Skip These Bad Buys

Every year we spend money on purchases that may be falsely advertised, environmentally harmful, or simply overpriced. But we don’t have to keep making those same mistakes. Here are some of the worst offenders you should avoid in 2021, along with more practical (and cheaper) options.

Disposable Wipes2 / 30

Disposable Wipes

Handy? For sure. Good for the planet? Not even a little. The use of baby wipes, disinfecting wipes, and their ilk has grown substantially in the last decade… and that was before the coronavirus pandemic made disinfecting wipes a must-have product for many people. Consider biodegradable, compostable wipes for baby or yourself, and reusable microfiber cloths for cleaning and dusting around the house.

Immunity Boosters3 / 30

Immunity Boosters

Airborne is a popular supplement that has been marketed as a cure for the common cold and general immune booster. The product contains vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other supplements like ginger. But as researchers at Ohio State University point out, there’s no scientific evidence that Airborne and similar products can prevent or cure a cold.

Plastic Straws4 / 30

Plastic Straws

Straws have become the poster child for society’s plastic overuse and, while reducing the millions of drinking straws used each day alone won’t save the planet, it’s not a bad place to start. Especially when it’s so easy to either replace them with a stainless-steel version or just not use one at all.

Diet Soda5 / 30

Diet Soda

In their efforts to cut out sugar and calories, diet soda drinkers may be exposing themselves to entirely different health risks. Numerous studies have linked excessive diet soda consumption to developing metabolic syndrome, which often leads to diabetes or heart disease, as well as stroke and dementia.

Keurig K-Cups6 / 30

Keurig K-Cups

Statista estimates that more than 40% of American homes own a Keurig or other pod-based coffeemaker, which adds up to billions of pods placed in landfills every year. The company has committed to changing that, however. Keurig sells some of its coffees in recyclable pods and says all of its K-Cups will be recyclable by the end of 2020.

Plastic Cutlery7 / 30

Plastic Cutlery

Non-recyclable plastic utensils may be cheap and convenient, but they contribute to mounting environmental issues. They cannot be used again and end up adding to landfills and sometimes polluting waterways, while more plastic cutlery is manufactured from non-renewable petroleum. Consider switching to compostable cutlery made from cornstarch-based CPLA.

Plastic Sandwich Bags8 / 30

Plastic Sandwich Bags

Americans used about 225 million plastic sandwich bags in 2019, according to Statista. That doesn’t account for other countries, or for the quart- and gallon-sized versions we also use. At an average cost of 1.7 cents per bag, that’s about $380 million we are, quite literally, throwing in the trash each year. Instead, buy yourself some reusable beeswax paper, and save money and the planet at the same time.

Brand-Name Drugs9 / 30
Disposable Razors10 / 30

The media could not be loaded, either because the server or network failed or because the format is not supported.

Cleaning Supplies11 / 30

Cleaning Supplies

Thousands of accidents involving children happen each year due to harmful ingredients like bleach and ammonia, linked to liver and kidney damage, being consumed. Choose non-toxic or natural cleaners found in most markets, or save money by making your own cleaning solutions from vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda.

Dryer Sheets12 / 30

Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets contain chemicals called quaternary ammonium compounds (QACS) that coat clothes to make them seem softer, without actually doing so. QACS not only affect fabric quality — making certain fabrics less wickable and fire-resistent — but can gunk up your dryer’s lint trap over time, irritate sensitive skin and, worst of all, have been shown to cause or worsen asthma. Invest in some wool dryer balls instead, which are just as effective while also reducing drying time and cutting energy costs.

Buying Single-Serve Bottled Water13 / 30
Tarasyuk Igor/shutterstock

Water Bottles

The average American consumed some 44 gallons of bottled water in 2019, according to Statista data. Do your part by replacing bottled water with tap, especially given that there’s little difference between the two and it saves money, too. Consider a reusable insulated tumbler, too, for hydration on the go.

Designer Jeans14 / 30
Laundry Detergent15 / 30

Laundry Detergent

Conventional laundry detergents can contain toxins that cause adverse effects ranging from irritated skin to discolored clothing, especially the cheap, off-brand stuff. To avoid contact with such chemicals, look for 100% non-toxic detergents, or make your own homemade powder solution.

Greeting Cards16 / 30
Acne Treatment17 / 30
Roses18 / 30


A dozen roses sell for $10 or less wholesale, but certain florists and grocery stores can resell them for as much as $20 to $60 or more when demand is high around Valentine’s Day. Save money by comparing prices between grocers, farmers markets, and online retailers like The Bouqs Co.

Fountain Drinks19 / 30
Pre-Cut Produce20 / 30
Tea Bags21 / 30
Eyeglasses22 / 30
Antibacterial Soaps23 / 30
Chemical Insecticides and Herbicides24 / 30

Chemical Insecticides and Herbicides

It’s no surprise that products intended to kill insects and invasive weeds can also harm humans. Common products like the weedkiller Round-Up and insecticide Raid are known to cause kidney damage, respiratory irritation, and negatively impact the central nervous system. Such harm can be easily avoided with organic pest-control products like boric acid or white vinegar.

Air Fresheners25 / 30
Diamonds26 / 30
Textbooks27 / 30
Multivitamins28 / 30
Car Sharing Renter29 / 30

Auto Rental Insurance

Car rental companies often push temporary insurance policies that can cost even more than the vehicle rental itself, so you’ll be paying $30 per day for a service that costs the company $3 to $4. These overpriced collision damage waivers are good for peace of mind, but it’s usually more cost-effective to rely on your own insurance — though in the event of a crash, this will require paying for damages up-front, then recovering funds by filing a claim.

Non-Stick Cookware30 / 30

Non-Stick Cookware

Non-stick pots and pans that wash easily save time, but come with hidden drawbacks. What keeps food from sticking on this kind of cookware is a chemical coating called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, or Teflon), which when heated to very high temperatures releases carcinogenic gases like tetrafluoroethylene and perfluorooctanoic acid. Already own non-stick cookware? Play it safe by using them for low-temp cooking only.