Quick Money Tip: Buy Generic
Do you feel a certain sense of accomplishment when pulling out name-brand after name-brand product from your bags after a trip to the grocery? It's a common feeling, with all of the great and influential advertising we come across for everyday products. We might feel like any other brand just won't cut it if they don't sport the right name or label. This isn't true. What is true, however, is that after months and years of buying only name-brand, our finances can really take a hit. There are some things that are worth spending a little extra cash on, but the majority of the time, going generic will save you lots of money and give you the same results.
Keep in mind that with many products you buy, there are only so many ways it can be made (table salt has two elements, and household bleach only a few), so chances are, most manufacturers are going to make them the same exact way. On the same note, nutrition facts between store brand and name brand foods will be, for the most part, pretty on par with each other. On your next shopping trip, take a few extra minutes to compare ingredient labels, and if they're nearly identical, then go generic. In some cases, though, certain foods and products may be cheaper because they were made with cheaper stuff - and it'll be pretty obvious. We've all fallen victim to paper products that crumble away before doing their job! Here's a quick look at what you should buy generic and what you should splurge on.
Over-the-Counter Medications: The FDA requires that name brand-medications like pain killers and allergy pills, along with their generic brands, contain the exact same active ingredients. You can always compare labels and talk to your doctor or pharmacist to get their recommendations, but you can save nearly 80% on the products you stock your medicine cabinet with by going generic!
Cleaning Products: Again, most cleaning products, name brand or generic, are made with the same, if not very similar ingredients. Therefore, they're going to get the job done the same way. If you want to save even more money in this area, check out my post on natural cleaning products - most of which you likely already have on hand - that will be kinder to your home and your budget.
Pantry Items: The FDA also requires that pantry items like flour, sugar, salt, and spices are made with the same ingredients, despite the brand. Go ahead and compare, it's doubtful you'll see a single difference aside from the label on front!
Produce: This one is kind of a no-brainer, but if the generic apples and carrots look as fresh and tasty as the name brand, save yourself a little cash and go for the generic. If you've got the patience, try checking out your local farmer's markets or growing a bit of produce yourself (you'll find that not only is going this route organic, but typically far cheaper than the store.)
Gasoline: Fuel from one pump to the next doesn't usually have a drastically different make-up. You can typically skip the premium gasoline, too. Check out this article for more information, and fill your tank for less.
Batteries: According to this study, generic batteries hold up just as long as name brand and can cost you far, far less.
Make-Up: The beauty industry has made it extremely difficult to get away from their brands with billions of dollars spent each year on advertising. Maybe you've already settled on a favorite name brand foundation or mascara, but there are stores that carry really great generic make-up products that work just as well if not better. This probably requires more trial and error and personal preference before making a decision, but go ahead and try the more affordable stuff and see for yourself, because buying generic in this area can save so much money.
Infant Care Products: Aside from diapers, most baby products are made the same way, with the same quality, across the board. In fact, there's a Infant Formula Act which requires formula include the same ingredients to a T - so skip paying a huge chunk of extra change for the prettier label and baby will be just as happy (and just as well-fed!)
Buy Name Brand
Paper Products: Generic paper products just don't hold up as well as name brand. They're typically made with thinner paper, and there's (usually) visibly less paper per roll. Pay a little extra from the get-go and you won't be running out for more as frequently.
Garbage Bags: Doubling up generic bags because they rip so easily? You'll end up saving money and messes in the end by going name brand with these.
Paint: If you're giving your walls a makeover, they deserve a few extra dollars spend on the paint you choose. Generic paint is thinned out before it's poured in the can, so you'll end up having to use more coats to get the right color and it's more likely to chip quicker than name brand.
Check out this list of things you should never buy generic, and this Lifehacker article for more information concerning the items mentioned above.