Photo courtesy of Marilyn Roxie
About two years ago, when I had just begun my career as a personal finance blogger, I wrote a post about how to save money on Valentine's day with kids. I had already been shaking my head in disgust at the expensive packs of licensed character Valentine's cards they were marketing to our children at every department store, supermarket, and pharmacy across the country. I couldn't wait to advise people to do the perennial classroom Valentine card exchange the old-fashioned way--by making the cards at home.
Then I took a good look at the licensed character pre-packaged 30-packs of Valentine's cards
They were surprisingly cheap. Like, way cheaper than the raw materials necessary for making 30 Valentines for each of your kids to share at school. (I recognize that a single pack of construction paper will probably cost less than the box of pre-made cards, but considering the relative dearth of Valentine's appropriate colors in any particular pack, I am assuming you will need to purchase multiple packs or the more expensive color specific packs).
The cost comparison doesn't even take into account the amount of time it will take to make 30 cards per kid, considering the fact that many classrooms require Valentines for each child in the class, and the fact that it's likely your kids' enthusiasm for making cards will wane after completing half of one card.
I was musing on this paradox the other day as I walked the aisles of our local Walgreen's, where I can purchase WWE themed Valentine's cards. Apparently, sometime mass production really does pass the savings along.
Unfortunately, other than the Valentine card example, I'm having trouble thinking of any other store bought items that are actually cheaper than their homemade counterparts. (I did find this crazy person who attempted to make cream cheese at home and found that it's actually cheaper to just buy the Philly, but creating dairy products at home is just plain insane).
So, I thought I would turn it to my fellow Dollar Stretcher community members. What have you found is actually cheaper to buy? (Not just worth your time to buy, but actually cheaper.) I'd be interested to know what all we really can stop beating ourselves up over purchasing instead of making.