Here are some things that are grossly overpriced in America: lattes from places like Starbucks, breakfast cereal, toothpaste, soap, and women’s haircuts. I don’t have a solution to the sexual-inequality-of-haircut-prices problem, but I can deal with the others.
First, make your own lattes and espressos. If you invest in a decent espresso machine, one with a pump that provides an appreciable amount of pressure, and a burr grinder to grind the beans properly, you’ll recoup your investment in a matter of weeks. A latte made at home costs about 40 cents, about 10% of what you’ll pay at a ripoff joint like Starbucks. Here’s my well-used and well-loved Breville Cafe Roma machine ($125-$300, depending on whether you buy it new or refurbished). In the background you see my ancient but functional Capresso burr grinder.
Within minutes after having arrived at work, and with the expenditure of only a few minutes and about 40 cents worth of espresso beans and milk, I am ensconced behind this:
(I like a little cinnamon on top.) If I save, say, $3.00 per day, then I’ve recouped the cost of a new machine and a burr grinder in just a few months. My last machine lasted over five years, and my grinder is going strong at seven.
The toothpaste problem is easily solved. Unless you require something with whitener or other fancy emollients, buy Pepsodent, at $1.00 per six-ounce tube. According to my dentist, it’s just as good as any other fluoride toopaste out there. It’s not that easy to find these days, though, since it’s by far the cheapest toothpaste on the shelf, and there’s not much profit in selling it.
Cereal: only buy it on sale. I don’t eat a lot, but I’m partial to Raisin Bran, and can get it at $2.00 or less per box. It’s unconscionable to pay $4.00 for a box of cereal!
Soap really shouldn’t cost more than 50 cents per bar, yet when I go to the store I find that most brands are much more expensive. Here’s one item where I splurge a bit, but not that much:
You can find other sandalwood soaps (or other exotic soaps, like turmeric, herbal, etc.) for as little as 50 cents per bar at Indian or Asian markets—but the Mysore brand is the best, with the most distinctive smell. This bar was just a buck at Patel Brothers grocery store on Devon Avenue in Chicago, a paradise for Indian food lovers, (it’s $1.19 on Amazon). I do love the smell of sandalwood in the morning. And I also love the colorful package and the embossed “Government Soap Factory, Bangalore” on the bar, as well as the bizarre beast in the middle, described by Wikipedia:
Sharabha, a mythological creature having a body of a lion and the head of an elephant, was chosen as the logo of the company. This was because the creature represents the combined virtues of wisdom, courage and strength and symbolizes the company’s philosophy.