When Is it Stupid to Buy Name-Brand Products Instead of Generic Store-Brand Products?

Photo credit: Piggly Wiggly

We’ve all seen and laughed at blatant rip-off products like Dr. Thunder (Dr. Pepper) and Mountain Yeller (Mountain Dew), but is it the manufacturers who get the last laugh when consumers spend more for name-brand products that aren’t actually any better than the cheaper versions?

Generic products can offer significant value and very little decline in quality–or none at all–when compared to more expensive name-brand products. In many cases, the product in the cheap-looking packaging is the exact same product as the one in name-brand packaging, it’s just dressed up differently.

Photo credit: My Private Brand

Some stores, like Trader Joe’s and Publix, put their own name on the generic products they sell, which has led to the term store-brand products becoming roughly synonymous with generic products. Other stores, like Costco and Walmart, have created new brands (Kirkland Signature and Sam’s Choice, respectively) to serve as their generic brands.

Though not all generic products are as good as their name-brand competitors (more on that at the end of the article), you can save a bunch of cash if you learn when it’s smart to buy the cheaper version of a product.

5 store-brand products that are just as good as name-brand

5. Over-the-counter drugs

Most store-brand versions of basic drugs, like painkillers and antacids, are chemically identical to their name-brand counterparts. Don’t believe it? Check the label for information about the medicinal ingredient. In most cases, you’ll see exactly the same amount of the exact same ingredient. When you buy the name-brand version, you’re paying all that extra money to get a pill that’s a different shape and color. Not worth it.

Buy generic ibuprofen instead of Advil. Do the same with generic acetaminophen instead of Tylenol.

4. Bottled water

First of all, not even the expensive bottled water actually comes from the mountain stream you see on the packaging. It’s all just filtered water from a similar source as the water that comes from your taps. Before you claim that you can taste a difference (because you know that’s what you’re thinking right now), have someone give you a blind taste test. You’ll probably be surprised at the results.

The truly frugal move is to stop buying bottled water altogether and just drink filtered tap water. But, you should at least buy store-brand water if you can’t give up the bottle.

3. Basic ingredients

We’re talking about salt, sugar, flour, spices, etc., here. Pretty much anything that’s made out of only a single ingredient (and, in the case of salt, a combination of two molecules: sodium chloride) will be just as good regardless of what logo’s on the packaging.

Don’t waste your money on something as ridiculous as name-brand salt.

2. Cleaning products

There are a few name-brand cleaning products that are significantly better than their competitors, but most cleaning products are the same key ingredients masked in different coloring agents and scents. If you’re paying extra for your bathroom cleaner, that money is probably getting you nothing more than a nicer-looking squeeze bottle and a slightly more pleasant lemon smell. And it’s making a rich CEO even richer.

1. Cables

Never, ever, ever buy high-end HDMI or digital audio cables. If you remember only one thing from this article, make it this lesson. Monster brand cables and the other “luxury” brands of cables are a complete rip-off. In the days of analog audio and video signals, cable quality mattered. In today’s digital world, a cable can either transmit the signal or it can’t. In other words, a $3 HDMI cable ordered off Amazon is exactly as good as a $90 cable in fancy packaging that’s sold at Best Buy.

5 name-brand products that are definitely better than store-brand

5. Ice cream

Gourmet ice cream like Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen-Dazs tends to be significantly better in quality than cheap, generic ice cream. Spend the extra dough.

4. Personal hygiene products

Name-brand band-aids, Q-tips and related products are consistently more comfortable and more effective than store-brand versions. Don’t cheap out and buy generic tampons for your girlfriend or wife–she’ll appreciate it if you get the name-brand ones.

3. Condiments

Generic ketchup just doesn’t taste the same as Heinz. Same with mustard, BBQ sauce or whatever other condiments you know and love.

2. Chocolate

Be it chocolate bars, chocolate chips or any other kind of chocolate, store-brand products are usually far inferior to more expensive options. This is because the cheap chocolate products often don’t contain any real chocolate at all–the word “chocolaty” on the packaging is a big tip-off. Splurge on the good chocolate and you’ll notice a big difference.

1. Toilet paper

Splurge and get the extra soft stuff. Your butthole will thank you.


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3 Responses to When Is it Stupid to Buy Name-Brand Products Instead of Generic Store-Brand Products?

  1. You should do some research before writing articles with actual information (rather than opinion) in them. Some bottled waters are not simply filtered tap water. Fiji brand, for example, actually comes from an artesian aquifer in Fiji. Voss is pumped directly from an artesian well in Norway. Evian is bottled at a spring in France, although I don’t know if that spring also feed local taps.

    I don’t actually drink bottled water any more, because generally the tap water we have is pretty good. But if I visit friends in cities with crappy water, I drink bottled, and some brands are different than others. I’m not saying they are “better”, just “different”. Especially Evian, as it has a certain texture and mouth feel that most waters don’t have. It’s interesting, but not my favorite.

    • what a load of bollocks, Evian tastes like filtered water. You sound like a right plonk.

      • Fun fact, something can taste like tap water and still be from France. Learn to logic.

        Also, stop with the whole affected British thing, It’s easily the most offensive thing on this page. ;p