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Best and Worst Things to Buy Generic

Caroline Hailey
·6 min read

Whether you’re single or married, have a large or small family, finding ways to save money is always a good idea. And with so many generic options out there these days, it’s often tempting to just buy the cheaper products and save your money for something else. But “cheaper” doesn’t always mean better.

So, how can you know which brand names are worth the higher price tags and which ones aren’t? Follow these tips so that the next time you go shopping, you’ll know when to go for quality and when to focus on your bottom line.

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Best Things to Buy Generic

Sometimes paying more for a brand name isn’t always the best option. Here are four items that you’re better off buying generic.

1. Cereal

Eating a bowl of cereal each morning is a quick and cheap way to make sure you and the kids have breakfast before dashing out the door. For every brand name of cereal out there — Cheerios, Apple Jacks, Lucky Charms — there is almost always a generic version right next to it on the shelf with a similar name.

And it’s not just the name that’s similar; the product itself normally is too. So, don’t bother spending more just to get the name brand.

According to the blog Taste of Home, most generic cereals can be swapped out for their more expensive name brand counterparts with little to no difference in taste. The main difference might be in how the cereal looks, but your wallet won’t care about that.

Depending on how much cereal your household goes through in a month, switching to generic could add up to serious savings.

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2. Spices and Seasonings

Cooking at home instead of always eating out is a great way to save money. You don’t have to pay tax and tip, and the food itself is not only cheaper, but probably healthier as well. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s also a great way to stay safe from the virus.

To make your meals taste as good as the food you get at a restaurant, you’ll want to take advantage of a variety of spices. But just because spices can make a big difference in the kitchen when it comes to taste, that doesn’t mean you should be spending more than you need to on them.

Roxanne Edwards, of the Consumer Affairs Department at Stop & Shop told the blog The Kitchn, “that the cost differential between the store brand and the marquee names is primarily based upon one simple factor: marketing.” In other words, enjoy your generic spices–you’re unlikely to notice much difference.

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3. Diapers

When it comes to babies, all parents want what’s best. So, it certainly makes sense to buy the brand name of baby food and some other baby products — but not everything you buy for your babies is worth the brand-name price.

Because babies go through so many diapers each day, the generic brand will do just fine and save you a pretty penny. While it might take a little trial and error to find a brand you love, and it is always more cost effective to buy in bulk, it won’t be hard to find a generic option that works, according to VeryWellFamily.com. Diapers are only being used for a short period of time and will be thrown away immediately anyway.

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4. Medications

You probably spend more money on medications than you should. Instead of throwing money away, prescription medications are one of the best items to buy generic. Generic does not mean inferior, just less expensive. Generic drugs go through the same level of testing and formulation as do brand name drugs, according to Business Insider.

According to Dr. Niteesh K. Choudhry, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the Center for Healthcare Delivery Sciences at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, if more patients substituted generic drugs for their regular brand-name drugs, national drug spending could drop by as much as $5.9 billion.

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Worst Things to Buy Generic

On the other hand, there are many products that are worth the brand name — and the price. Here are three items you should never buy generic.

1. Toilet Paper

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced shutdowns in a number of states in early 2020, one of the first things to fly off the shelves was toilet paper. This left a lot of other people scrambling to purchase whatever and wherever they could, often poor quality for high cost. Many people learned that good toilet paper is worth the price. Generic toilet paper is often uncomfortably thin or rough, like the stuff you find in a port-a-potty stall, the rolls often smaller and in the end, the little bit extra you might spend on the brand names is worth the comfort it brings.

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2. Major Electronics

While you can save some serious bucks when choosing the cheap version over the brand name for big electronics, you won’t be getting the quality you want. The extra money spent on brand-name TVs and other electronics is worth it, considering these items typically come with much better warranties, customer service and support than cheaper options.

According to SimplyThriftingLiving.com, generic brand electronics may not be compatible with other brand name products in your house–and, they write, “off-brands are notorious for being poor quality.”

What this adds up to is that you might save money in the short-term, but when your generic electronic breaks down or gives you problems sooner than a name-brand one, you’ll find yourself now having to buy the same item again. Save yourself the trouble and the cost.

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3. Cheese

While good cheese can definitely be a bit pricey, it’s one food product that is worth the extra money.

In order to keep a low price-point, generic cheese often have more additives and fillers that aren’t necessary, according to registered dietitian Jennifer McDaniel, owner of McDaniel Nutrition in St. Louis, MO, for TheHealthy.com. “Plus, they tend to score lower than brand-name fromage on taste tests and overall, don’t save you that much anyway.”

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4. House Paint

Paint can certainly be pricey, especially if you’re painting multiple rooms. However, “You get what you pay for” with house paint, according to professional painters told The Wirecutter.

They surveyed a number of paints looking at those that required the least number of coats to cover, those that last longer and look better than generic/cheaper alternatives. You’ll have to live with that paint for a long time, so go with a reliable name brand.

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Caroline Hailey contributed to the reporting for this article.

Last updated: Feb. 16, 2021

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Best and Worst Things to Buy Generic