bottled water. Companies promote it as crisp, pure spring water, but it’s really just water that comes out of the ground, much like the water that pours from your faucet. Practically all groundwater can be considered spring water. Unless you live in an area with known contamination, there's no guarantee the bottled water you pay for at the store is any better than the water coming out of your own tap.

If you're really concerned about the quality or taste of your tap water, buy a faucet filter or filtered pitcher.

5. Brand-name medications

Brand-name drugs are big business, and pharmaceutical companies spend a lot of money trying to convince you to buy items with their name on the label. According to Kantar Media, Pfizer alone spent $1.1 billion on advertising in 2013.

Instead of jumping on the brand-name bandwagon, consider buying a generic instead. Generics are held to the same standard as the brand names and can save you a bundle, regardless of whether you're paying out-of-pocket for an over-the-counter pain reliever or need a specialty prescription drug. Many health insurance plans now have higher co-pays for brand names.

6. Brand-name anything

Brand-name medicines aren't the only deal you should be rethinking. Practically any brand-name product might be a bad deal when lower-priced generics are literally inches away.

Man wearing dunce cap, sitting in corner © Design Pics/CorbisI realize that some people bristle at the thought of generics, envisioning watered-down shampoo or cardboard crackers. Certainly, there are some low quality off-brands that give you what you pay for. However, your grocer's store brand is often just as good as the national brand when it comes to quality and taste.

Don't take my word for it. Consumer Reports did taste tests and found generics to be on equal footing with their brand-name counterparts. We also have an article with advice on how to decide when to go generic.

7. High-interest credit

OK, I know no one out there says, "A credit card with 20 percent interest! What a deal!"

But we do often neglect to check out things like interest because we're blinded by credit card rewards or their convenience.

It's an even worse deal when we have money sitting in savings, earning practically nothing, while we pay through the nose for credit card interest. The better deal might be to pull money from savings, pay off the card and file the plastic away.

8. Annual credit reports

Most free credit report offers are truly among the worst deals out there.

Unscrupulous companies offer to send you a "free" report in exchange for your personal information, which might then be shared with identity thieves. Or there may be a small processing fee and teeny tiny print that says you'll be signed up for some identity theft/credit monitoring service you certainly don't need.

The fact is, you're entitled to a free credit report, no strings attached. However, the only place to get it is at

9. Anti-virus software

Like an annual credit report, anti-virus software is something you need. It's just not something you need to pay for.

I'm not an IT pro, so I won't even try to go into this topic in-depth. Instead, read the reviews at PCMag and TechRadar for advice from the experts on the best free anti-virus programs you can download straight from the Web.

10. Smartphone apps

Finally, the last dumb deal many of us fall for is smartphone apps. It's so easy to push the buy button for that 99-cent app, but more often than not, we've spent money on something we either won't use or could have gotten for free.

Do some research before you buy an app. There are plenty of great free iPhone apps   and free Android apps. PCMag has an annual list of the 100 best free apps, and you can check out our partner site DealNews, which tracks free and discounted apps.

That wraps up our list of 10 dumb deals we all fall for. The bottom line is there is no reason to spend money on these categories when there are free or cheaper versions available for the taking.

More from Money Talks News

Jul 2, 2014 2:45PM
I would argue the dumbest "deal" we all fall for is needing an accountant to do our taxes to save us money, instead of reforming the tax code so an average person can understand it without a professional.
Jul 2, 2014 5:32PM
The really dumb thing is for those of us with insurance forced to pay higher hospital bills because of  people without insurance. Hospitals are forced to provide service to those with out insurance so they pass those costs on to those who do have insurance.
Jul 2, 2014 2:34PM
Hope and Change should be on the top of this list.
Jul 2, 2014 11:28PM
Whats really dumb is the way this government is running this country dry of funds for other countries, and trying to always fix other countries problems, when in fact we have our own, like a broken border that thousands of illegal immigrants cross on a daily basis, also the drug epidemic that exist, and the corruption that takes place in every government agency. And nothing is being done about it! Now that is really dumb !!!!!
Jul 2, 2014 2:10PM
and the dumbest is....... obamacare..  and we are forced to buy it..  we are really screwed
Jul 2, 2014 6:13PM
If you have any money , somebody is going to try to get it from you . Just buy wisely , case closed.
Jul 2, 2014 3:09PM
I agree with most of these, and especially the water one. Spending money on cases and cases of bottled water, and hauling those cases from the store to the house, is absurd when free clean water is readily available to most people. Companies will try to sell you anything and everything, whether you need it or not.
Jul 3, 2014 12:23AM
If it comes rom China. you paid too much for it!
Jul 2, 2014 11:27PM
They should have mentioned smartphones.  No one really needs it.  You can save a lot of money by just getting a cell phone if you really think you need it, perhaps in lieu of a home phone.  And you'll also drive better if you stop talking or texting while driving.  You'll probably get home quicker if others follow suit, and you'll have less chance of being in an accident.
Jul 2, 2014 2:59PM
and....the dumbest is Obama.  LOL...Obama voted worst president since 1945, HA! Carter is smiling now.
Jul 2, 2014 6:56PM
Jul 2, 2014 7:47PM
WRONG!  Generic drugs can be up to 20% different than brand names.  Sometimes that's o.k., but my son takes Depacote which keeps him from having seizures.  A generic drug just doesn't do the same job!
Jul 2, 2014 11:11PM
I'm not so sure about the bottled water; I live in an area with water hard enough to wreck any tap or pitcher filter in a matter of weeks.  Some of us try to use full-house water filters, but the cost of maintenance is terrible, partially because of the hard water and partially because we also have very fine sand in the water that can just about shred and plug any kind of pump or filter.  Water imported from pretty much anywhere else is way better than what comes from my tap!
Jul 2, 2014 2:45PM
So I'm either a genius or a cheep-skate.
Jul 2, 2014 2:33PM

Anti-virus software is the only one of these things I have ever paid for.

And the only reason I paid for it was because it was pre-loaded on the computer I bought.

Other than that, nope.  So once again, the  msn writers, with their generic articles prove their incompetence.

EDIT: I do keep falling for one dumb thing. I keep thinking that msn will write an unbiased, actually researched article....... while knowing the whole time that it will never happen.

Jul 2, 2014 6:00PM
Theres no such thing as a bargain or deal if you take the time to check it out' many times when things or on sale it will be stale or defective or it was marked up the week before. Many off brand food items taste awful. There is a sucker on every corner and two waiting to take him. I buy nothing unless i absolutely have to have it. A fool and his money always parts.
Jul 3, 2014 12:26AM
I have 5-6 old plastic soda bottles, that  I routinely fill from the kitchen faucet.......and rotate in my fridge.  As long as the water is ice-cold, I can't taste the difference.   Water is water.    It probably also saves water and $$$$ that whenever I want a drink, I've got the cold stuff on hand.     I don't have to stand there allowing the faucet to run for several seconds,  as I wait for the cold stuff to come thru the pipes.     And living in a part of the country that gets extremely warm ( not to mention is experiencing a drought ),  it's kind of stupid to just waste the stuff as it washes down the drain. 
Jul 2, 2014 2:10PM
I've never paid for the vast majority of those things.  Bottled water when the water co. was replacing a piece of pipe in the street (and didn't bother to tell their customers ahead of time), and antivirus software on a CD back in the days of dial-up internet...
Jul 2, 2014 2:24PM

You don't actually need to join the "Redbox Text Club" to get a free rental every month. Just set up your basic account, and they'll send you either discounted or free deals in email towards the end of every week (especially if you skip a week or two; the Redbox computer will very quickly start to worry about whether you're ever coming back, or whether they've lost you to Family Video). No need to reveal your text ID info to get it.

Of course, we're talking a difference in price of barely one dollar per movie, so your use or non-use of Redbox is hardly likely to affect your bottom line anyway.

Jul 3, 2014 10:18AM
As a writer, I'm upset by #1. I put my heart and soul into a full-length novel, and it took me two years to write, edit, and finally publish on Amazon. Yes, it's up for free. Why? Because I've discovered that people are cheap. They'll pay $5.99 for a Hallmark greeting card, but not 99 cents for a novel. My novel has excellent reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, but no... NEVER pay to download a book! Helping out a new author is ridiculous! (sarcasm intended)
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