The cost of spare parts and consumables gets me riled. Many households will spend hundreds of dollars a year on goods that are maybe three or four times the cost of what people pay in many other developed nations.
Case in point is my Sennheiser headset, which I switch between phone and computer while working.
When the battery ran out I found that the New Zealand price was $130 including postage from OfficeMax. For a battery, for goodness sake.
A quick search turned up a brand-new replacement on eBay for $17.99, which I shipped via a family member for another $2.
Even if I'd used NZ Post's YouShop service from the UK I would have saved at least $80.
Manufacturers create monopolies by patenting parts, then threaten to invalidate our warranties if we buy generic replacements or frighten us into believing that these third-party spares will damage the item in question or us as users.
By coincidence I chanced upon a friend at the supermarket last Sunday who was complaining that a four-pack of Gillette Fusion Proglide Power Razor Blades cost $35.99 when the razor itself was only $16.99.
Supply chains leak and there is usually a cheaper way to get around such pricing. But it wasn't easy with Gillette razor blades.
It might be worth stocking up if you're overseas or trying to find an online retailer who will ship to New Zealand.
On principle, however, I think Kiwi blokes should ditch the brand and buy generic.
Replacement generic blades to fit Gillette razors can be bought on Trade Me for less than half the price of the Gillette originals, although I know I'm on a hiding to nothing with folk who think branded is always best.
I question why anyone would buy a branded phone battery. The recommended retail price (RRP) for a replacement battery for my long-out-of-warranty Samsung phone is $51.75.
When my old battery started to die last October I ordered a replacement from China for $14.64 (including postage) to replace the original branded one. After nearly five months of use I am convinced the cheap generic replacement is better than the original.
On principle, I think Kiwi blokes should ditch the brand and buy generic razor blades.
It's worth checking out Trade Me for spares. There are a lot of small-time importers who sell new goods and I always buy my printer ink that way.
I questioned my Facebook friends about spare parts and it would appear that car parts get most people foaming at the mouth.
One friend paid $900 for a Subaru seatbelt. Another was charged $650 plus GST for second-hand Toyota rear car seats.
Many Kiwis buy all sorts of car spares direct from overseas. For cheaper parts you currently escape GST and duty.
Even if you have to pay these, usually you'll still save money. I'd be happy to pay GST on all my overseas purchases.
I checked out the seatbelt situation and found Subaru-branded front seatbelts bought from Canada via eBay cost less than $100 including postage. Other options would be to use a generic seatbelt supplier in New Zealand. I phoned one, which quoted $160 plus GST to replace the webbing.
Even if you do sidestep the original equipment manufacturer's car spares prices, you're still being got. That's because we pay higher insurance premiums to cover the cost of rip-off replacements for other people's cars.
Vero parent company Suncorp complained to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that to build a $21,000 hatchback out of individually-priced, branded spares would be $114,000.
The insurer compared a small front bumper clip, which was $20 in Australia, but $1 in the US. There are ways to sidestep this if you have time.
Vero in New Zealand says it has noticed prices going up and it will use parallel importers to keep costs down.
One of the issues in New Zealand is that we're a small country and spare parts cost money to stock. You can't tell me, however, that's the case for all spare parts. What's more, OfficeMax had a disclaimer for my battery that the part was being sent direct from overseas.
Leaky supply chains and online sales mean it is possible to buy your spares for less than the rip-off spare parts department.
I'm glad even the likes of big insurers buy from parallel importers.
When I have time to wait for spares and consumables, I often ask for friends to pick them up while overseas.
Sometimes it's even cost-efficient, if not eco-efficient, to buy the same item you have second-hand or even broken and raid it for parts.
People who prefer to keep money in their wallets really do need to get over the "branded is best" mentality.
Being good with your money often involves challenging your preconceptions.