Home » How to Save Money: Check the Labels

How to Save Money: Check the Labels


I had a “duh” money spending moment yesterday and I’m SO ticked at myself!  Not because of how much money I wasted, but because of how I wasted it.  We’ve read before about how advertisers sneak their way into your hearts and convince you to spend money.  And we can find lots of good info on many sites on how to save money on groceries.  But until yesterday, I wouldn’t have thought that checking labels should be part of my money-saving journey.  It is now. 

Let me set the scene: Rick and I took daughter #3 with us out on a little shopping errand.  After heading to the home improvement store, which, with a perfectionist husband is no picnic, I was getting tired.  We’d spent way too long wandering as Rick looked through piece after piece of plywood for the most un-warped, un-cracked piece he could find. Normally I have a bit of fun wandering around the home improvement stores, but after looking at sheets of plywood for what seemed like days on end, I was getting tired and restless.  I was patient though (Impressed?  You should be.  Plywood shopping is a sleeper like no other! 🙂  )  and we finally headed to the checkout.

After we loaded the pickup and headed for home, daughter #3 reminded us that we said we’d stop at Walmart and get her some earplugs for swimming.  We’d gone swimming at a local beach the day before, and her ear was bothering her.  This is a pretty regular occurrence for her, so we figured it was time to get the earplugs.  I headed into the Pharmacy area and found some earplugs.  Right next to the earplugs, I found some drops for Swimmer’s Ear.  Yea!  Since daughter #3’s ear had been bugging her, I picked a bottle of it up and put it in the basket.  I got the generic stuff and only spent $2.28 for the 1-ounce bottle.  I saved a good .50 off the name brand stuff and was proud of my frugal wisdom.

We headed home, put the drops in daughter’s ear, and waited.  As we waited, I thought I’d better check the ingredient list, just in case.  We always weigh carefully what goes into our bodies, especially concerning medications.  I looked for the ingredient section.  Here’s what I found:

Ingredients: Isopropyl alcohol. 

Yep, that’s it.  A few months back, I spent $1.27 for a 32-ounce bottle of Isopropyl Alcohol.  Yesterday I spent $2.28 for 1 ounce of the same d__n stuff.  ARRRGHHH! 

Now, granted, other people have wasted WAY more money making stupid spending decisions.  But it was the fact of the matter that really bothered me.  If I had, instead of giving into the fatigue and trauma of watching Rick wander his way through a 6-foot pile of plywood,  and taken 2 seconds to read the label at the store, I would have shook my head, put the bottle back on the shelf and went home $2.28 richer.  But being in a hurry put a dent into our pocketbook, and that bugs me!!!

Lesson learned?  Read those labels, especially when buying something you don’t normally buy.  You may be able to find a cheaper (or free) solution.


  1. Wow, what a great tip. Maybe a post is in order to match up common solutions to minor medical issues that avoid buying the most expensive stuff. Amazing that they can simply package and market a 32 oz bottle of this stuff into 32 1oz packages and make 32 times as much!

    • Laurie says:

      Great idea, Brian! I’ll look into that. Yeah, it’s brilliant marketing – I’d love to find a way to make that big of a profit!

  2. Josh @ CNA says:

    Great post! I’ve heard a lot about things like this. It’s amazing that they can just package things differently and make more money! Great post, thanks!

  3. E.M. says:

    I wouldn’t have really thought to read the label, either. That is a good tip! I will have to start doing this. Most of the time it’s for food to check ingredients, but it’s definitely important with medicine/first aid, too. I also always check the size of the product with food, to see if you’re actually getting more by paying more. If something is 15oz and something else is 10oz, I’d rather get the 15oz if it’s a minimal difference in price. They really do try to fool you!

    • Laurie says:

      That’s great that you check the sizes: we do that too, and it’s especially easy now that grocery stores are putting the “per ounce” price on things. It’s an easy way to save huge cash!

  4. Debt Blag says:

    Oh my. I guess this is why I try to find remedies using the Google before I buy something.

    Also, can I tell you I was more than a little scared when I saw that you had hot-linked “other people have wasted WAY more money making stupid spending decisions”?

    You *very* easily could have been pointing at me 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, funny, Mario. 🙂 Then again, I could have easily linked back to one of our many money-wasting stories too. Most all of us have them, I fear. 🙂

  5. Interesting…I’ll have to check the labels more often. It is crazy how they can mark up the price when it’s the same product! How can they claim that there product is better??

  6. Alexa says:

    That is a great tip that I never think of! it’s funny because last week my daughter had water stuck in her ear and we didn’t have anything for it at the house. If I’d known alcohol would have done the trick it would have saved me from trying to plunge the water out with my hand lol

  7. I always try to read the labels because just like that instance you talk about I’ve bought things only to realize the product is mostly water or doesn’t do what it promised it would.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, funny! I have learned my lesson with the hand scrub: ours is coconut oil and sugar. We’d probably all be a lot poorer if it weren’t for the Internet. 🙂

  8. I’ve been reading the food labels with the girls at the grocery stores but I would have absolutely made the mistake you did with the swimmer’s ear. I honestly would have assumed it was some magical elixir and not just rubbing alcohol. Grrrr….I hate that when that happens.

  9. this reminds me of when I´ve bought expensive disinfectant for wounds and cuts, only to discover that the main ingredient is hydro peroxide, which is super cheap to buy at the pharmacy, and can be used in so many more ways than the fancy disinfectant.

  10. lyle @ the Joy of Simple says:

    Welcome to the world of marketing 🙂 It’s all about taking the same product ingredient, putting a catchy name to it, fancying it up with a cool looking logo and “getting it to market”. The fact is, that not many people are going to know what’s in the product that they, me included. I will quickly glance at the labels but I am always sold on the large type descriptive phrases more than the small type labelled ingredients!

    That being said, I will now try and be a tad more diligent when buying something that I may already have 🙂

    Thanks for an informative post and don’t be too hard on yourself 🙂

    Take care and all the best.


  11. Anna Menchaca says:

    Hydrogen Peroxide for $.88 works great. That’s what the doctors office used to clean out my ear and charged me $75.00. I now do it at home and it works wonders.

  12. Matt Becker says:

    It’s pretty amazing how basic some of the things we buy at the store without thinking are. A lot of it is just a mix of a couple of really basic ingredients. Definitely a good lesson.

  13. Amazing what they can get away with when we aren’t looking. I always read labels to compare and it’s a smart way to shop and save. Don’t beat yourself up, just learn from you mistake for next time. 🙂

  14. Lindsey @ Sense & Sensibility says:

    Hey Laurie! I have done this before. Another thing I’ve seen doen is weird labels on products that don’t need them – like seeing “Fat Free!” on a water bottle label in a store. Hate it.

    They rebrand it and sell it as XYZ miracle cure and it turns out to be the same old stuff with a shinier name. Not cool.

  15. Kelly @Stayingonbudget says:

    Ha ha–plywood shopping is a total snoozer. I can relate to the perfectionist husband as well!
    I agree with reading labels and watching out for marketing. It’s amazing what stuff is made out of and how you can often find them same things a lot less expensive by doing your homework.
    Great post again!

  16. Jim says:

    Laurie, I feel your pain, I bought some cedar 2 x 4’s for my raised garden bed, think I spent $11 per board at Lowes. Come to find out that I could of bought the same boards at a local lumberyard for about $8 per, which would have saved me about $40, its maddening!

  17. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It happens. There were times when I paid little attention in the store selecting products I normally don’t buy only to end up with something that could’ve cost so much less (or nothing as some things can be made at home, like salt water, for example, but no, I had to pay nearly £7 for it as I use it when my nose gets blocked).

    • Laurie says:

      Ouch!!!! I feel your pain, girl. I’ll be putting together a list of things soon that we can use instead of store bought solutions…..

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