25 Products You Think You Need, but Really Don’t
As someone who has worked in advertising for over 17 years, I can tell you that my industry is responsible for creating an awful lot of need. There are some things in life that we actually do need, like food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and so on. But even within those basic necessities, needs are created for things that do us no good. No one needs Adidas shoes over Nike shoes. No one needs a Big Mac. No one needs a Lexus. And no one needs a theater in their basement. These are wants, created by the ad industry to convince you that you will be unhappy if you don’t have them. (See also: What You Need vs. What You Want, and How to Tell the Difference)
As George Carlin once said,"Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body."
So, in an effort to bring a little balance to the shopping world, I present a list of 25 things that advertisers, manufacturers, and retailers insist you need, but actually don’t. And, for ease of browsing, I’ve split it into categories. Let’s start with the multi-billion dollar cosmetics industry.
Where would the beauty industry be if not for its skill at manufacturing desire?
I shave once or twice a week. And when I do, I rarely splash on aftershave. The reason you are told you need it is to close your pores, but they’ll do that on their own with a splash of cold water. Aftershave has one purpose, and that’s to make you smell nice. If that’s what you want, buy it for that. But you don’t actually need it.
2. Body Scrub
Those fancy scrubs filled with crushed peach pits or other granules are not required at all. A simple washcloth or loofah will do the job just as well.
3. Leave-In Conditioners
They promise silky-soft hair, but in actuality they can coat the hair in fragrances and other ingredients that can build up over time, making your hair look and feel worse. And you’ll buy more leave-in conditioner to combat it!
4. Cellulite Creams
It’s snake oil. It’s silly. It’s nonsense. Nothing you can buy in a bottle or tub will get rid of cellulite for you, so don’t go out and buy it. Seriously.
In the old days, soaps used to leave a nasty film on your face. They don’t any more. So toners are a waste of time and money.
Any lip balm really. Did you know that lip balms contain alcohol? Guess what alcohol does to skin? Dries it. You’ll be reapplying your lip balm all day to combat the effects of your lip balm. Lips, 99% of the time, are self moisturizing. So leave them alone.
7. Shower Gel
Crammed with petroleum by-products and chemicals, shower gel may smell nice but it isn’t necessary. Keep it simple. Use a bar of decent soap and a washcloth. And if you're out of soap, water and a good scrub with your washcloth will do the job.
Sports and Fitness
We really do need to get fit and stay fit, but we don't need to spend a lot of money on athletic apparel and fitness supplies.
8. A Gym Membership
You don't need a gym membership to get in shape. Most people don’t get anywhere near the use out of them that they should. If you’re hell bent on getting fit, save yourself a lot of money and jog, take the stairs, do pushups and sit ups, and find other ways to stay in shape without the need for an expensive monthly fee.
9. "Diet" Meals
Those low calorie meals are quick and easy, but they are nutritionally lacking what you really need. The process involved in making them — freezing, defrosting, and so on — kills flavor and nutrients. Eat a healthy balanced diet and eat smaller portions.
10. Exercise Gadgets
Ab toners, butt lifters, and all those other fitness inventions prey on your wish to get fit quickly and easily. There’s no such solution. They are gimmicks, they never do what you think they will, and you will sell them for a quarter of the price in a yard sale, or let them rot in the basement.
11. Fancy Athletic Clothing
You’ll see people spending a fortune on wicking materials, silver-infused fabrics, breathable name brand clothing, and all sorts of other designer gear. All you need is a pair of sneakers that give good support, a cotton T-shirt, and a pair of socks and shorts. That’s it.
12. Miracle Pills
Don’t be fooled by fat burners and "silver bullet" remedies. With a balanced diet and exercise, and a lot of hard work, and you’ll get the results you need. Pills just shrink your bank balance.
It's easy to fall prey to marketers' come-ons when children are involved.
13. Crib Bumpers and Bed Sets
They’re pretty, cost a lot of money, and will never get used. They’re also unsafe and shouldn’t be in the crib. Don't bother.
14. Wipe Warmers
You can warm wipes in the palm of your hand for a few seconds if you want, but honestly, babies really don’t need them.
15. A High Chair
These things are bulky and end up in the basement or garage. Buy a strap-in booster seat to use with your regular chairs. And when you don’t need it, you can store it in the corner and still have full use of the dining set.
16. Baby Monitors
Unless you live in a Bill Gates style mansion or have a hearing issue, there’s really no need to buy a baby monitor. As a parent of three, with one still under a year, I can tell you that whenever my youngest cries, my wife and I both hear it. Sure, we bought a monitor, like "good parents" do. But we don’t use it any more. The interference was more annoying than anything else, and we have never, ever slept through our infant's crying. As these things can set you back several hundred dollars, you should really save your money.
Think about this — we have been walking for centuries, and we didn’t need walkers to assist us. Babies will pull up on furniture, your leg, anything they can find, and will figure out walking on their own. You can help, using your hands to guide them. Walkers are fun, but not necessary.
18. Changing Pad
At about $30, they’re not that expensive, but you don’t need one. A lot of moms I know create them using folded towels or blankets.
Look around your house. There are lots of opportunities to reuse and repurpose instead of buying chore specific products.
19. Washing Machine Cleaners
First, they sell you the latest, greatest way to wash your clothes. Then you find out the new washer needs regular cleaning, too, with expensive packaged cleaners. Don’t bother with them. Just add two cups of white vinegar into the drum and run a regular cycle.
20. Silver Jewelry Polish
Want to brighten those valuables? Mix a little toothpaste with baking soda, scrub with a toothbrush, then rinse with warm water and buff with a dry cloth.
21. Cord Organizers
As our lives get more cluttered with gadgets, they also become filled with cords and wires. Don’t buy fancy cord organizers. A simple toilet paper tube will do the job. If you cover it in black tape, it won't look like a toilet paper tube, either.
22. Paint Remover for Hands and Skin
You’ll see a lot of products offering great solutions to the painted hands problem. But it’s not such a problem at all. A dab of olive oil will remove the stains just as well.
23. Hard Water Stain Remover
Products like CLR will do that job, but for a price. You can do it with products you already have at home. Combine a teaspoon of vinegar with two tablespoons of salt, and mix into a paste. Then, scrub it in, and watch those hard water stains disappear.
24. Drain Uncloggers
When you buy these, you really do pour good money down the drain. Baking soda is your friend here — just pour a 1/2 cup down and watch it go to work. If it needs a little help, a wire coat hanger can help.
25. Dryer Sheets
A little dab of fabric softener on a hand towel will actually do the same job. The towel is reusable, and fabric softener is way cheaper than dryer sheets.
Now, over to you. What have you discovered you can pass on, or substitute with something far cheaper?