Personal Finance Tip of the Week: Consider Generic or Store Brands

In the zero-sum game that is budgeting, a dollar you spend is one that you can’t put in your savings account for a rainy day. So it’s not surprising that you’d eye your purchases to see if you can spend less, without sacrificing much in terms of quality.

In general, brand-name products are better than generic products. Or at least their marketing is. This concept isn’t really disputed because if generic vs. brand-name items were priced the same, you would go with the brand name every single time. According to CBS News, here are some products that you should be generic:

• Over-the-counter medication: Drugs are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and over-the-counter medication is required to list the active ingredients right on the box. All you need to do to compare brand-name products against their generic versions is look at the packaging information on the side. Pick up a box of Claritin and you’ll see that the active ingredient is loratadine, which you can also buy as a generic drug for a fraction of the price. Zyrtec’s active ingredient is cetirizine, also now available in a generic version.
• Staple food products: Staple food products like flour, sugar, corn starch, pepper and others are regulated. In many cases, the same manufacturers produce the generic products and the brand name. You can also throw in some cereals, like Cheerios or Bran Flakes, since it would be hard to tell the difference.
• Gasoline: Despite what the gas stations might tell you about the additives they use, this is another regulated product with little variation between companies.
• Electronic cabling: This topic has always been a source of a good laugh, as some companies have the audacity to charge big bucks for a $2 HDMI cable.
• Paper products: Napkins, paper plates, toilet paper and other paper products are good to opt for generic. I try to use real plates and silverware instead of paper plates, but sometimes that isn’t possible. (My personal exception to this rule is with paper towels and toilet paper, as they hold up better, but many people don’t seem to mind the generic options.)

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