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17 Cheap Things That Are Better Than The Expensive Versions

Sometimes it pays to be cheap.

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When it comes to picking the best products for your life, The Sweethome is our go-to resource.

With hours and hours of expert testing on everything from toothbrushes to air conditioners, The Sweethome knows when it's worth it to spend money on something great. But they also know when the cheaper version will work just as well. So BuzzFeed Life got the scoop from Michael Zhao at The Sweethome on when it actually pays off to be cheap.

1. Tea Steeper

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The actual best tea steeper, according to The Sweethome, costs only $10. Finum’s Brewing Basket’s ultra-fine mesh gives maximum room for leaves to expand (which gives the tea lots of flavor), but still filters out even the tiniest specks of tea. In their tests, it beat similar models that were twice as expensive.

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2. Laundry Basket

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At $10 each, the Sterilite Stacking Laundry Basket blows other more expensive models out of the water. Of the 50 different laundry baskets The Sweethome tested, this one has more comfortable handles, holds more weight, and most importantly, stacks more easily than any of its competitors.

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3. Corkscrew

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Serious wine drinkers will probably tell you that a Pulltex Pulltap is the best corkscrew you can get. But the identical TrueTap costs just $6—about half as much as a Pulltap. The Sweethome liked it even better than Pulltap, or any of the other 7 corkscrews they tested for their guide to the best corkscrew.

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4. Waffle Maker

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If you prefer thin and crispy waffles (as opposed to Belgian-style), your best option is also one of the cheapest. Cuisinart’s Round Classic Waffle Maker costs less than $30 and quickly makes crunchy, golden waffles that several of The Sweethome's tasting panelists described as “the perfect waffle.” The only downside: it only makes one 6.5” diameter waffle at a time.

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5. Tissues

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You might expect the fancier, pricier tissues to perform better than the cheap ones. But after testing all the top options, The Sweethome found that Puffs Basic was not only the cheapest per tissue, it was also the strongest, most absorbent. Puffs Basic was rated as soft as more expensive brands by an expert panel as well as their amateur testers.

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6. Sunscreen

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After 25 hours interviewing dermatologists and reading research papers to find the best sunscreen, The Sweethome found that you need an entire shot glass’s worth of sunscreen every hour to protect your body. That’s why they like NO-AD Sport SPF 50. At 56¢ per ounce, it’s among the cheapest available by volume. It’s also water-resistant, unscented, and rubs in easily.

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7. Paring Knife

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After testing 8 top-rated paring knives, The Sweethome actually preferred this $9 Victorinox to pricier models for its performance, not just its price. There’s nothing a $40 Wusthof Classic can do that the Victorinox can’t do as well—or better.

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8. Broom

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In a crazy broom test The Sweethome conducted over 6 months trying 36 cleaning tools to find the best broom, the cheapest model, this $10 Casabella Wayclean Wide Angle Broom, (literally) swept the competition with bristle quantity, design, texture, and density that no other broom could match.

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9. Vacuum Cleaner

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If your house isn’t very big—say, 800 square feet or less—a lightweight cordless vacuum is all you really need to get the job done. The Hoover Air Deluxe 2-in-1 is The Sweethome's pick for best cordless vacuum and it’s easier to maneuver in tight spaces. At $150, it costs less than a third as much as our pick for best full-sized vacuum, and it doubles as a hand vacuum.

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10. Toilet Brush

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You need to toss these pretty often to avoid a germ party, so don’t bother getting a fancy stainless steel brush. The Sweethome spent more than 30 hours researching toilet cleaning, scrubbing three toilets a total of 48 times and comparing their test notes with professional housekeepers, to find that the $6 Lysol Bowl Brush with Rim Extension and Caddy is the best toilet brush you can buy (and throw away often).

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11. Pull-up Bar

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For less than the cost of a month at the gym, you can get the best pull-up bar and work out whenever you want at home. The Sweethome tested six top-rated models and found that the Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym ($24) was not only the cheapest, but the easiest to assemble, fit the widest range of doors, and had the least destructive impact on door moldings.

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12. Saucepan

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After testing 8 saucepans head to head, which included an exhausting regimen of whisking 9 quarts of pastry cream, making 16 cups of caramel, and simmering 21 cups of rice pilaf, The Sweethome found that the Cuisinart MultiClad Pro 2-Quart Saucepan ($46) performs almost as well as a more expensive version—but at a third of the price.

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13. Cooking Thermometer

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This $35 Thermoworks Thermopop gives you fast and accurate read speeds down to the nearest whole degree for a third of the cost of most higher-end thermometers. The Sweethome found that it's about 2-3 times faster than similarly-priced competition, which is why it’s the best thermometer for your kitchen.

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14. Basic Tool Kit

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If you’re not a dedicated DIYer, there's no reason to spend a ton of money on a tool kit, according to the experts at The Sweethome. The best pre-assembled tool kit, a $20, 76-piece set from Home Depot, will take care of all your basic tool needs ranging from furniture assembly to hanging shelves.

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15. Cordless Drill

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It’s tempting to think that you need a large, professional-grade drill to handle household tasks, but the truth is, a 12 volt lithium ion cordless drill, like this $90 Porter Cable, will do all the drilling and driving an at-home handy-person could want, with power to spare. The Sweethome says it's the best home drill, and it will fit right in a kitchen drawer.

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16. Hose Nozzle

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The Gilmore Zinc hose nozzle is proof that the simplest solution is often the best. For just $8, you get an all-metal nozzle that’s capable of producing a concentrated stream, a fine mist, and everything in between. This combination of value, durability, and versatility couldn’t be beat by any of the other 8 nozzles The Sweethome tested it against.

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17. Electric Toothbrush

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It’s easier to brush well with an electric toothbrush, so it’s definitely worth investing in one. But after 100 total hours of research, interviews, and testing, The Sweethome found that the cleaning power of a $200 toothbrush isn’t any better than this $50 version from Oral-B. The Professional Deep Sweep 1000 has all the features dentists recommend—a 2 minute timer and a wide variety of affordable brush head replacements.

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