7 Things You Should Always Buy Generic

Photo (cc) by *clairity*

Save just $5 a day, or $150 a month, for 30 years – earn 10 percent on it – and you’ll end up with a nest egg of $342,000. Would that make a difference in your life? (By the way, if you’re wondering how the heck you can make 10% on your savings, you can’t – at least without risk. It is possible, however: see my stock portfolio.)

The tricky part is saving that $5 without sacrificing your quality of life. And one of many ways of doing that is to pay for name brands only when name brands make a difference. Sound obvious? Take a quick stroll around any grocery store and you’ll see that it must not be at all obvious, because the shelves are stuffed with products that cost extra – sometimes a whole lot extra – in exchange for nothing more than a name.

I recently took a camera into a local grocery store and found some amazing price differences between name brand items and their generic equivalents. Check out the video below, then meet me on the other side for more.

As we walked around my local Publix to shoot that video, I jotted down the prices of some of the stuff we were looking at. Check out this list – it’s amazing that people will pay this much extra for substantially identical products, presumably simply because some commercial told them to.

1. Pain relievers and other over-the-counter medications

Acetaminophen – the active ingredient in Tylenol – is available in many generic products. Note that the generics aren’t similar: they’re identical. Why would you ever pay more for an identical product? This also applies to everything from cold medicine to eye drops – virtually every over-the-counter medication. The labels are right there – read them.

Name-Brand Acetaminophen: $10.99
Store-Brand Acetaminophen: $6.99
Difference: $4.00 (57 percent)

2. Water

Although I should certainly be used to it by now, I can’t get over the fact that people go to the store to buy something in a bottle that they could be getting nearly free in their kitchen sink. But even if you can convince me that bottled water is worth the money, you’ll have a heck of time convincing me that the gallon jug from Crystal Springs is noticeably better than the one from Publix. And if you’re really concerned about water quality and/or taste – why aren’t you buying a filter and making your own bottled water? I just don’t get this entire concept.

Name-Brand Water: $1.25
Store-Brand Water: $.85
Difference: $.40 (48 percent)

3. Milk

I’m sure there are connoisseurs of moo-juice that could distinguish name-brand milk from store-brand – but I’m not quite sure how they’d do it. Bouquet? Finish? Sounds like a bunch of bull to me.

Name-Brand Milk: $5.45
Store-Brand Milk: $3.39
Difference: $2.06 (60 percent)

4. Margarine

It’s already a substitute for butter. Is it really going to negatively impact your quality of life to substitute the substitute?

Name-Brand Margarine: $1.79
Store-Brand Margarine: $1.19
Difference: $.60 (50%)

5. Bleach

You’re taking a cup of chlorine and adding it to gallons of water in your washing machine. How could any TV commercial possibly convince you that a brand name will make your clothes come out better?

Name-Brand Bleach: $2.25
Store-Brand Bleach: $1.67
Difference: $.58 (35 percent)

6. Cleaning Products

Many – if not most – cleaning products are already overpriced substitutes for stuff you already have around the house. Two of the most popular news stories we’ve ever done were Household Products Vinegar Can Replace and Do-It-Yourself Laundry Detergent. But let’s assume that you have a fetish for spray bottles and insist on buying ready-to-use cleaning products: is the name brand getting your counter that much cleaner?

Name-Brand Cleaner with Bleach: $3.29
Store-Brand Cleaner with Bleach: $2.39
Difference: $.90 (38 percent)

7. Spices

Think your job is hard? Imagine if your career entailed convincing the public that your company’s salt – the most basic of ingredients – was better than some other company’s salt. The whole idea is preposterous. And yet, there they sit, side by side, with nothing but their labels and their prices to set them apart. And where spices are concerned, that’s just the beginning – can you tell your oregano from mine?

Name-Brand Oregano: $5.48/oz.
Store-Brand Oregano: $1.24/oz.
Difference: $4.24 (342 percent)

I’m going to stop this exercise here. Not because I couldn’t go on – I could turn this into a book – but those are all the specific prices that I wrote down while we were shooting the above story. There are literally hundreds – if not thousands – of examples of people routinely swapping hard-earned cash for something virtually worthless: a name brand. It happens in the grocery store, it happens in the clothing store and it happens at the car dealer. It happens everywhere.

Am I saying that name-brands are never worth the money? Of course not. I can tell the difference between Dunkin Donuts coffee and store-brand – that’s why I pay extra for it. But I certainly can’t tell the difference between brands of oregano, bleach, orange juice, bananas, cheese, spaghetti, flour, sugar and a plethora of other products.

Paying extra for name brands that don’t offer higher quality in return is nothing less than stupid. If you can use that money to instead build a $342,000 nest-egg, you absolutely should. Even if you don’t need the money, maybe you should still refuse to do what the commercials tell you and donate the difference to charity. In either case, the world ends up a better place.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
It’s Worth Paying More for These 7 Things
It’s Worth Paying More for These 7 Things

Sometimes, the difference in quality makes it worthwhile to open your wallet a little wider.

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck in 8 Steps
How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck in 8 Steps

Does it feel like your paycheck is gone the moment you get it? You can break that vicious cycle.

4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less
4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less

Here’s how to ditch cable and satellite TV — and save a bundle — without giving up your favorite shows.

The 9 Best Home Insurers for Customer Satisfaction
The 9 Best Home Insurers for Customer Satisfaction

These are the only homeowners insurance companies to earn above-average scores for customer satisfaction.

9 Hidden Ways to Get More Out of Amazon
9 Hidden Ways to Get More Out of Amazon

You don’t have to be a Prime member to take advantage of these little-known perks of shopping on Amazon.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon

Are you losing money due to any of these missteps?

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?
Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?

Understanding survivors benefits rules is the key to getting the most from your benefit.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

11 ‘Disposable’ Items You Should Be Reusing
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores

You don’t have to be a chef or a restaurant owner to shop here.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free
27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free

When you know the tricks, you can save big on all kinds of useful things that others pay for.

4 Tax Credits That Will Be More Generous in 2021
4 Tax Credits That Will Be More Generous in 2021

If you are eligible for these tax breaks, they will slash your federal income tax bill — dollar for dollar.

15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home
15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home

These free movie streaming sites offer thousands of movies and TV shows, including recent releases and beloved classics. If you love free movies, online sites are where you need to look for the best list of features that are just one easy click away.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

7 Reasons to Carry Mortgage Debt Into Retirement
7 Reasons to Carry Mortgage Debt Into Retirement

It often makes financial sense to not pay off your mortgage before retiring.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.