44 cheap products that save you from having to buy expensive stuff

by Christina X. Wood


I would love to be able to run out and buy a new car, remodel my kitchen, and pick up a delicious cold brew coffee whenever the mood strikes. I’m on a budget, though — and honestly, even if I could do those things, I think I’m too much of a penny pincher to spend with reckless abandon. I enjoy finding a better, cheaper, or smarter way of getting the yummy coffee or gorgeous counters I crave almost as much as having those things. I know I’m not the only one playing this game because some of my best sources — when I’m researching a new life hack — dwell in the reviews on Amazon. That is a crowd that loves cheap products that save you from buying expensive stuff.

Because you know what? There’s always a product that was created by people who spend more on thinking up clever solutions and engineering them than they do on marketing. And those are the things I’m talking about. They’re smart and cheap. For example, I have been looking for a lighted mirror that isn’t extremely expensive, but I discovered it’s much easier and cheaper to light the mirror I already have. I was also considering hiring a plumber to fix the drain that’s always clogging — but then, I found discovered a super cheap hack that’ll prevent this. But the hack that’s likely to save the most money is the one that turns stopping for coffee into something I can do from my own fridge.

I found more cheap products that save you from having to buy expensive stuff, too. So get your credit card ready because you are going to want some of these.

We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.

1. This knife sharpener so you don’t have to buy new ones

This knife sharpener might look medieval, but it gets the job done fast when it comes to putting an edge back on knives you thought were ready to trash. Just drag the blade through the tungsten carbide arms — which have a spring action that automatically adjusts to the shape of the blade — a few times and get back to cooking.

2. These mats that prolong the cleanliness of your grill

Set these grill mats on the grill, put your burgers, fish, or other meats on the mat, and cook away. The results will be the same as if you grilled the old way — right down to the grill marks on your food — but the mess will all be on these mats. And you can throw these in the dishwasher so you never have to clean the grill. You can also use them in the oven to save you from having to clean cookie sheets.

3. These cup holder trash cans to prevent pricy car cleanings

Drop one of these cute little trash cans into a cup holder in your car and you have a handy place to drop bits of trash that would otherwise litter up the floor. These two look like trash cans —including the spring lid — so everyone will know what to do. Plus, they keep the litter invisible and contained. You could also use one on a desk or bedside table to keep small bits contained.

4. These lights that turn any mirror into a vanity

When you get ready in the morning or to go out at night, do you wonder how you’ll look in real light? Well, this set of LEDs fixes the mirror you use for primping without changing the lighting of the whole room. Stick them to the mirror and plug them in, and the 14 LED bulbs will throw a realistic shine that matches daylight right on your face.

5. A light that’ll help your indoor plants grow

With three color modes, this plant grow light can help your indoor greenery thrive at every stage of life. It has a flexible gooseneck so you can direct the light where it’s needed, and there are five brightness levels and a timer function. The light is easy to place using the built-in clamp and it can be powered with an AC plug or USB.

5. A light that’ll help your indoor plants grow

With three color modes, this plant grow light can help your indoor greenery thrive at every stage of life. It has a flexible gooseneck so you can direct the light where it’s needed, and there are five brightness levels and a timer function. The light is easy to place using the built-in clamp and it can be powered with an AC plug or USB.

6. This outlet extender with a shelf & usb plugs

This outlet extender is a brilliant upgrade to any outlet because it turns two plugs into six standard plugs, three USB plugs, and a shelf. All you have to do is snap the shelf on and plug it in. It makes a great charging station, with your phone sitting on top, or is the perfect spot for an Amazon Echo or Google Home Mini. A long screw goes through the center and replaces the center screw of your outlet cover for stability.

7. A light sanitizer box that’s surprisingly affordable

Dropping your phone, keys, and wallet into a light sanitizer box is a great way to get rid of all the bacteria and viruses that collect on it as you go through the world touching these things constantly — but they are often quite expensive. This little box fits most smartphones, charges the phone while it cleans it, and bathes it with germicidal UV light. You can even add an essential oil and it will scent your gear.

8. These silicone drain covers to prevent plumber calls

Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best. This five-pack of drain covers catch everything from hair to kitchen scraps that would otherwise go down the drain and create a clog. They are simple, elegant, and effective. Just put them over the drain and clean them off occasionally. They are big enough for most drains and are loved by over 9,000 people.

9. This compact water flosser that’s less than $35

You don’t have to give up your lunch money and half the bathroom counter to have a water flosser on hand. This affordable, cordless model is compact, comes with four tips, lets you adjust the water pressure, and has a swiveling head to reach awkward spots. It’s small enough to pack along on a trip, too.

10. A cold brew maker so the coffee’s always ready

Making cold brew coffee is so simple in this affordable carafe with a filter insert that you’ll never buy expensive prepackaged cold brew again. It makes five cups of coffee overnight and keeps it fresh in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Reviewers have written that it’s easy and makes fantastic coffee.

11. This simple plumber’s tool that’s so cheap

You might think you have to spend a lot on plumbing tools to stock your home fix-it rig but that’s actually not true. Many plumbing problems can be fixed with this simple strip of barbed plastic. Feed it into the drain, pull it out, and it will bring with it — because of those reversed barbs — the hair and other debris that’s stopping the water.

12. These no-tie laces that’ll turn your old shoes into slip-ons

You can stop shopping for new slip-on shoes because whatever pair of shoes you do have can be transformed immediately. It takes a few minutes to install these stretchy silicone laces, but you only have to do it once and your shoes will look as if you executed a fancy reverse lacing job. However, they won’t need to be tied ever again and they’ll fit more comfortably because the laces have some give to them.

13. This 12-pack of reusable, rechargeable batteries

So many things need batteries and throwing out the spent ones comes with a recycling hassle, guilt, and the expense of buying more. Switch to these rechargeable ones and instead of tossing the spent one, put it in a charger. There are twelve in a pack so there will always be a charged one at the ready. Just keep moving them through the charger and you will never run out.

14. This lavender gel that’ll clean your car vents

Open the package, play with this squishy gel for a minute, then push it into the dusty crevices in your car, keyboard, or anywhere that’s hard to clean. And then, pull it out again. The dust and dirt will come with it, and you can keep right on going until the gel turns dark. It’s a quick way to detail a car and is gentle enough to clean plants.

15. This peel & stick backsplash that transforms any space

All you need is a pair of scissors, time, and patience to turn your bathroom or kitchen into a modern, tiled space with this peel-and-stick backsplash that looks like tile (but is actually a sheet you just stick on). People are using it for everything from kitchens to bathrooms to campers and have written that it looks great and is fun to install.

16. This drill brush set that can help you deep clean the bathroom & more

Use this brush set with your drill to deep clean the bathtub, grout, tile floor, upholstery, and more. The set includes three brushes in different sizes and an extended reach attachment so you can clean hard-to-reach areas. Available in six color-coded sets with bristles ranging from soft to hard, these brushes have nylon bristles that can scrub without scratching surfaces.

17. This repair for sagging couch cushions

Buying a couch is a big expense. But repairing the couch you have that you are assuming is useless because the seats sag is not; all you need is this hard foam and five minutes. Unzip the seat cushion and insert this foam. It’ll stiffen things up, bringing your couch back to comfort so you can get a few more years out of it.

18. The motion-activated strip lights to upgrade your closet

This LED light is the easiest solution ever for that dark closet or cupboard you can’t see into. You stick the light where you want it, and it can detect movement within a 2-meter radius. It’s battery-operated, so it can go anywhere.

19. This mini brush that removes pet hair

Keep your pet’s hair off your furniture and out of your car with this genius mini pet hair remover. It’s quick and easy to use and requires no batteries or electricity to operate, so you never need to worry about recharging it like you would with a handheld vacuum. It has thousands of fans on Amazon who love how effective this tool is.

20. A cable management box that’ll hide & protect your wires

You don’t have to endure the chaos of your cable clutter (or the danger it might present). Just pack it all into this heat-resistant white box, zip anything that needs wrangling together with the 15 cable ties, and put a lid on it. You can set a phone or tablet on the bamboo top to charge or just forget that mess ever happened.

21. This desk that turns your car into a work space

This car desk will transform the driver’s seat of your car into an office or dining room with one practiced gesture. It hangs from the steering wheel and gives you a surface that’s the right height for your laptop — and if dinner is what’s happening on this driving break, a place for a meal and a beverage. It stores flat between or under the seats.

22. This sandwich maker so you can save cash on breakfast

Whether you love making grilled cheese, pressed paninis, or even a perfect breakfast sandwich, you’ll be obsessed with this popular sandwich maker. It has a nonstick copper-toned surface that will help to prevent messes and make cleanup a breeze, and it makes a perfect sandwich in less time than it would take you to walk to your local coffee shop.

23. These acne patches that work just as good as pricy serums

Got a blemish that you’re trying to get rid of? Stick one of these hydrocolloid patches on it at bedtime and you won’t have one in the morning. (Or it’ll be less noticeable because these have so much acne-siphoning material in them that the blemish will shrink in six hours.) Almost 34,000 people have given them five stars, and many call them “life changing.”

24. The reusable sponge cloths that’ll replace paper towels

These hybrid sponge cloths are super absorbent (like paper towels) but perform more like dishcloths. They’re great for everything from sopping up messes to washing dishes to cleaning surfaces and have a following that loves them and gives them almost 17,500 five-star reviews.

25. These stemless wine glasses that won’t shatter

When you want to take the party outside, you want a wine receptacle that won’t break and get glass in the pool, sand, or deck. This set of four wine glasses is everything you need and most people won’t even realize they aren’t drinking from glass. They arrive in a tube that is great for storing them, hold 16 fluid ounces, and are stemless.

26. This can lids so you can save have-drank sodas

When you want to open a can of soda to use as a mixer or just for a sip, you can actually do that — without wasting the whole can — if you have these handy lids around. Just snap them on the opened can and they’ll preserve the carbonation and keep the can from spilling in the fridge or cooler. They pop open so you can take another sip.

27. These furniture socks that’ll help protect your floors

If you have chairs that make a loud noise every time you pull them out, you can silence that quickly and cheaply with these furniture socks. Just pull them over the offending legs and that chair will slide easily and gently over your floors. They’ll even help protect your chairs from scraping against your floors.

28. This reusable notebook that stores in the cloud

Buy this one clever notebook and you will never have to buy another. You can store your hand-written notes in the cloud, so there’s no need to invest in a tablet or expensive touch-screen notebook to capture your jotted thoughts. Just use the RocketBook app to send your notes to Google, Dropbox, Evernote, box, OneNote, Slack, iCloud, or whatever you use. Then, wipe the pages clean with the included cloth.

29. These motion-activated night lights that’ll light the way

Plug one of these night lights into the outlet in the bathroom and one at that dark place on the hallway or stairs, and it will automatically light your way when you approach and turn off after a minute. The lighting is soft and warm so it won’t startle you awake when you need to go in the night. Just wave your arms if you want more than a minute of light, and it will come back on.

30. This marble paper for inexpensive remodel projects

Replacing bathroom or kitchen counters is an expensive undertaking, which is why so many people are covering the ones they have with this marble adhesive paper instead. In fact, people are refinishing dressers, shelves, and many other things with this stuff, which looks beautiful, wipes down easily, and is durable. Almost 2,500 people have given it five stars — many of which have back to show pictures of their results.

31. A vent cleaner kit for removing lint from the dryer

Keep your dryer running smoothly by using this vent cleaner kit. The cleaner attaches to your vacuum so you can easily remove lint buildup in and around the dryer. Plus, the kit also includes a flexible brush that’s great for cleaning the dryer gap and other nooks and crannies. Choose from six colors, including black, blue, and gray.

32. A set of fridge liners that perk up your food storage

How many times a day do you open the fridge? Does it look festive, organized, and clean in there when you do? These colorful mats will spiff it right up. They’ll also give your produce a soft, absorbent place to lie around and make cleaning the fridge so much easier because they wipe or wash clean.

33. A pair of tactical flashlights

Be prepared for a power outage, camping trip, or emergency situation with this two-pack of tactical flashlights. They feature bright, long-lasting LED lights, are water-resistant, and can stand up to being dropped or even briefly submerged in water. A true fan-favorite on Amazon, they boast an overall rating of 4.7 stars from over 45,000 shoppers.

34. The tiny spatula that gets every last drip of product out

This long-handled small spatula is incredibly useful. When you have just enough sauce or peanut butter in the jar for one more meal, it reaches in and cleans the jar clean, then spreads the condiment where you want it. It works for lotions and masks, too.

35. This multi-port charging station for all your gear

You can ditch all those expensive chargers that are cluttering up your home and replace them with this affordable stand that charges your entire everyday carry. This stand has multiple ports, so it can charge up to five devices at a time, including AirPods, Apple Watch, and Apple Pencil. It looks great, does fast charging, and keeps your home free from messy tangles of cables.

36. This screen protector that does what blue light-blocking glasses do

You could wear a pair of blue-light blocking glasses whenever you work at your computer to avoid the circadian rhythm disruption of blue light, or you could put the blue light filter on the screen instead and save some money. These screen filters fit a 15.6-inch laptop screen and help reduces eye strain. Reviewers have said that they’re are easy to install and look great.

37. A potato masher that works on meat, too

This kitchen utensil does a great job of mashing potatoes with much less effort than other tools in your kitchen, but people also love it for mashing up ground meat quickly and easily. It has five blades made from heat-resistant nylon and an ergonomic handle so you can really grip it and conquer the mashing and smashing.

38. A $7 scalp massage so your showers are all bliss

Do you love the part of the haircut where you get a little scalp massage? Well, you don’t have to wait for a haircut to get it. Just slide this massager — it comes in six colors — over your hand and shampoo with it. It feels blissful, exfoliates, and stimulates hair growth.

39. These wine protectors so you can travel without broken bottles

Obviously, if you go to wine country, you want to bring home some wine. What you don’t want is broken wine in your suitcase. Put the bottles in these padded bags, seal them up, and travel without fear. They protect the bottles so they don’t break — but even if they do, the wine will be contained in the bag.

40. This fabric shaver that’ll save your old clothes

Investing in an expensive fabric shaver makes sense if you have a closet full of cashmere, but this affordable option fits the bill for other types of clothing. There are three hole sizes on the shaving plane so it quickly grabs pills, lint, and fuzz — and it captures it in a viewable container so you can see when to empty it. It runs on batteries, so you can keep it with your clothes.

41. This set of grocery bags that streamlines shopping

If you’re going to carry your own grocery bags to the store, use this set because it doesn’t just carry — it organizes. Set it into your grocery cart and load groceries into sorted containers to make unloading at home simpler. One of them is insulated for frozen goods.

42. A beard trimming kit that will keep your facial hair neat

Keep your facial hair looking neat and stylish with this popular beard shaping tool kit. It comes with multiple shaping guides so you can get the exact style you want, and it also makes it easy for you to try out a new beard shape at home without having to make a trip to the barbershop. It works with your favorite razor or beard trimmer, but note that one is not included with the kit.

43. This foaming face wash for acne-prone skin

Whether you have acne-prone skin or just want to give your face a deep clean, this foaming face wash from The Man Company is an awesome pick, and it’s under $10. It’s infused with green tea and neem to help unclog pores and leave your skin with a healthy glow, and it’s easy to use even if you don’t have an existing skincare routine.

44. This pen that is actually six handy tools

This multifunction pen will empty your pockets so you can retire that pocket protector. It is a ballpoint pen, stylus, flat-head screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, ruler, and level all in one tiny pen. The stylus is in the eraser position and the screwdrivers are hiding under there. Throw this in your bag or pocket and you will be ready for everything from signing a contract to fixing things that break to hanging pictures.

45. The rug grippers that’ll keep your rugs in place

Stick these rug grippers to the corners of your rugs then press them to the floor, and your rugs will hold on tight so the cat can’t scramble them, the dog can’t hide toys under them, and the edges don’t curl up. When you want to move the rug or clean under it, go ahead and lift it up. They shouldn’t leave a mark or do harm. Inverse may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Inverse editorial and sales departments.