Personal Finance

Buy This, Not That: 10 Things You Are Wasting Money On

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For a lot of people, generic equals inferior. In the past, generic brand products were packaged in white wrapping with black lettering which was a stark contrast to the bright, colorful packaging that sheathed most name brand products. Perhaps this is why generic brands are often still thought of as inferior. The thing is, generic products of today aren’t what they were 20 years ago. While in some cases the name brand really is better, going generic can save you a bundle of money on many products, and you probably won’t even notice the difference. Below you can find a list of name brand products you are probably wasting your money on.

Name Brand Prescriptions

Ever wonder why generic brand drugs are so much cheaper than name brand ones? When a company creates a new drug, they buy a patent that gives them the right to be the exclusive seller of that drug as long as the patent is current. When that patent gets older and will soon expire, other drug makers are able to obtain permission from the FDA to use the formula to create a generic version. Because these companies do not have to pay the costs of developing the drug, they can afford to sell it for a fraction of the name brand cost. The generic drug is not allowed to look like the name brand one, but the FDA requires that generic drugs be as safe and effective as name brand ones. Many “generic” brands are even produced by the same manufacturer that produces the name brand version.


There’s absolutely no reason to pay $4.00 for a box of cereal when you can buy the generic brand about 30% cheaper. But what about taste? Good news: in several blind test studies, kids who were given brand name and generic cereals could not tell a difference. Personally, I buy the generic brand of all cereals except Cheerios (simply because the generic brands seem to get soggy faster). If your kids are picky about their favorite cereal, try combining the name brand and the generic brand in a plastic container so they can’t see the difference.

Pantry Staples

Government regulations require the same manufacturing and storage procedures for all staples (i.e. eggs, milk, flour), no matter the brand. So buying the generic brand is just as safe and tastes the same. And staples rarely go on sale or have coupons, so buying generic is almost always cheaper.

Electronic Cables

Many companies will try to sell you a $100 cable to go with that new television you just bought. Consumers worry that a cheap cable will mess up their nice new electronic, but off-brand cables work just as well. One exception is Apple products. Apple has actually put a chip in their adapters that their products need, so third-party adapters generally won’t work. For all other electronics, check online for cheap options.

Beauty Products

Many off-brand beauty products copy name brand formulas; if the technology isn’t patented, it is fair game. However, anti-aging products often are patented, so going with the name brand might be best. The only way to know if a generic product is good is to try it. Many stores will let you return generic products even if you’ve used a noticeable amount. If you’re looking for a specific type of beauty product, look up customer reviews on different brands online.


Store brand beverages are produced regionally, so they are actually a smarter purchase than name brand ones. Regionally-produced products usually go through less processing and transportation that national brands, which can make them taste better. As far as sodas go, store brands are much cheaper, but many people are attached to a certain soda and can’t make the switch. When buying soda for a party or a soda that you’re not particularly attached to, opt for the store brands. In taste tests, many soda drinkers couldn’t tell a difference.


There is something to be said for the way a pair of Sevens will make you look and feel. But don’t rule out off-brand jeans; many of them will make look just as good for half the cost. Good jeans are tricky to find no matter what brand you get, so you may have to try on several brands before you find one. However, in the process you’ll develop an eye for how jeans are tailored, which will help you to quickly bypass the less cute ones. Read customer reviews online and try stores like Ross or Burlington Coat Factory for a wide selection of off-brand jeans.

Infant Formula

Generic brand infant formula is cheaper for the same reason generic brand drugs are cheaper. Generic brands don’t have to spend money on developing the formula, so they can sell it for less. The FDA requires the same nutrients in all of them, so your baby will get the same benefits. Generic formulas have to follow the same manufacturing and safety guidelines as well, so there’s no added risk. And again, some companies produce both a name brand and a generic brand formula.

Cleaning Products

Cleaning products can be tricky. Some generic cleaning products are equal to or even better than the name brands, while others are decidedly less effective. Consumers report that name brand paper towels and window cleaner are usually worth the money. Generic paper towels tend to be too thin and generic window cleaner often leaves streaks. However, off-brand scouring powders tend to be equal to name brand ones, as do disinfecting wipes and bathroom cleaner.


Some non-perishables like cookies and some chips have a less pleasing texture or taste than the name brand. But products like pasta, canned fruits and vegetables, and crackers tend to be equal in quality. The fewer ingredients an item has, the more likely that the generic brand tastes just as good as the name brand.

Remember that name brands spend a lot of money on advertising and attractive packaging to sell you a product that may not be better than the generic one. And in some cases, the generic and name brand companies are the same. If the labels say the products were made in the same town, chances are they were made by the same company. Be aware of sales and coupons for name brands that may sometimes make them cheaper than the generic brands, but generally shopping generic is a better value.

Edson Senna is a freelance writer who specializes in finance and law. As part of his finance work, he does consulting for companies like Infinite Wealth Advisors, financial planners based out of Greensboro, North Carolina. Edson is currently single. In his free time he enjoys, biking, running, and swimming.


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