What’s in a name?

Have you ever gone shopping with a little kid, only to find they throw the most expensive T.P. in the cart because the package features a really cute puppy? Has your mouth ever started watering watching those plump, juicy oranges in the Sunkist commercials, only to result in you picking up the priciest O.J. next time you hit the store?

Sometimes I think we’re all brainwashed by the advertising machine (myself included). We get some catchy jingle stuck in our head, and before we know it, we’re plucking that same product off the shelves.

But we pay a premium for buying name-brand. Yes, it looks pretty on the package and in the TV spot, but on your grocery bill? Not so much. With most Americans scrimping and cutting coupons to put food on the table right now, sneaking some no-name brands onto the grocery list is a sure way to shave money off your bill. And as national chains like Safeway and Target expand their own brands, there are more generic options on the shelves than ever before. Since I started weaning myself off name-brands, I’ve personally saved at least 30% on groceries.

Now, I’m not asking you to give up name prescription meds or buy expired meat or anything. But if you’re a sucker for brand recognition, here are some ways to ease your way into the cheaper side of the spectrum.

Hmmm…have you ever noticed that Cheerios look exactly the same as Toasty-O’s? Check the back of the box and you’ll see the ingredients are the same as well. The only difference? Well, other than the fact that your kids don’t want to be caught dead with Toasty-Os in their house (heck, they’d probably rather have Lucky Charms or Count Chocula or some other sugar-drenched incarnation, anyway). Toasty-Os (or whatever your store’s brand is called) costs 50% less! So if you go through a box of cereal a week, you could save over $100 a year. Small, but it adds up.

OTC Meds
Federal law mandates that the same ingredients that go into Advil must also go into your store’s brand of ibuprofen. But thanks to its famous name and fancy box, Advil commands double the price (enough to give you a headache!). Generic drugs aren’t cheaper because they are low-quality, they’re cheaper because (1) the companies don’t have to spend money developing the drug, just copying it, and (2) they don’t waste funds on advertising.

Paper, plastic, etc.
Do you really care what the packaging of your toilet paper, tissue paper, paper towels, paper plates, plastic wrap, wax paper, aluminum wrap, etc. looks like? I didn’t think so. It all works about the same anyway.

Pantry items
Sugar is sugar and flour is flour, whether or not they come from C&H and Gold Medal. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. Where do you think those generic brands come from? There’s no way Safeway can afford to have a factory for every single product they make. So they often share factory space with a company that specializes in each particular product. Meaning the famous and generic brands of sugar sitting side by side sometimes come from the same place and are made by the same people. That pretty box doesn’t seem as special now, does it?

Of course, there are always exceptions. If the generic tissue paper scratches your nose, a few bucks saved might not be worth the discomfort in cold season. If store-brand detergent makes your allergies act up, don’t bother. But don’t buy a certain brand just because the TV says you should!

Now, if you’re already shopping as frugally as it gets and you’re still having trouble putting dinner on the table, you might need to take more drastic measures. DebtStoppers offers a free one-on-one debt analysis—a full hour with a debt relief pro. At no cost to your family, it's might be your best bargain yet.

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