How To Save Money on Cheap Batteries – Rechargeable Batteries & Charger Worth It?

Imagine a world without batteries for a minute. No remote controls, no cell phones, no laptop computers, no flashlights, no wireless mice. It would be quite a different world if batteries were not so commonplace! The problem with having batteries in everything, however, is that we have an almost constant need for new batteries, which can get costly over time. When it comes time to purchase and/or replace the batteries in your home, it can really pay off to be smart about what kind you buy, along with how and where you buy them.

For my money, the only way to go is to invest in rechargeable batteries and a battery charger. I did this about 4 years ago, and I haven’t needed to buy a single new battery since then. Today’s rechargeable batteries are not what they used to be (the ones I grew up with) in that A. they actually hold a charge and B. they don’t cost a fortune. I got my entire rechargeable kit consisting of a charger, 24 AA and 12 AAA batteries, for $56 at All-Battery. Considering that a pack of 12 non-rechargeable AA batteries can run as much as $10 (if not more in some place, I imagine), a one-time expense of $56 for 36 batteries and a charger is quite a steal. I cannot even remember the last time I needed to pick up regular batteries at the store – that’s how well (and how long) my rechargeable ones have been working for me. Rechargeable up to 1,000 times, these batteries can replace the need for hundreds of throw-away batteries.

If one is not ready to go the rechargeable route for whatever reason (although I highly recommend it), be sure to only buy batteries in bulk, on sale, or with coupons. Oh, and buy them advance! Batteries cost the most when you realize that they are dead and you just run out to the closest store to pick up a small pack. Over time, that is definitely the way to spend a ton of money on batteries! Costco and BJ’s wholesale clubs normally have really good deals on bulk batteries, although you do need a membership to shop at those stores. For non-wholesale clubs, be sure to check out stores like Target, CVS, or Walgreens for when they have battery sales – and stock up. And every once in a while, you may find a coupon in the newspaper or online for batteries, so be sure to use it. Single-use batteries can be found everywhere, but if you want to save money on them you really need to pay attention to these things.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if a battery no longer works for something in your home, that doesn’t necessarily mean the battery is completely out of juice. For example, a battery that doesn’t have enough power for a wireless mouse anymore may still have some life left in it to be used in a TV remote control. Why throw away a battery that may be useful for another couple of months or so? Save yourself some money and try those batteries in another device to see if they work. Before I discovered that trick (before I started with rechargeable ones), I can only imagine how many batteries I got rid of that still had some life in them. What a waste!

And finally, in addition to the financial cost, there is an environment cost involved as well. Almost 200,000 tons of batteries containing toxic acid, lead, nickel, lithium, cadmium, alkaline, mercury and nickel metal hydride get thrown into landfills each and every year, where they can leach into our groundwater. That’s a lot of toxic waste from a product designed to power remote controls! So if you are not ready to jump on board the rechargeable battery train just yet, be sure to recycle your batteries correctly at the end of their lives rather than just throwing them away.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Ron says:

    Great tips, David. There are also some alkaline recharging stations available but they’re kind of pricey.

    One of the best tips I’ve heard is to remove your batteries from any device that you don’t use constantly. Apparently they drain more quickly when left in an unused device. That may not be a great idea for items you need often (wireless mice, remote controls) but for things like RC toys, it’s a good idea in my opinion.

    Also, people need to ALWAYS recycle ALL batteries when they finally die. The metals and elements in them keep manufacturers from having to dig that stuff out of the ground and help lower prices as a result.

  2. David says:

    A very poor analysis, unfortunately – you completely overlook the cost of the energy to charge the batteries. If you’re living in an apartment where they cover electricity, this may be appropriate, but otherwise must be accounted for. It may or may not change the actual results.

    Crude attempt to follow:

    Assuming a 2Ah capacity on a typical AA battery at 1.5 volts, you are also buying 3Wh of energy when you buy a non-rechargeable battery. At 30 cents per kilowatt hour, this comes to about a tenth of a cent if your battery is displacing mains electricity. Not a lot – 3 cents of the price of a 30 pack.

    However, you’re not making a choice between putting in a battery and plugging a device into the wall – you want charged batteries. So we can’t ignore the inefficiency in the charging process caused both by loss in the charger and by the internal chemistry of the battery which will always be converting a chunk of the incoming current into heat. Unfortunately, I haven’t been easily able to find figures on that (might be an interesting experiment with your charger and a Kill-A-Watt or the like), but it might well be a pretty steep drop-off.

    I’d be very interested in an analysis with better numbers.

  3. The Equalizer says:

    I love rechargeable batteries…especially the newer ones which hold a charge for almost a year. My favorite is the Sanyo Eneloop. You can find them at Costco and Amazon.

    I still use regular alkalines for my remotes, but that’s about it.

    A word of caution on buying regular alkaline batteries, THE ONLY brands I’m aware of that will replace/repair your device if the battery leaks are Rayovac, Energizer and Duracell. Beware the store-brand alkalines because of this. Rayovacs tend to be the least expensive of the 3 at WalMart.

    I once had an expensive Nikon camera replaced by Rayovac because of battery leakage.