Aug 31

Packaging – Don’t Let It Trick You Into Paying More Than You Need To

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Packaging is one tool that manufacturers can use to entice people to pay a lot for very cheap things.  Think the classic pet rock.  Get rock -> put rock in fancy packaging -> charge people $20.00 -> laugh all the way to the bank. The truth is, there are ‘pet rocks’ everywhere; products made of cheap ingredients that are repackaged and sold for huge mark ups.  Frugal shoppers can put their money to better use by being informed.

Here are three products with very fancy packaging that are actually made of really cheap stuff that you can buy separately much less:


Metamucil Packaging

Metamucil Has Very Expensive Packaging

Metamucil is used to “promote regularity”.  I took an in-depth look at dietary fiber supplements a while back and I still don’t get how the justify charging around $20.00 or more for this stuff.  As pretty as that packaging is, surely it can’t be worth that much.

Active Ingredient: Psyllium Husks

Sample Price Comparison from Amazon.com: 

Metamucil = 85 cents/oz

Psyllium Husks = 47 cents/oz

Psyllium husks, when put into a beautiful Metamucil package cost almost twice as much as psyllium husks bought outside of a Metamucil package.  Sure they add stuff like Citric Acid, FD&C Yellow No. 6, Natural and Artificial Orange Flavor, and Sucrose, but do I really need or want that stuff going into my body anyway?

PAM Non-Stick Cooking Spray

This sounds like a product with very special ingredients, doesn’t it?  Well, its active ingredient is plain old Canola Oil.  They do add a few more things like tasty propellants, but what helps it with its non-stickiness is Canola Oil.  I don’t understand why putting canola oil into a can suddenly suddenly jacks up the price of a basic commodity like cooking oil.  Get yourself some cooking oil, dab some on a paper towel, lightly rub your frying pan or muffin tin.  Voila!  You just saved yourself some money to spend on better things.

PAM Packaging

PAM Non-Stick Cooking Spray

Active Ingredient: Canola Oil 

Sample Price Comparison from Amazon.com: 

PAM Non-Stick Cooking Spray = 63 cents/oz

Canola Oil = 27 cents/oz

The price difference here is even more dramatic that it is for Metamucil.  Yes the PAM packaging looks good, and it is convenient, but is it really worth the extra cost?  For me, absolutely not.

Arm & Hammer Cat Litter Deodorizer Powder

Arm & Hammer Packaging

Arm & Hammer Cat Litter Deodorizer Powder

I was at the local dollar store a couple of days ago and noticed this deodorizing powder in the pet section.  The price was $2.50 for a 500 gram package.  The ingredients?  Baking powder and a bit of fragrance.  I then became curious about what baking soda cost and went to check.  A 500 gram package of baking soda cost just $1.00 two aisles over from the pet section.  Apparently just slapping the word “Cat” on the product packaging merits a 150% price premium.  If you really want to add a scent in addition to baking soda in your litter box, do it yourself.  I am pretty sure this is not the only product like this out there.

Active Ingredient: Baking Soda 

Sample Price Comparison from the local dollar store: 

Arm & Hammer Cat Litter Deodorizer Powder = $2.50/500g.

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda = $1.00/500g.

Packaging – Wrapping It All Up

Putting new packaging on an old or very basic product like baking soda is one way that manufacturers try to get you to pay more that you have to.  Unnecessarily paying more means having less for the stuff that really matters to you and that you want to spend more money on.

Read labels and find out what the active ingredient or ingredients are in the things you are buying.  Can you buy the active ingredient by itself?  Is it cheaper?  Do I really need all the extra stuff like colouring for the product to be effective at a much lower cost?  Don’t judge a product by its packaging alone.

Thanks for dropping by.  I hope you visit again very soon.

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What products have you discovered that charge too much for what you get?  Have you found ways to save on other packaged products?


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Author: Jason Milburn Google

Frugal dad – focusing my money and energy towards happiness and the things that matter most since around 1985.

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  1. James Molet (SavvyJames)

    A great article, Jason. Most of the time, most of us do not take the time to pay attention to what we are really getting relative to price. Focusing on the active ingredient is a great way to cut to the chase and then determine if that can be found cheaper elsewhere, such as Amazon. Good stuff.

  2. Jason

    Thanks for your savvy comment, James. I just about fell on the floor at the dollar store when I saw that price difference. That was the impetus behind me wanting to write about it. Packaging can be very sneaky indeed. Thanks again, James. It’s always great to hear from you.

    Jason (froogalist)

  3. Survive The Valley

    Good points, Jason. I think the most ridiculous form of repackaging a product and selling it at a ridiculous premium was bottled water… for infants! I saw this mind boggling product at a Target, read the label, and saw that it was no different than regular bottled water… crazy. Way to go for the marketing 5Ps (Product, Price, Placement, Promotion, and PACKAGING).

  4. Jason

    Nice to hear from you, Survive The Valley. Wow! Bottled water for infants that is no different than other bottled water (which is normally just filtered municipal tap water anyway) could be a great nominee for a “most ridiculous packaging” award. The fact that you read the label tells me that you are a savvy shopper. I wish more people read labels so as to make informed decisions. It was great to hear from you. I hope you come back again soon.

    Cheers, Jason (froogalist)

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