Unless you're filthy rich, you've probably noticed that movie theater popcorn costs an arm and a leg. Still, for some unknown reason, countless consumers shell out the big bucks for this greasy flick-food.
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Of course, movie theater snacks aren't the only budget busters. Just think about the exorbitant cost of greeting cards, printer ink and bottled water. The sky-high price tags on those products are enough to send today's cash-strapped consumers spiraling into debt. Yet, we continue to cough up the cash for these absurdly expensive items.
Here are six outrageously overpriced products that consumers can't seem to live without.
- Movie Theater Popcorn
At the grocery store, microwave popcorn runs about $3 per box, and each box includes three 3.5 ounce bags. So why on earth would consumers even consider paying a whopping $6 for a single medium-sized bag of popcorn in the movie theater? No one knows exactly why - but for some bizarre reason, movie-goers continue to drain their wallets to crunch on a bag full of those greasy little nuggets during their favorite film.
After considering that movie theaters purchase popcorn in bulk, the average markup of movie theater popcorn is a whopping 1275%! At that steep price, you'd think those buttery bags were laced with gold. (To learn more about the movie theater business, check out Movie Theater Finance.)
- Greeting Cards
Since when does a folded up piece of paper cost $2.99? Since someone slaps a precious kitty picture and a cleverly written message on it and then stamps the back of it with a well-known logo. That's right - we're talking about those pricey greeting cards. Many consumers spend hours poring over the neatly arranged stacks in the greeting card aisle, searching for the perfect message for their sister's birthday, their parent's anniversary or "Just Because."
The average greeting card costs between $2 and $4, and we consumers don't seem to think twice about paying that precipitous price. The markup is between 100 and 200% - which is not quite as shocking as movie theater popcorn, but it adds up quickly. When you consider how many of those paper jewels you buy each year, it's enough to send you running for the construction paper and markers. After all, it only costs a few cents to create a home-made card. (Do you know how much you're really spending? Find out in What's Eating Away Your Money?)
- College Textbooks
In 2010, the annual in-state cost for the typical state university soared to more than $15,000, and private colleges now charge an average of $35,600 a year. As if college kids (and their parents) aren't financially drained enough, there's yet another inflated price they face: college textbooks. College students pay an average of $900 a year on textbooks and other supplies.
College textbook prices have skyrocketed by 186% since 1986, and these expensive volumes of knowledge now account for 26% of the overall cost of college. Unfortunately, broke college students are required to purchase these costly books for their classes. At least they can try to sell their books back to local book store at the end of the semester - for a few measly bucks. (It's not just tuition fees that are rising. Keep your book buying in check with A Foolproof Budget Plan For Textbooks.)
- Bottled Water
You've probably heard that "Evian" is simply "naïve" spelled backwards. OK, so the well-known company probably did not choose their name for that reason - but many people believe that consumers who buy bottled water are certainly naïve. After all, water is one of the most abundant resources in the world and is available for free from countless water fountains and sinks across the nation. Yet, many consumers are still willing to pay $3 a bottle of it.
In 2009, the U.S. Congress revealed that about 45% of bottled water comes from municipal taps - and then the bottled water company may or may not do some additional filtering before pouring it in their logo-stamped bottles. Still, Americans continue to buy more than 500 million bottles every week, making it the second most popular purchased drink (after soda).
- Printer Ink
You may be able to buy a surprisingly affordable printer at your local office supply store, but don't start celebrating just yet. The printer companies make their biggest bucks on ink.
Over the life of your printer, you'll probably pay more than 500% of the total price of the printer itself on ink refill cartridges. At $30, a 42ml cartridge of black printer ink comes out to 71 cents per ml. On the other hand, the Red Cross charges $200 for 500 ml of blood, which comes out to about 40 cents per ml. (Do you know the latest ways to keep more coin in your pocket? Check out Social Buying: A New Way To Save.)
- Brand-Name Fashions
How much did you pay for those True Religion jeans, that Burberry scarf and those towering Louboutin stilettos? Probably a small fortune. But it was worth every penny, right? Not so much. When it comes to designer clothes, it's pretty obvious that you are paying for the label.
As a matter of fact, brand-name clothes are often marked up by 500 to 1000%. Yet, fashion-conscious consumers continue to drain their bank accounts and pile up massive amounts of debt to stay on the cutting edge of couture.
Broke Consumers Are Saying No
The recession has hit many households hard, and thousands of broke consumers are passing on these and other overpriced products. So, does that mean the inflated prices of these items will eventually fall? Only time will tell. In the meantime, you may want to check your bank account before you hit the movie theater snack bar.
Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: The Ups And Downs Of A Double-Dip Recession.