10 Things that Are Way More Expensive Than They Should Be

published Mar 22, 2017
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(Image credit: MJTH)

Some things in life are inexplicably (or at least seem to be inexplicably) expensive, but for one reason or another, you still have to use them and buy them. Most things, like razor blades and printer ink which are notoriously expensive, can be explained—others, not so much—but the good news is, there are often ways around it to help you spend less. These 10 things seem way more expensive than they should be. Here’s why, and how to save when you do buy them.

Printer Ink

Have you ever bought a printer for super cheap and thought it was a score, only to realize the ink costs more than the printer itself? Just when you think you’ve managed to save, ink cartridges are a good reminder that there’s always some sort of catch. As it turns out, it’s not the ink that’s expensive—it’s the technology behind it, as in the actual cartridge itself, according to How-To Geek. That’s why a more wallet-friendly approach is to refill your cartridges or buy refills from a third party seller instead of buying new ones straight from the manufacturer. (If you plan on refilling, How-To Geek suggests not buying a printer that uses tri-color ink cartridges in favor of separate color cartridges instead.)

Window Treatments

Window treatments are one of those costs that you always forget adds up fast—one set of curtains doesn’t feel like a big deal, but when you’re outfitting an entire home, suddenly you’re spending far more than you anticipated just to cover your windows. Why some curtains can be so much more expensive than others is still kind of a mystery (sometimes it goes beyond the cost of higher-quality material), but you can still achieve the look and privacy you want without breaking the bank. We have a great list of budget sources for window coverings, and Design*Sponge has a roundup of stylish and easy options you can try instead of spending thousands on curtains and blinds.


Rugs, like window treatments, always seem to be one of the things that cost you the most when you’re updating your decor. You can find furniture and art for discounted prices at so many places, but rugs always seem to run a few hundred dollars or more no matter where you go or what they look like. And of course, the bigger the rug, the higher the impact on your wallet. The key to finding less expensive rugs is knowing where to look—this roundup might have one you love, but more than that, it’s a good resource on where to look; Amazon, Rugs USA and Wayfair are all great options. You might also want to check with a local carpet or flooring store to see if they have any excess from carpet installations, as a user in this thread on The Knot suggested. Users also suggested IKEA, Target, HomeGoods and more.


Why a mattress could cost a fortune might make sense at first—it’s something you use every day and you need it to be comfortable and good quality for your health. You buy mattresses so infrequently that, over time, the cost feels justified—and conveniently you forget just how expensive they are the next time you have to purchase one. But you should know that buying lower cost mattresses doesn’t exactly mean lower quality. In this Reddit thread, users who have worked in the mattress industry share some insight. Some takeaways: Mattresses aren’t all that expensive to make, so companies can basically charge you whatever they want. Plus, in some cases, mattresses at different stores are exactly the same, and regardless, the demand is there since most people don’t want to buy used mattresses. The thread also has tips on how to save when you buy, from haggling to buying from Amazon and IKEA.

(Image credit: Paige Jones)

Wedding Flowers

When you’re planning a wedding, everyone always tells you that the flowers are both important and expensive, but you probably don’t understand the scope of how expensive until you’re actually planning that part. Wedding flowers can cost thousands of dollars, and it’s because you’re paying for a lot of labor—it’s more than just trimming stems and putting them in vases or wrapping them up as bouquets, someone has to string them, wrap fake stems for flowers like orchids and hand-wire anything that needs to fall just-so. So, if you want to save money on your wedding flowers, this piece on Huffington Post has some tips: Choose flowers that have real stems, use flowers in other ways (not just in elaborate centerpieces), limit your variety, and choose flowers that thrive in the climate you’re in so you can get more use out of them beyond just decorating your big day. Or, if you’re crafty or just don’t care much about flowers, consider going the DIY route—it might be easier and more affordable than you think.

Gym Initiation Fees

If you’ve ever gone to sign up for a gym membership and been hit with an initiation fee on top of the monthly membership costs, you know how sneaky and expensive they can be. It makes sense—charging a large sign-up fee will obviously deter people from stopping and starting their membership (or changing gyms) whenever they please, which means the gyms make more money from you. If you find a gym you like but they have an initiation fee you don’t want to pay or can’t afford, there might be ways to negotiate around it. According to TODAY, if you sign up at the right times (think summer, as opposed to January, and at the end of the month when gyms are trying to meet membership quotas) you can usually negotiate—just refuse to pay the fee and walk away, and more than likely, they’ll counter offer a reduced fee, or none at all or call you later with an offer.


Much like printers, razors seem like an inexpensive purchase at the time—until you go to buy blade refills and realize they cost so much more than your razor itself. According to Mental Floss, a lot of it has to do with the fact that razor blades are really difficult to make—that and, because only a few companies in the world actually know how to do it, there’s a monopoly. But you can save on your razor purchases by using subscription services like Dollar Shave Club, using disposable razors (many of the major brands have more affordable disposable versions that can be used several times) and taking care of your blades so they last longer. You can also invest in an old-fashioned straight razor—it’ll cost more up front, but save you in the long run.


First-time parents will likely be surprised to learn just how much they’ll wind up spending on diapers and how expensive they can be, and there’s a pretty simple explanation for why diapers cost so much—it’s because the demand is there. Companies are competitive and always trying to be the better brand, and consumers know they can’t go without them (even though there are always options like cloth diapers which cost less, but need to be cleaned frequently so they require more effort), so they buy them regardless. But there are some ways you can save—this post from Parents.com suggests buying in bulk, stocking up when prices are low and buying from different brands, but aside from that, staying in smaller sizes as long as possible because prices go up with sizes.


Anyone who has ever had to take an ambulance during a medical emergency will tell you that few things are more shocking than receiving the ambulance bill in the aftermath—even if they only had to travel a few miles. Ambulance bills are often upwards of $1000 or more, and you’ll be charged even if you weren’t the one to call the ambulance in the first place. According to this article in the NY Times, it has to do with the fact that ambulances are run by so many different companies and organizations, from fire departments and hospitals to volunteer groups and private companies, and all of them follow different procedures and cover different things. In addition that, ambulance companies generally only collect on 30 to 40 percent of what they bill, so they charge more from patients that have insurance and are more likely to be able to pay. Of course, the only real way to save on ambulance rides is to not take one, but sometimes it’s a necessity.

Olive Oil

Olive oil doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that would be expensive—especially considering other vegetable oils are super cheap in comparison. And the cost of olive oil has little to do with the type of olives used, and more to do with how difficult it is to harvest them and the actual process that’s necessary to make it. It also depends on whether you buy refined or unrefined oil and whether or not there are other oils or additives mixed in—unrefined extra virgin olive oil is the real deal, but it’s also more expensive and there isn’t really a way to save money on it if that’s what you want. But you can save by keeping your extra virgin olive oil for when the taste really matters (like salad dressings and dipping bread) and use less expensive refined or mixed oils for cooking and baking.