Monday, October 6, 2008

[Feature] Why Buying Generic is Awesome (Spoiler: It Saves You Money)

Uhm, I'm not sure if you've noticed, but the economic sky is falling.

In times where every penny needs to be spent carefully, it seems fitting to talk about the pros and cons of buying generic goods.

There is a very powerful stigma around buying generic. You can mostly blame genius marketers and their ability to sell you their brand instead of the contents itself.

While some claims of generic goods not being as good as brand names are true, many more are completely unfounded. A lot of times, the generics are literally the same product packaged differently and sold for a few bucks cheaper.

Buying generic can usually save you a lot of money on your grocery bills without suffering any quality. So what should you go generic for and what should you avoid? Let me tell you how I roll....

Things I Buy Generic:

Over-The-Counter Drugs
I used to work at a drug store, so I have first-hand experience with the awesomeness that is generic medicine.

Things like Tylenol, Robitussin, and Claritin are all brands of medical ingredients. Usually, the drug companies that originally created these products hold exclusive patent rights to these formulas for around 7-12 years. Once that time is up, other companies can make generic versions with the exact same formulas! What's more, they sell the same active ingredients for a lot cheaper.

So next time you're sick, save yourself money and buy that Target Tussin instead of Robitussin.

Honestly, I didn't even know that milk had brands. Really. I just look for the cheapest milk and then dig to the back for the one with the best expiration date. Milk has always tasted like milk to me, whether it was the bottle with the flying cow or not.

One thing that I've always wanted to try though, is the milk in the glass bottles. Those just look like they would taste better (even though that's probably not true at all).

While it's much better to invest in rechargeable batteries, if we're talking generic batteries vs. Duracell, it's generics for the win. Some argue that the charges don't hold as long or that they're more dangerous. First, even if the individual battery charge is weaker, chances are that cumulatively, the generic pack has more energy than the brand. Secondly, we have government agencies to make sure things like batteries are made safely and properly.

Especially when it comes to low-maintenance items (remotes, clocks, etc), generics batteries save you a butt-load of money in the long run.

Disposable Paper
By disposable paper, I mean any paper product that you throw out: paper towels, paper plates, toilet paper, etc.

I used to be a type of person who would not buy no-name toilet paper, but then I went to a friend's house and told them their toilet paper was really nice (TMI? -___-), to which they replied that it was Kirkland brand toilet paper. I was surprised and now will buy the oxymoronic high-end generic toilet paper. Because really, you end up throwing all of this out anyway. So why pay more?

The Generics Rule of Thumb
I'm not saying that everything generic is better and buying brand name is always a waste of money. Generally, Buying generic only works when the product has a simple, imitateable formula, or when they are identical to their brand name competitors.

That's why buying generic soda doesn't work. Coke keeps their formula secret for a reason. America's Choice just creates their own drink by attempting to deduce how Coke is made. It's not the same and that is evident in the taste.

The best way to figure out what you should buy generics or not is to compare two products side-by-side. Are they the exact same ingredients (generic drugs)? It is something that is not very difficult to mess up (milking a cow)? Will it even matter if the quality is a little worse (paper products)? If you can say yes to any of those, you're probably better off saving the extra money and going generic.

Of course, if you don't agree, tell me what you do/don't go generic for in the comments section!


Anonymous said...

Things I'll Buy Generic

Tomato Paste
Side Dish noodles
Mac and Cheese
Anything Kirkland brand
Powdered goods like sugar, salt, flour, baking soda
floppy discs (way back when)

Things I Do Not Buy Generic
Tomato Sauce
Laundry Detergent
Canned Vegetables
Computer memory

that might be it when it comes to a potential choice.

I'm more about buying the big sale items at the local markets and stocking up. Then filling in the nicer items (steak, cheese, etc) from Costco. For example, last month I bought 60 pounds of Ronzoni pasta when it was on sale. And then 10 pounds of cheese from Costco.

Anonymous said...


best generic deal out there...

Kirkland-brand Claritan. It's like 300 pills for about... free dollars. Or something like that.

I don't buy generic batteries (except Kirkland brand) since a lot of them are not the same inside. Especially for the larger sizes. Some of them are essentially AA in a D case. Oh, and I've switched to rechargeables everywhere I can. (i.e. not clock radios)

Julia Park said...

Laundry detergent is definitely something I would not buy as generic.

But yeah, Costco FTW!

Jen Shin said...

Great article, Yuri! Loves me some generic stuff.
For girls: some makeup is better generic.
Nail polish, eye shadow, lipgloss/stick, the likes.

I would recommend though, splurging on things like foundation, makeup brushes, moisturizer.

Aly Beth said...

Laundry detergent is something I would totally buy generic!!

Don't ever buy any generic ketchup though! Unless cat-sup sounds good. :)

sang said...

I buy organic milk, it costs alot more but we never had to throw it out because the expiration date is so long.