Special Report

The Most Unreasonably Priced Things Americans Buy

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College
> Pricing: $20,000-$44,000

According to the most recent Department of Education data, the average annual cost of attending a four-year college is over $28,000 — a little over $20,000 at public schools and more than $44,000 at private institutions. This includes tuition, fees, and room and board. The cost of going to college in America has more than tripled in the last two decades.

European schools typically charge students less than $2,500 per year, and even the priciest schools charge under $10,000, and some countries provide free higher education. When you factor in the fact that rent tends to be less expensive in Europe as well, getting an education abroad is much less expensive. While education in America is expensive, it is still generally considered a good investment with respect to future earnings and job prospects.

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Greeting cards
> Pricing: 200% markup

Greeting cards are a simple and thoughtful gesture to get someone to wish them a happy birthday, holiday greeting, or offer your sympathy. But these pre-made and written cards are just pieces of paper that often come marked up by around 200% of what they cost to make.

The recipient may hold onto them for a bit, but the cards typically end up in the trash sooner rather than later. Getting someone a gift they can actually use will provide them with more benefits, and hand writing your own card will be much more personalized and touching than buying one in a store.

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Name brand drugs
> Pricing: 80%-85% markup

Pharmacies carry over-the-counter medicine to alleviate allergies, cold and flu symptoms, aches and pains, digestive issues, and more. Generally, right next to name brand medications that you might see advertisements on TV are the generic brands, packaged in the pharmacy chain or store brand.

These generic medicines have the same active ingredient, dosage, and safety profile, and they work equally as well. Typically, the only difference is the price — generics are much cheaper, about 80%-85% less.

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Food delivery
> Pricing: 17%-40% markup

Ordering delivery is undoubtedly convenient, but the fees, taxes, and tip make it much more expensive than dining in or picking up the order yourself. TechCrunch looked at how much more you pay for your food through a delivery app than the restaurant’s listed price. On the low end, Seamless delivery increases restaurant list price by 17%, while Postmates costs over 40% more than list price, with other apps like Uber Eats and Doordash falling in between.

Not only are the delivery apps overpriced, they can sometimes be harmful to restaurants because of the high fees they charge — 15%-30% commission. It is much more cost effective for both you and the restaurants if you order delivery directly from them, if possible.

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Robot vacuums
> Pricing: $177-$1,099

Many people who are tired of cleaning turn to robot vacuums like Roombas to take care of cleaning their floors automatically. These little robots cost anywhere from $177 to around $1,000, though unfortunately they are still no substitute for a human’s touch.

Robot vacuums often get stuck or miss a spot, meaning you still have to do some cleaning yourself. Many top of the line upright vacuum cleaners cost under $100 these days, so it is probably worth your money to vacuum yourself.

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