Budget Better: 5 best things to buy duty-free at the airport

How to Buy Duty-Free

You've heard it before: Most things at the airport are a total rip-off. Traveling necessities like food, refillable water bottles, books, socks and electronics should always be packed from home so you can avoid inflated airport prices.

SEE ALSO: 11 things you should always buy at Costco

The costs of goods typically surge at airports because of supply and demand. An airport eatery or shop is a traveler's only option for a last-minute purchase or meal, so if a traveler is in a bind, he or she will shell out the cash. In addition, airport rent space is very expensive for vendors, so retailers often hike the prices of their products to make a profit.

Check out a list of 7 items to avoid in an airport at all costs here.

However, some items in duty-free shops (otherwise known as tax-free) are actually worth the buy. So if you're in a scramble for a few things before your flight, we compiled a list of the best steals.

1. Alcohol

In duty-free shops, alcohol is a great steal without tax, and can be anywhere from 25-50% off compared to domestic prices. Plus, according to TSA, you can bring up to 3.4 oz on the plane, and mini bottles of alcohol are usually about 1.7 oz, so you can easily throw your purchase into your carry-on!

2. Tobacco products

Just like alcohol, you can also find great deals on tobacco products including cigars and cigarettes pre-tax.

3. Hair and skincare products

Premium beauty products can be up to 50% at duty-free shops.

4. Makeup

Similar to hair and skin products, you can find top-notch makeup at airports with huge discounts.

5. Magazines

Although magazines are on the pricier side at airports, if you want some light reading for the plane, you can still grab a copy for a few bucks. It may cost a little more than you'd usually pay somewhere else, but the price difference isn't huge. And if it'll get you through the flight, this purchase is worth it.

Check out the items that you should steer clear of buying at an airport below:

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items to avoid buying at the airport
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items to avoid buying at the airport
Wi-Fi
Wireless internet is often a necessity in order to keep in contact with your loved ones. Before you make the decision to purchase it at an airport, however, check to see if there is a local Starbucks or coffee shop where Wi-Fi will more than likely be free to use. 
Souvenirs 
If you're looking for a last-minute gift then purchasing a souvenir from a shop inside the airport may be necessary. If you are able to stop beforehand, you may want to avoid buying a gift from the airport. Oftentimes, airports will increase the price of souvenirs that can probably be found somewhere else for a more reasonable price. 
Bottled Water 
You may not realize it, but on average, bottled waters inside airports are about three dollars. You can avoid this trap, however, by purchasing a reusable water bottle or even emptying your water bottle before you go through the security checkpoint and refilling at a fountain once you get inside. 
Neck Pillow
This is a common item that can be purchased online. If you aren't able to, however, buy one before you get to the airport to avoid paying double the market price for one. 
Snacks 
Much like many of the other items on this list, snacks are extremely overpriced in airports. The best deal is to buy snacks in bulk and bring a few with you to last throughout your flight.
Books
Reading a book is a perfect way to pass time while waiting for your flight -- but if you purchase a book at the airport, don't be surprised if it happens to be 40 to 50 percent higher than what it would be in a bookstore. 
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RELATED

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Top 15 tax deductions for the self-employed
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Top 15 tax deductions for the self-employed
1. Self-Employment Tax Deduction – Unfortunately, in the eyes of the IRS, you are both an employer and an employee. Thus, you are responsible for both the employer and employee tax contributions to Medicare and Social Security. Fortunately, 50% of your employment tax payment (effectively your "employer" contribution) is tax deductible.
2. Qualified Business Income (QBI) Deduction – To level the playing field of corporate tax breaks, self-employed taxpayers now have a new deduction that assists small businesses with pass-through income (where individual tax rates apply). Sole proprietorships, partnerships, or S corporations may deduct up to 20% of QBI – although limitations can apply and some term definitions in the code are unclear. This deduction took effect from January 1, 2018, so you will be able to claim it for the first time on your return you file this spring for the 2018 tax year.
3. Home Office Deduction – You can still deduct a home office as long as it is your principal place of business, used on a regular basis, and used for nothing other than business. IRS Publication 587, "Business Use of Your Home" gives details on eligibility and how to calculate your deduction.
4. Retirement Plans – If you use a 401(k), a simplified employee pension (SEP), or some other suitable qualified retirement plan, you can deduct your contributions to that plan. Not only will you score valuable tax deductions, you will also save responsibly for retirement by growing a tax-deferred nest egg. The IRS provides details on calculating contributions and deductions based on your choice of plan.
5. Office Supplies – As long as office supplies (non-capital expenses) are purchased and used only for your business, they may be considered as standard business expenses and deducted.

6. Depreciation – Capital expenses (that have a lifespan greater than one year) may also be deducted through depreciation if they are used to generate income for your business. Depreciation may apply to equipment used for both home and business. For details, see IRS Publication 946, "How to Depreciate Property".

The new tax law raised the depreciation limit to $1 million and the depreciation rate from 50% to 100% on equipment bought and placed into service after September 27, 2017.

7. Educational Expenses – Do you attend seminars related to your business? Do you take continuing education classes or maintain subscriptions and dues in relevant professional societies? If these expenses relate to your profession, they may be deducted.

8. Health Insurance – Health insurance is frequently challenging for the self-employed. You may be able to reduce the burden by deducting premiums for you and your family if you meet the criteria outlined in IRS Publication 535, "Business Expenses."

Note: The new tax law eliminates the penalty for not having health insurance (aka the "Obamacare mandate") from 2019 onwards – but health insurance was still required for tax year 2018, for which you are filing a return this season. Although there is no penalty going forward, we don't recommend forgoing healthcare insurance as a cost-savings exercise.

9. Communication Expenses – Expenses such as Internet and data services may be deducted in whatever proportion relates to your business. Basic local telephone services are not deductible for the first phone line in your home, even if you have a home office. Long-distance business calls on that line are deductible, as are the costs of a separate line used exclusively for business.
10. Other Travel Expenses – Some business travel expenses may be 100% deductible if they occur away from your tax home and are considered "ordinary and necessary". The new tax law has eliminated certain entertainment expenses, but the 50% deduction on food and beverage expenses still applies.
11. Promotional Expenses – Business-related advertising costs from full media promotions all the way down to simple business cards are deductible. Promotional gifts may be deductible as long as they are branded to your business.
12. Bank Fees – If you are careful to separate your business bank account from your personal accounts and maintain a clear line between transactions, you may be able to deduct some bank fees related to your business account.
13. Business-Related Interest Charges – Similarly to bank fees, interest on credit card balances and loans that are strictly related to your business may be deducted. Be sure to keep excellent and thorough records to prove the distinction. The new tax law creates limitations on interest deductions for larger businesses (gross receipts greater than $25 million), but, as a small business, your interest deductions should be unaffected.
14. Mileage – Do you use your car for business purposes? You can either take a standard mileage deduction (54.5 cents per business-related mile for tax year 2018 and 58 cents per mile for 2019) or take a deduction based on actual costs such as fuel, maintenance, licensing, and depreciation. Some public transportation expenses may also be deducted. Be sure to keep the personal and business-related mileage expenses separate, retain all necessary receipts, and keep good records as proof of business use. (See the pattern here?)
15. Contract Labor Costs – You may employ other independent contractors on a contract basis to provide services – for example, contracting with a web developer to create your website. Those expenses are generally deductible. You may also deduct the cost of tax preparation services used for the business-related part of your return.
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