51 cheap things you won't believe work just as well as popular competitors

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by Christina X. Wood
Originally Published: 

When I see a trend I like or a product that tempts me and I’m shocked by the price, I know what to do: research. Often, there is a product, garment, or tool that fills the same niche and works or looks just as good — sometimes better. And I get to have my hankering fulfilled while also feeling clever because I got an amazing deal. This gives me more pleasure than mindlessly joining the crowd and slapping down money I’ll miss for something that’s awesome but overpriced. The world is full of alternatives and here are 51 cheap things you won't believe work just as well as those from popular competitors.

You might believe, for example, that it takes a hefty chunk of change to get an excellent kitchen pan. But this cast-iron skillet is less than $20 and is the go-to pan for many a cook who can afford much more expensive gear. And the marketing geniuses of the world would like you to believe that fitness trackers are only for those who can spend a ton of money on them, but this one not only monitors lots of health metrics, it looks cute doing it for the price of lunch. And while big tech companies would have you believe that wireless headphones — especially for sports — are expensive, there are thousands of people who would say that’s not so as they sport a pair that’s cheap enough to gift.

If you like to keep your money in your wallet but hate to go without, read on and find the cheap alternative.

1. A pair of lined notebooks in whatever color you love

Ready to start journaling, Bullet Journaling, or taking notes? Stock up on these lined, pocket-sized notebooks that have all the features of much more expensive notebooks: a paper pocket on the inside of the back cover, acid-free paper, a binding that lies flat when open, cute stickers, a ribbon bookmark, and an elastic closure band. Choose from 11 colors.

2. The small food processor that chops above its price tag

This compact food processor is so easy to use that even if you own a big feature-rich version you’ll probably turn to this one more often. Whip up a quick salsa, turn a bunch of basil into pesto, or just chop some onions quickly to toss into a pan. Reviewers love it and give it over 10,000 five-star ratings.

3. This kit so you don’t have to replace the windshield

Sure, you could take your car in for service to fix that ding in the windshield, but you’ll spend hundreds doing it. This kit will get the job done in just a few minutes, and it’s much cheaper. The one kit can handle multiple repairs, and reviewers are kicking themselves for the money they spent on replacement windshields.

4. A health tracker for a price you don’t mind paying

Been thinking about strapping on a fitness monitor to track steps and workouts? When the price drops to something you might spend on a few cocktails, it’s a lot easier to manage and this Mi band one looks cute on, tracks steps and workouts, records your heart rate all day, calculates your resting heart rate, monitors sleep, and much more.

5. These layered running shorts with a hidden pocket

Just because you want to wear something comfortable for a run or lounging does not mean you don’t want your phone and keys to come along. These running shorts with a bike-short inner and loose-short outer have a hidden phone pocket on the thigh, a loop for your workout towel on the back, and a zippered back pocket so you can bring along other necessities.

6. The cast-iron pan that will become your go-to

When shopping for pans, it’s easy to think you have to spend a fortune, but when it comes to this cast-iron skillet that simply isn’t true. With careful seasoning and care, this pan cooks as well — or better — than pans that cost 10 times as much. It gets hot, holds heat, doesn’t stick, and is the perfect size for everything from frying eggs to baking corn bread or a frittata, which is probably why over 80,000 people give it five stars.

7. A leather conditioner to heal & protect your couch or coat

If you have leather furniture, boots, belts, bags, or clothing that have crossed over from broken-in to worn out, apply this leather conditioner to restore it. Not only does it make leather look better — by returning the oils it needs to stay supple — but it makes it water repellent and extends its life. Almost 24,000 people highly recommend it.

8. This stylus that’s awesome & affordable

If you like to write with a pen, you might have been disappointed by the experience or price of well-known electronic writing implements, but this digital pen is both pleasant to write with and affordable. Even better, it writes with a fine point like the precise pens and pencils you like to write on paper with. It has a long battery life and doesn’t need to connect via Bluetooth.

9. These overnight patches that get rid of pimples

You do not have to go through life with a blemish on your face. Put one of these hydrocolloid patches on it and go to sleep. In the morning, it will be much less noticeable and well on its way to gone because these patches absorb the gunk and reduce inflammation while you sleep. You can put one on during the day, too, and they’re barely noticeable. Reviewers swear by these and give them over 48,000 five-star reviews.

10. A handy portable blender for smoothies on the go

If you like to rush out the door with a smoothie for breakfast, this little blender will get used daily. Drop your ingredients in, hit the button to blend it all together, put the to-go lid on the jar, and go. There’s a sipping lid and the 14-ounce jar is just right for one smoothie.

11. An extension cord that allows you to move an outlet

When an outlet is in the wrong place — especially when it’s at counter height — it creates an eyesore as well as a wiring hassle. But you don’t have to hire an electrician and tear open the walls. Just plug this outlet cover into the outlet and run the extension cord to a place that suits you better. There are three outlets on an 8-foot cord.

12. This orange-smelling cleaner that removes sticky messes

Don’t let the fact that this spray gel is made from plant-based ingredients and smells like oranges make you think it’s weaker than other products. It gets the job done, if that job involves getting sticky messes — gum, label glue, adhesives, grease, and more — off of surfaces you value and want clean. Just spray it on, wait a few minutes, and wipe it off.

13. This power bank that’s also a flashlight

This slender power bank will charge two devices at once or recharge your phone more than once, so you never run out of power while you travel, commute, or just live your busy life. It’s a comfortable size in your hand and portable, a paw print tells you how much power it has, and a flashlight lets you find your way or read a book in the dark.

14. The enamel covered cast-iron pan that’s so affordable

If you have shopped for enamel-covered cast-iron Dutch ovens — because they are an awesome way to prepare so many things — you know they can cost an astonishing amount of money. Not this one, though. And, though it doesn’t have a French name stamped on it, it cooks like a champ and looks beautiful. Close to 18,000 people give it five stars.

15. This roller that gets pet hair off your stuff

It turns out you don’t need a high-end vacuum cleaner to keep the couch free of fur. Roll this pet hair remover back and forth and it grabs all the fur and deposits it the collection chamber. All you do is roll a few times and your furniture is safe to sit on.

16. The brushes that turn a power drill into a housekeeper

Why use your own elbow grease when these three brush attachments for your power drill will do all the hard work? Just choose the flat, ball, or precision brush for the spot you are trying to clean and hit the power button. These get five stars from 37,000 people who now have super clean bathrooms and kitchens.

17. These storage bags that free up closet space

If you are wondering how you are going to fit all your linens and off-season clothing into your closet, pull out these vacuum storage bags and get the vacuum cleaner. Fill up a bag, suck out the air using the vacuum cleaner, and you can fit up to 80% more in the space you have.

18. The drawer organizer for customized storage

Snap these drawer organizers together into precisely the configuration you need for the drawers you have and the stuff you want to keep in them. They work for the junk drawer, desk drawer, or for kitchen storage, whether you have big utensils, paper clips, or something in between.

19. These cleaning sponges that magically erase that mess

These thick, melamine cleaning sponges will take off everything from crayon to permanent marker when it’s on the walls, floors, counters, or anywhere you don’t want scribbles. There are 20 big sponges in this package, which makes them pretty affordable.

20. A set of shields so the doorknobs don’t destroy the walls

Wherever a doorknob hits the wall when you open the door, peel and stick one of these wall shields to the wall. You will never notice it’s there but the wall will be safe and the door won’t make that loud noise anymore. They work to silence the toilet seat, cupboard doors, or that spot where the fridge or freezer hits the counter.

21. This power bank that’s easy to have with you

All those power banks that you have charging at home aren’t going to do you any good when your phone dies on the train. This tiny one, though, will probably be with you because you can fit it in a pocket, sneak it into your backpack, or even put it in your wallet. It’s the same size as a credit card only slightly thicker, but it will power your phone or even two devices.

22. A speaker that fits in a water-bottle pocket

This little speaker will drop right into the water bottle pocket on your backpack — it’s about the size of a can of soda — and sounds great on your desk, beach blanket, or picnic table. You can pair two of them together for stereo sound to create an awesome sound system for a price that’s hard to believe.

23. This cell phone stand with a Bluetooth speaker

When you want to treat your phone like a small TV or do video calls hands-free, this phone stand with a built-in speaker is just the thing. Set your phone — portrait or landscape — into the stand and connect it to the speaker in the base. The sound is big and the stand is sturdy so you can watch while you cook, kick back, or go about your chores.

24. A pair of stainless steel tongue scrapers

Improve your oral hygiene without spending a lot of money by cleaning your tongue daily with one of these stainless steel tongue scrapers. They are a high quality stainless steel so they are easy to clean and won’t rust. Your breath — and taste buds — will thank you. Each one comes with a slender case so you can travel with it, too.

25. This cooling memory foam pillow for hot sleepers

This gel-infused cooling pillow will stop that relentless search for a cool spot on the pillow because it’s all cool and it stays that way. The memory foam is comfortable and you can adjust how firm it is by removing some of it. One side of the pillow is a cool ice-silk fabric and the other is bamboo rayon so you can find the level of cool you like on any given night.

26. These genius organizers that expand your hanging space

This is such a simple but brilliant idea that increases your closet space simply by taking advantage of a few inches of vertical air space. Hang these heavy-duty expanders by their hooks on your garment rod and load the slots with clothes on hangers. Then drop one end so that five of your garments drop down into a tidy little display that takes up the space of one coat.

27. The exfoliating foot masks that get rid of calluses

Put your feet into these plastic socks filled with an exfoliating gel and tap the power of botanicals to get baby-soft feet in just a few days. First, you rest with the gel-filled socks on. Then, go about your life. In a few days, your feet will shed that callused outer layer like a snake, letting through a renewed pair of softer feet. Reviewers are thrilled and give these almost 14,000 five-star reviews.

28. A deep-tissue massager that gets rid of aches & pains

Just because you don’t have the time or money for massages does not mean you don’t need them. This handheld massager makes it possible to reach and work the stress out of your own aches and pains any time with the push of a button. With two vibrating heads and six attachments, it really gets in there and fixes muscle tension at the source.

29. The waterproof speaker that sticks to the shower wall

This portable speaker is so waterproof that you can toss it in the pool, suction it to the hull of your kayak, or stick it to the shower wall and never worry about it. It connects easily to your phone via Bluetooth, so you can listen to tunes or books and take phone calls while you bathe, paddle, or swim. Almost 12,000 people give it five stars.

30. This insulated wine tumbler that keeps your pour chilled

If you are partying at the pool, beach, or anywhere outside, you don’t have to chug it down to avoid sipping warm wine. Just pour your favorite chilled beverage into this double-wall insulated wine tumbler, and it will stay cold for hours. The lid keeps sand and bugs out and helps prevent spills, and there are so many awesome colors to choose from you will be spoiled for choice.

31. This egg cooker that makes perfect eggs three ways

Start your day with a hard or soft boiled egg, poached eggs, or an omelet without dirtying a pan or thinking about it too hard with this egg cooker that makes perfect eggs every time. You just measure a precise amount of water, hit a button, and it knows what to do whether you put the eggs in with their shells on, cracked them into the poaching dish, or mixed some tasty omelet ingredients into the omelet pan.

32. A ring light that improves all your photos

The secret to taking better photos is always better lighting, and this light ring brings it to your phone in an easy, portable, rechargeable form. All you have to do is clip it onto your phone (or computer) and choose the brightness that suits the scene to eliminate shadows and highlight your subject. It works as well for portraits as it does for selfies.

33. A pair of blue-light blocking glasses for better sleep

Blue light, the light spectrum in sunlight that your brain recognizes as daytime, is emitted by the screens of our favorite devices. It can interrupt your sleep, but a quick solution is to wear these cute, oversized glasses that block blue light before it gets to your optic nerve, so your brain can rest.

34. These spiked balls for massaging your feet

These three massage balls are designed to give three sensations of foot massage simply by rolling your feet on them. The small, solid black one really digs in while the larger two with spikes offer a gentler muscle massage. They help with plantar fasciitis at any stage and can also be used on other parts of the body. They come in a storage bag with instructions.

35. A wireless charger for easier phone power

Instead of fumbling with charging cables every time you charge your phone, plug this wireless charger in once. Forever more, when your phone needs a charge, just set it down — right in its case — on this disk. The rim of the charger lights up to indicated that it has connected and your phone will charge rapidly.

36. The comfy gaming headphones that light up

These headphones have a comfortable and roomy ear pad that makes them easy to wear, plus a microphone that will bring your voice to the game with clarity. The high-quality sound will improve your in-game experience, and they also light up to bring a space-age vibe to your game room. What they don’t have is a hefty price tag.

37. This charging station for your everyday electronics

This aluminum stand gives all your everyday electronics — iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods — a safe and orderly place to recharge at the end of the day. You can use the chargers you have and set each of your devices in their own dedicated seat. It comes in six colors to fit your space and nearly 14,000 people give it five stars.

38. A cute vacuum that cleans up your crumbs

Push this cute little creature around your desk, dining table, or counters and it will suck up all the crumbs, eraser dust, and small messes. And you don’t have to worry about storing it because you won’t want to. It looks so cute, you can use it as a desk ornament. It runs on two AA batteries, is easy to empty, and is available in four different bug styles.

39. These waterproof wireless headphones under $25

Since these wireless headphones loop over the top of your ears and connect to each other with a wire that goes behind your neck, they will stay on even if you run in them. They connect to your phone via Bluetooth, are IPX7 waterproof, come in four colors, and have an eight-hour battery life.

40. A tiny waffle maker for when you are eating for one

It is so easy and fast to make one small waffle in this machine that you will do it without hesitation. Just pour some batter in, close the lid, and two minutes later pull out a perfect waffle. It’s a great way to make a little pressed sandwich, reheat your mac and cheese, or many other things, too. Nearly 143,000 reviewers give it five stars.

41. This fabric shaver that restores your sweaters or couch

When your couch is covered in fuzzies and your sweaters have seen better days, this fabric shaver will restore them. Just choose from one of the three settings and start shaving off the pills, stray threads, lint, and fuzzies; in minutes, those fabrics will look new again. It’s rechargeable and comes in six colors.

42. These pillow slides that are so comfy

These pillow slides are like a pair of comfy slippers meets flip flops to make this super soft, waterproof, slip-on shoe that’s so comfortable it may even ease your foot or back pain. They are waterproof and grippy, too, so you can wear them at the pool or to the showers. And they are so affordable, you’ll want them in all 12 colors.

43. This sleep mask with headphones to shut out the world

When you want to sleep but your bed partner’s reading light or snoring prevent it, pull this comfy eye mask over your eyes to completely block out the light and fire up some relaxing sounds through the wireless, Bluetooth headphones and block it all out. They come in seven colors and the smooth ice-silk lining is delicious.

44. A beard care kit for fast grooming

This is a complete system for transforming facial hair into a slick, groomed beard. Start by rubbing some of beard oil into your whiskers while the brush straightener heats up, which takes only about two minutes. Then brush your beard with the hot brush until it is as straight and tamed as you like. Then fix it in place with the beard balm and you’re good to go.

45. These cheap polarized sunglasses in an iconic style

No one will suspect that you paid less for these sunglasses than you did for your burger, and your eyes won’t complain either since these are polarized. They are available in a seemingly limitless choice of lens, frame, and trim combinations, too, so you will either find exactly what you want or experience option paralysis while you browse.

46. This hat that protects you from the heat

Don this cooling hat to stay cool when the weather is blistering. The reflective brim and crown bounce sunlight away from your noggin and the evaporative cooling liner channels heat away from your head. Just wet the interior when things get heated and it will chill you right down.

47. A lightbulb that’s smart & colorful

Screw this lightbulb in and connect it to your smart home system so you can change the mood of a room with a simple command. It lets you choose the brightness and color through the app or by asking Alexa, Google Assistant, or Cortana. Or put your lighting on a schedule so you can wake up and calm down in response to your indoor lighting.

48. This awesome beanie that comes in so many colors

You don’t have to drop a fortune to have a massive beanie collection. This cuffed beanie from work ware maker Carhartt comes in 38 colors, is super cute, stretches to fit all heads, and gets over 97,000 five-star reviews.

49. The sleek keyboard that connects to your MacBook or iPad

This Mac keyboard can connect to three devices, which makes it perfect for working from whatever device you have handy. Just push a button at the top of the layout that tells the keyboard which device you are using and it takes it from there. This is a Mac-specific keyboard and it comes in white or pink.

50. A handsome toiletry bag that holds all your gear

A roomy dopp kit with a handle so you can grab your toiletries out of your gym bag or suitcase and head to the bathroom with everything you need is one of life’s necessities. This toiletry bag from Marlowe is gorgeous, roomy, and durable, so the fact that it looks great too is just gravy.

51. This weekender that looks like you spent a lot more

This roomy weekender is an elegant piece of luggage that is perfect for a couple of days away or as a carry-on for a longer trip. There’s a strap to hold it to the top of your rolling suitcase, it opens wide for easy access, it has three carry options and a shoe compartment, and it comes with a matching toiletry bag.

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