30 Times People Bought Ridiculously Cheap Things That Looked Sketchy But Turned Out To Be The Best Purchases
The Universe can reward you in mysterious ways. Many of us have one or two items at home or at work that continue to impress us with their quality and longevity every single day. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to call them the best purchases we’ve made. And price… actually doesn’t have all that much to do with the quality of the thing in these fringe cases. Sometimes, Fortune smiles on us, and a sketchy cheap buy turns into a lifelong companion.
Whether it’s a pair of cutesy pink Hello Kitty nail clippers from Japan or a flannel jacket for $2 that’s still going strong after a quarter of a century, these are the accidental heirlooms that we pick up throughout life. If this were an RPG, these would be [Legendary] quality and crafted by elves (and/or possibly dwarves). Scroll down for the very best stories about suspicious products and services that turned out to be awesome, as shared on this viral r/AskReddit thread. Oh, and remember to upvote the posts you enjoyed the most, dear Pandas.
Now that’s not to say that price doesn’t matter at all when it comes to quality (master crafted products cost a lot to make, and the labor’s expensive, too), but it’s weird how high quality can lurk in the unlikeliest of places. Do you have any cheap things you bought that have lasted for years, Pandas? We can’t wait to see what you have to say, so drop by the comment section.
Bored Panda reached out to Sam Dogen, the author of 'Buy This, Not That: How to Spend Your Way to Wealth and Freedom' (out July 19) and the founder of the Financial Samurai blog, for his opinion about saving on non-essential purchases and how to avoid impulse buying. He also shared some vital information about bear markets and how long they last. Read on to see what he had to tell us.
I was traveling in Japan and needed nail clippers. All I could find is this cheap pink Hello Kitty grooming kit.
These clippers are the best I ever owned. They have stayed sharp and functional for 20 years. I'm very protective of them. Everyone in the house knows, you don't touch Dad's pink Hello Kitty nail clippers.
Sam, the mastermind behind the Financial Samurai project, told us how we can recognize whether or not a purchase is absolutely necessary or if we only think that it is.
"We really only need shelter, food, water, and clothing—your core expenses. Literally, everything else is unnecessary if we really think about it," he explained to Bored Panda.
"Hence, if you're really worried about your finances, the first step is to calculate your core expenses. Once your core expenses are calculated, you can then list out every other item on your spreadsheet and decide where to cut," he advised.
Seed packets from the dollar store. While in college my boyfriend and I were broke. Really broke. But I still wanted to do something to celebrate spring. We were getting a few cheap things at the dollar store when I noticed they were selling these seeds packets from a big old bin that you had to dig thru. 4 for $1. No tax. I immediately begged to buy one despite our strict budget.
Boyfriend was incredulous I'd want to buy sketchy seeds but dutifully handed me a quarter. I ended up picking out tomatoes.
Well we got home and I carefully placed about 3 seeds in washed out cans. I watered them and watched them sprout. I loved tending to my little garden. I ended up with 3 beautiful HUGE tomato plants. It was a bumper crop. More than we could eat.
I sold the extra produce to my classmates. Made like $25. Good seeds!
I bought a $6,300 tiny house trailer from a MAGA guy out of state who said he’d take guns or cash and had a bunch of barking dogs. A little fixing up, and it has been a home for a homeless transgender youth for 4 months now!
"During bear markets, your key is to survive long enough until the bear market is over. Historically, bear markets have lasted about 12 months and experienced a 37% drawdown in stocks. Hence, if you can hunker down for 12 months by cutting as much of your non-core expenses as possible, that is your best move. For eventually, the good times will return again," Sam said.
According to financial expert and author Sam, the best way to tackle impulse spending is to wait a week before buying anything. That way, you'll have fewer regrets. "Whether you're suffering from real estate FOMO or wanting that expensive watch, by waiting a week, your emotions will calm down. Once your emotions calm down, you'll be able to think more rationally before spending money," he explained that you can make better decisions with a cooler head.
No label old beat to s**t vinyl acetate record with hand written “That’ll be the day” on it. Paid $1.
Ended up being a live Buddy Holly recording.
Sold it for $970.
I randomly found a wedding videographer online and booked him for a very affordable rate for my wedding assuming it wouldn’t be very good quality. Two weeks after the wedding, he emails me a high quality, well-edited video. He had a drone I hadn’t noticed because he was outside of the venue getting b-roll with it before I even started getting ready for the big day. I was floored and now I recommend him to everyone who ever plans to get married ever.
Edit: He has definitely upped his prices since then (he did the videography for my wedding last summer) and rightfully so, because he does great work.
I bought a turtle for 5 dollars in china town and she’s turning three this year
Edit to add a few things: Chinatown in Chicago which is why her name is Al Capone (we call her Al) I am hoping she will outlive me because I can’t imagine losing her. Don’t worry I study biology and environmental science (going in a PhD program) she is treated like a queen.
"It's important to remember that every purchase you make is with after-tax money. Hence, you should calculate how much the item costs in pre-tax money. This greater number will help curtail your impulse spending as well."
Sam stressed that every single dollar that you spend on something you don't need is one less dollar that you get to invest in building passive income for financial freedom. "Given time is our most valuable asset, impulse spending is essentially making us poorer for losing time."
Some of us have a weakness for buying things on impulse. Others are strongly affected by advertisements (or think that they’re immune to them but actually aren’t). Some love to bargain-hunt and stumble upon hidden treasures completely by chance. Others take buying very seriously and do massive comparisons on price, quality, and functionality before committing to any single purchase. And some are a combination of all of these, in varying quantities (we’re looking at you, handsome mirror Pandas!)
Bored Panda recently had a chat with Matt Johnson, Ph.D., a professor of consumer psychology at Hult International Business School and Harvard University, and the author of 'Branding that Means Business: How to Build Enduring Bonds between Brands, Consumers and Markets,' about ads, contrast, fonts, what consumers notice first, and why context is so important.
The Bra of Mystery.
First strike: I bought it from a grocery store.
Second strike: It was marked down to $2, and plastered with stickers reading, "Final sale!", "No returns!", "We're not liable if this [takes your life]!", "I'm sure there are people who love you!" and the like.
Third strike: Upon ringing it through, the cashier did a double-take at the screen, looked at me with great concern, and asked if I was sure I wanted to buy it.
After failing to self-combust and send me straight to hell, it wound up being one of the nicest bras I ever had. Wore it for two years before the inevitable underwire tit-shanking.
I still wonder what they thought was wrong with it.
This bamboo back scratcher my wife got me for 3 bucks like 15 years ago. It is right here next to me. I use it to scratch my back, gesticulate while I pontificate, fend off my cats, harass my cats, and use as a tuning fork to make strange noises to annoy my wife.
I joke that in the event of a house fire, this back scratcher is the only thing besides my wife and cats that I'd take with me. (Its not a joke though, I really would go for it first).
A tour guide approached us outside the Vatican offering the best discounted Vatican tours. This guy was the definition of sketch. But we were like “oh what the hell, when in Rome.” (Pun intended). It was indeed a discounted tour and turned out to be a highlight of our trip to Rome. Tour guide was awesome and we skipped all the lines to get right in.
Professor Johnson explained to us that it’s contrast that grabs our attention the most because our brains are hardwired to notice differences in our environments. If your goal is to stand out from the crowd, you can’t copy what others are doing in order to sell your product. You’ve got to create contrast.
"What this means is that the context of the ad is huge. The context is the background; and if the ad wants to be in the foreground, it must stand out against it," the professor of consumer psychology said.
"The context is two things. First, it’s the features of the channel itself. If you’re running a paid ad campaign on IG for example, there are going to be lots of highly curated images of faces, landscapes, and brunches. So the last thing you’d want to do is feature a visual ad with any of these qualities. Instead, maybe imagery that is text-based or otherwise against the grain would be the way to go," Professor Johnson told Bored Panda.
"Secondly, it's about standing out against the competitive landscape—everyone else who’s running ads on the same target market. This speaks to the content itself, as well as the brand’s ability to distinguish itself, personality-wise from that of its competitors." In short, high-quality content doesn’t always stand out based on its own merit alone, even if it’s very creative. Without contrast, it can get lost in the surrounding noise.
One of those square, window size, box fans. Technically wasn't a purchase, I found it outside the dumpster of my Junior-year college apartment back in 2008. I'm a fan of airflow and white-noise, so that fan ran 24-hours a day for nearly 11 years outside of when I was away on vacations and for brief periods in winter (most of that on the lowest setting, but I mean, there were long stretches of literally months+ where it wasn't turned off). [Broke down] earlier this year when I can only assume some critical component burned out. I'll miss you, completely free thing that provided me a decade of a light breeze and air circulation.
my dog was a stray, adopted by a couple, but returned because he was too high energy
so his adoption fees were 50%
best $45 I've ever spent
Bought $20 army cargo pants from the military surplus store.
- Same material and double kneed as Carharts that were twice the cost
- SUPER rugged, and don't care about stains (work pants... plus they're camo!)
- Roomy, comfortable, designed to fit you even if they're not exactly your size
- More storage space than your mom's Kia
- Made in USA, not by oppressive labor overseas, plus support locally owned shop
- Wife won't be seen in public with me wearing them
"If the content can’t grab attention and stop the consumer in their tracks, they won’t have the opportunity to appreciate the ad’s quality. This is especially true in the digital environment, where the first job of any piece of content is to stop the thumb. Only after this first step can the quality of the content shine through."
Human beings also find faces and text intrinsically appealing. "These are special visual stimuli because they drive the brain’s automatic processing. You can’t look at a face without automatically processing its emotion, and you can’t look at a string of words without automatically processing their meaning. Because of this automaticity, these naturally drive attention and are often processed quickly within a visual scene," the expert said.
If the words on the ad are written in a legible enough font, our brains access their meaning first, “sometimes even before simple features like color." That’s what makes a good font so important: it gets the message across and creates the foundation for a positive reaction from the customer. That’s known as the fluency effect.
"All things being equal, we (at least in 'The West') also have a general heuristic for looking at any visual scene, which is to start at the upper left and then move across to the left, before scanning the entire scene. This is largely owed to the fact that most Western languages are read left to right,” the professor told us.
Guy said there were a bunch of bricks in his back yard he wanted to get rid of. $5 for all of them if you'd come pick them up because they were "larger than regular bricks and were very heavy."
I grabbed a friend and headed out because I needed some cheap brick for the edging of my garden.
Guys house was across the river and in some really run down looking neighborhood...really glad I grabbed my friend at this point. We pull up and the guy is waiting outside, and he looks like he's 80 but I know he must have been a 35 year old guy who just smoked 10 packs a day... So the guy takes us to his back yard and shows up the pile of bricks, which turn out to be 50+ antique Louisville Fire Bricks.
So I look at the guy and tell him, "I'll take half of them...and as payment I'll give you $20 and some advice." And of course the guy is looking at me like I'm an idiot, but he accepts my money and helps me and my friend load up about 30 bricks. After I close my truck and get in the car to drive off I tell him to google the antique fire bricks and adjust his craigslist listing...
I went back to look at the listing a few days later, and he had changed the price from $5 for the whole pile, to $5 PER BRICK, which was the going rate at the time. Nowadays they go for $20/brick...
BEST BUY EVER!
I broke a filling in Mumbai in 1999 and had to use a local dentist. $7 and still going strong.
Went camping and forgot knives for food prep. Went to local grocery store and bought package of 3, cheap, no-name, plastic handle paring knives, different sizes. BEST KNIVES IN THE HISTORY OF THE PLANET!!! THEY ARE STILL MY MAIN KNIVES, YEARS LATER!!!
Marketing isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Pumping a lot of money into advertising a product won’t necessarily lead to more purchases. A lot depends on the industry: the brand, the product, and the ads can influence consumers in varying ways depending on what you’re selling.
"In some industries—such as the luxury industry—the brand is the primary differentiator, and the product and its advertising are much less important. But in other industries, such as expensive technology, or automobiles, the utility of the product is extremely important, as is the brand reputation. Generally speaking, the more expensive the product is, the more important the features of the products are going to be. When it’s an expensive purchase, people are generally much less willing to go out on a whim simply because they like a brand or an ad," the expert told us.
"And more still, advertisements can play a big role in driving purchases for certain types of products in certain contexts. Ads are particularly important when there is a very quick turnaround between seeing the ad and having the opportunity to make a purchase. This is very common in digital media. For example, if an ad for some new shoes hits you on social media, along with the opportunity to buy those shoes within just a few clicks, the ad itself can make a massive difference," he said.
I was giving these college aged young women a Lyft ride. One asks how "that Craigslist thing went" so my ears perked up. The other says something like "he complained it went back too far, just don't put it back so far, duh."
Eventually I deduce they are talking about a recliner - which I've been looking for one for some time now. I interject and ask about it. Lady has a Laz-E-Boy electric recliner she just wants 20 bucks for. I'm like, "listen I know it's sketchy but if you've got Craigslist rando's in your house Lyft at least gave me a background check."
We pull up, I end the ride, and follow these ladies into their house. I knew I wanted it as soon as I laid eyes on it.
So, this college chick is helping me stuff a recliner into my back seat and all I can think is this is how Buffalo Bill kidnapped that girl in Silence of the Lambs.
Twenty dollars for a recliner so lazy it reclines for me.
I built my own mattress. I was online shopping and stumbled upon several mattress-in-a-box companies such as Purple or Casper. I noticed that they consistently had diagrams on their websites that showcased the different layers of foam they use to construct their mattresses. I simply went to a foam wholeseller and in the dimensions of a queen mattress, I ordered different types of foam (standard, soft, memory, eggshell) in varying thicknesses. I stacked them all up on top of one another and have slept like a baby for the last 2 years. It cost me $300 as opposed to a similar mattress from an online site that woulda cost hundreds more.
I bought a blanket in Mexico in 1986 for $5. I still have it and it is super soft and comfy. It has been abused, washed, etc and it is still in great shape.
Costco fluffy flannels. It feels like a chinchilla is hugging you and I’ve had mine for three years with no signs of wearing down despite almost daily use in the northeast winters.
Not my purchase, but still one of the best: My brother gifted me a Snuggie one year for Christmas. I had painstaking tracked down a bootleg album he wanted and he got me a buy one, get one free, snuggie. I didn't speak to him for weeks. I have routinely used that damn snuggie for every camping trip I've been on over the last 7 years, and I will tell you it has become the most useful gift I've ever gotten.
A 2 ft. foam cube with a soft fabric cover. It's a chair, a table, a footrest, padding when I was moving, all sorts of stuff. It was $3.
I love my foam cube
A cat toy that is literally a feather on the end of a stick. It was only a dollar, my cat gets hours of entertainment from it.
I was traveling from a different city straight into work, where my uniform was a white shirt, with a conspicuously black bra. Wasn't stopping home, so I did stop on the first corner store I found and bought a five-dollar white bra that looked roughly my size as they had nowhere to try them on. Just to wear one night.
10/10, comfiest bra I ever owned, wore it every day of my life for about a year. It gave in at some point - it was still a 5 dollar bra. But damn, I dream of the day when all my bras fit that well.
I bought a button down shirt from the thrift store in the mid-90s that I still wear today. The shirt if obviously even older. It doesn't have much wear on it either. I think it made of rayon and something else. The brand is K-mart. They don't make 'em like they used to.
At the end of a long road trip with some mates, I bought a $20 pair of sunglasses in a gas station just outside Chicago. They fit me better than any pair of sunglasses ever did, or ever will, and they made me look awesome. For years I constantly received compliments about them and was asked where I got them. I lost them after 5 long years and have hated myself for it every since. They were so no-name they didn't even have a brand name on them at all, so I have no idea who made them. I have no way of finding that gas station, either. I've literally spent hundreds of dollars trying to find sunglasses that come close to that same perfect fit/style, but I can't.
I bought a cheap hoodie from Costco 4 years ago and it survived a car crash, a move and 3 years in high school before I left it on the bus. I loved that thing.
A body pillow. When I had major abdominal surgery, finding a sleeping position was hard. This really helped as it too the pressure off my front.
This summer we bought an inflatable above-ground pool off amazon, it was my MIL's choice, an impulse buy for $300. I was super pessimistic about it, as was everyone else (family of 7). We've spent nearly every day in that pool having fun as a family. I've never really gotten such family-wide value out of something like that.
Spent $11 for a pair of 10ft phone charger cords on Amazon. I figured as often as I had to replace them, $11 wasn't bad for two. Three years later and I'm still using the first one.
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