Can You Guess Which Items Have the Highest Price Markups?

January 15th, 2021

It’s common knowledge that retailers bump up the prices of merchandise to turn a profit. However, not all markups are created equal. Did you know that markups on some goods are much higher than the markups on others? That means you’re paying overly inflated prices for certain items and throwing money down the drain. Here are the items with the biggest markups, plus some wallet-friendly alternatives.

Bottled Water

By now you’ve heard the downsides of bottled water. It’s expensive, bad for the environment, and has an expiration date. However, you may not realize just how much cheaper it is to drink tap water. A single bottle of water costs anywhere from $1-$2 at a store. Tap water costs less than one cent per gallon. And it’s true that in some cases drinking bottled water is unavoidable, but for everyday hydration, you’re better off refilling a reusable bottle.

Printer Ink

It sounds like a joke to say that printer ink is more expensive by the gallon than gasoline or champagne, but if you’ve ever bought printer ink you know that’s not a joke. Unfortunately, it’s also hard to save on. But if you shop in person at Costco Photo Center or online at 123inkjets, you can purchase refilled cartridges. Depending on what cartridges you use, this method can save you around 50%. Alternatively, you could reduce how much you have to print by maintaining files and bills digitally.


Even if you wear it every day, perfume and cologne are luxury items. Naturally, you’ll pay luxury prices for the privilege. Though perfume sales may be hard to come by, some retailers like Sephora and Ulta offer points when you make purchases. Sephora will also offer triple points on fragrance purchases occasionally. Combine those point rewards with rebates through Rakuten to maximize the value you’re getting if you do buy perfume.

Coffee Shop Coffee

There’s a reason financial experts love to tell people not to buy coffee from coffee shops. Coffee shop coffee is significantly more expensive than brewing a cup at home. The occasional frappuccino isn’t going to break the bank, but if you’re making coffee runs several times a week, you may want to consider cutting back.

Diamond Engagement Rings

These days, diamonds aren’t really a girl’s best friend. The markup on the sparkly stone has been as high as 100%, but these days it tends to land between 20 and 40%. Lab-grown diamonds are a less expensive alternative, though some couples are ditching diamonds for other stones altogether. 

Movie Theater Snacks

Theaters make up to 40% of their profit from concessions, which is why your snack tab can easily run you as much as a meal from an actual restaurant. Movie theater candies are also available at at grocery and dollar stores for a much lower price. This makes it easy (and cost-efficient) to recreate the theater experience at home.

Name-Brand Prescriptions

It’s a sad but true fact that the cost of prescriptions has skyrocketed. The good news, though, is that many of the name-brand drugs you see on TV have a generic alternative. If you’re worried about getting a big prescription bill, ask your doctor whether a generic alternative is available. A generic drug may cost as little as $3-$10. 

Text Messages

If your phone plan only includes a certain number of text messages per month, spending over that limit can be costly. That extra data can cost as much as $0.20 per text. Service providers are spending less than one cent to send those messages, though. If you go over that limit often, you may want to consider shelling out the extra few bucks to upgrade to an unlimited text plan. 

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