Who doesn’t want to keep more money in their pocket?
But the difference is noticeable when it comes to your monthly budget.
I’m talking, of course, about buying generic brands.
Don’t Go All Crazy, Though
Let me clarify a few things here. Yes, buying generic brand groceries can save you an average of 30%. That’s nothing to scoff at.
That’s the difference between paying $300 a month or $200 a month for the same amount of food.
I will say, however, that you shouldn’t go generic for every single thing you buy. There are some cases where name brands tend to be better. But there are lots of others where there is virtually zero difference in the product besides the label. Same ingredients, same standards, lower price. More money in your pocket.
Something In My Brain Tells Me Brand Name Is Better
Don’t worry, that’s the marketing talking. You’ve been inundated with billboards, commercials, and ads, ads, ads everywhere you go for pretty much your entire life. Companies know that familiarity breeds trust (whether or not it’s warranted). So when we see two identical products on the shelf, we find ourselves gravitating towards the brand we recognize. It somehow feels …safer.
But you can move beyond that. You can do some of your own testing and see if you can get the same quality for a much lower price. You might actually be surprised at how easy this is.
And if you aren’t sure? Or if your kids really want a certain brand of cereal? Do your own blind taste test. Compare the results and decide for yourself which items are worth buying name brand, and which ones you can switch to generic.
Okay, What Are Some Examples?
- Generic cereal is a big one — it’s much cheaper than name brands, and it’s made with the same stuff. There will probably be some subtle differences, but you won’t know which ones you like until you try them.
- Milk is also a good generic candidate. With generic, it’s more likely that it’s produced locally or regionally. So there is probably less transportation involved, which means generic could be even fresher. The same goes for fresh juices.
- Baking supplies are another no-brainer choice for generic. All of these items have to meet FDA standards, which means things like eggs, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, and other spices are basically impossible to tell apart from the name brands. Big difference in price though, especially for spices.
Two stores that are well-known for using brand name manufacturers behind the store label are Trader Joe’s and Costco. So that means when you buy Kirkland Signature or Trader Joe’s brand, it’s often a name brand product in disguise. And yes, it’s usually cheaper than if that brand had it’s own label on the box (especially at Costco).
Does This Only Apply to Groceries?
Nope. You can find great deals on generic non-grocery items as well.
A big one here would be medications. If you ever stop and look at the ingredient lists on store brand drugs and compare them to the name brands, they’re usually identical. And there’s often a label that says “compare to <NameBrand>”, so you know exactly which one to check. The FDA has strict guidelines for medications, which means the drug quality is roughly the same. But the price is significantly cheaper.
Other common household items are good candidates for generic brands as well. Especially cleaning items, and even make-up (seriously).
Items such as q-tips, dryer sheets, coffee filters, cotton balls… can easily be switched to generic. But don’t take my word for it — try it to see for yourself!
You can buy generic gasoline (it all has to meet state standards).
Electronics cables have a HUGE difference in price, but for digital signals, any connection will work exactly the same — regardless of gold plating. For analog signals (like RCA), the gold plating can actually help. But for digital (like HDMI), a cable is a cable. Go generic.
There Are Always Exceptions
Unfortunately, you can’t assume that generics will be equal in quality for everything.
As you try different generic brands, you’ll come across some products where it’s worth it to spend the money on name brand. That might be dishwashing liquid, Oreo’s, or even soda (though people are picky about the way soda tastes — but you really shouldn’t be drinking it anyway).
You’ll probably encounter some others, and then you’ll know for next time. But I bet you’ll be happily surprised at how many items you can buy generic and not notice a difference in quality. Because that’s definitely the easiest way to keep money in your pocket.