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Tip #17: Buy generic for the stuff you don’t care about

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This is Tip #17 of of the Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge. (See past tips.)

Today’s tip is to buy generics for the stuff you don’t care about — while continuing to buy brand-name for the stuff you do care about.

generic-candy.jpg

When I was growing up, I was a pretty good kid, but I still remember one of the most annoying/bratty things I ever did. For some reason, I demanded that my mom buy me this expensive shirt (it was Ralph Lauren, I think). My mom tried to talk me out of it for HOURS, but I screamed and cried and she finally got it for me. The next day I wore it to school, where I was on lunch duty, and my dish that day was berry cobbler. Because I was a young and dumb, I thought it’d be fun to smack the cobbler with my spoon — which immediately turned my brand new shirt purple and ruined it forever.

The cost difference between generics and brand-name goods can be significant when you add it up, but the differences in quality have been steadily dropping for years. Yet we tend to buy what we know, which is always amusing because I have friends who insist advertising does not affect them. They say this while eating Cheez-Its, holding a Starbucks frappuccino, and paying for their new Nike shoes with money from their Kenneth Cole wallet.

When it comes to generics vs. brand-name goods, one of the most under-considered factors is prioritization. If you want to save $1,000 this month, you have to prioritize because you can’t have the best of everything. So buy brand-name for the stuff you care about, and cut costs mercilessly on commodities you don’t care about by buying generic.

My friend Jim Blomo does this better than almost anyone else I know:

I remember him calling me up a while ago, telling me he had just gotten another raise. “Awesome!” I said. Ironically, that was the same week he moved into an even cheaper place to live. Maybe it’s not actually that ironic. Whereas a lot of us take our new raises and spend it, really rich people take those raises, invest them, and continue living on the older wage that they’ve become accustomed to.

He makes conscious choices about what he spends his money on. Jim has told me over and over that he doesn’t care much about living in a fancy place, so he saves money on that. He cooks at home when he can instead of eating out every day. But he loves outdoor stuff–biking, camping, travel. And so he splurges on those things. He has a top-of-the-line bike. He just got back from a week-long trip to New York, just for fun.

Read more about Jim’s conscious spending.

What could you de-prioritize?
If I were to ask which of your purchases you don’t care about, what would you say? Would you say you don’t really care about your hair products? Or that you could probably live in a cheaper place? Maybe you’d say that you don’t need to eat fancy cheese.

Most of us don’t think like this. We’re also hesitant to experiment with downgrading. “But Ramit,” you might say, “I need that shampoo. My hair goes crazy without it!”

Maybe it does. Maybe not. But you won’t know until you test it by buying a less-expensive comparison shampoo and try it out. Until then, you’ll slavishly continue buying the more expensive goods. Combine all the name-brand things you buy and you could be overspending by thousands each year.

(If you’re worried about the quality going down, think again: The world is full of people claiming they can tell the difference between things like wines, soft drinks, and shampoos, and when you run double-blind experiments, of course, they really can’t. More about them in my delicious/expertise bookmarks.)

To put it bluntly, we can’t afford to buy the best of everything. When you buy, what can you cut costs on by buying generic?

How I balance quality with generics
For me, I do two things: First, I experiment regularly with the stuff I buy to see if I can downgrade. Recently, I bought generic Safeway sandwich cheese (those little orange squares). They tasted horrible, so I went back to buying Kraft cheese. That’s right, I live large.

Second, when I buy something that I care about, I buy top-of-the-line products and hold them for a long time. But when I buy something I don’t care about, like shampoo or luggage, I cut costs mercilessly. Read more about in Conscious Spending: How My Friend Spends $21,000/year Going Out.

I asked my researcher to go to Safeway and dig up some cost comparisons. Here’s just a sample of what he found:

cheerios-generic.pngpeanut-butter-generic.png

fish-oil-generic.png aspirin-generic.png

Ask yourself:

  • Can you really tell the difference between Cheerios ($5) and the generic version ($2.50)? Have you ever tried?

  • What about prescription drugs, batteries, or vitamins? How much could you save each month?
  • Would it be worth trying out some generics to see which you’d be willing to compromise on?

Of course it would. Even if it costs a little extra to duplicate what you’ve got in generic, it’s a spend-once-save-forever proposition: If you save 50% on Cheerios for the rest of your life, that’s a lot more than the $2.50 you spent on trying it out.

Some examples of areas you could save money: Toiletries, food, clothes (especially jeans, gloves, underwear, undershirts, slippers), stuff for your pet (I would rather feed my pet a box of napkins than buy Premium food….this may be why I don’t have a pet), and auto stuff.

Try it today: You can’t get the best of everything. What can you compromise on?

Total savings: $50 to $500 per month

Last thing to do
1. See other tips in the Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge
2. Leave a comment on this post describing how much you’re saving with this tip and any unusual techniques you use to make this tip work.

If you liked this tip, check out my Premium tips — one long, tactical tip per week. Save money or get a 100% refund.

scrooge

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79 Comments on "Tip #17: Buy generic for the stuff you don’t care about"

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Kim
7 years 10 months ago
I do this- it does work well. One example is that I have really horrible dry, sensitive skin and I have found from experience that I can’t just use whatever random lotion or soap/body wash that’s on sale unless I want to aggravate my skin to the point of hives. So, I shell out for the stuff I know my skin will tolerate. But, I have found that Suave works just fine on my hair and it’s about three dollars cheaper than Pantene or whatever, so I save there. It’s not just about always buying whatever the cheapest thing is… Read more »
jaye britney
jaye britney
7 years 10 months ago

I agree 100% with this article with one exception: the dog food.
I wouldn’t eat McDonalds everyday, and I will spend more money to buy my pets decent quality food. Those who can’t or won’t buy anything above the cheapest pet food also need to consider the cost of check-ups and vet visits.

Otherwise, I agree with everything! I’ve started buying generic cereals lately. The one thing that I can’t do is off-brand Parmesan cheese. yuck!

echoparkgal
echoparkgal
7 years 10 months ago

I prefer to purchase products that are multi-use (like vinegar for cooking AND cleanser) and are non-toxic and eco-friendly (like Dr. Bronners). I save a bundle with that every year. I buy generic for random things like office supplies, trash bags, faux-ziploc bags..etc and some of these are things I’m trying to phase out.

Kelly
Kelly
7 years 10 months ago

I totally agree with jaye britney about the dog food. Your pet’s health will suffer. Not only that, you you often have to feed your dog twice of the generic food, so in the end it’s just as expensive. Not to mention that you have to clean up twice the poop on generic food. Yuck.

And Cheerios: that is one thing I do always buy brand name. I can definitely tell the difference. The store brand is like little cardboard doughnuts.

paul
paul
7 years 10 months ago
Thirded – pet’s are not a place to be trying to save money (especially on food) – cheap pet toys can be dangerous (cheaply made, fall apart quicker) – of course, this doesn’t apply to those who buy heated beds or ceramic bowls – but even those are a one time deal. Pet food though – animals have very different digestive systems to humans – our bunny can’t tolerate cheap hay blends, or over processed rabbit food “mixes” and we run serious the risk of serious medical problems if we feed them to him. Dogs digestive systems adapt to one… Read more »
Battra92
7 years 10 months ago
Another person who believes people overspend on pets! Honestly, if I had a pet that needed expensive medical coverage or fancy food, I’d be pricing bullets. I have a fish that is still eating the same can of food for over a year. I change his water once every two weeks. He lives in a bowl with no electricity. That’s enough pet for me. 🙂 But yeah, I agree with the generic items. I will buy most everything generic. My mom, on the other hand, swears by expensive foil. I don’t know if it’s better as she claims but maybe… Read more »
Kitty wells
Kitty wells
10 months 20 days ago

battra92 really? Shoot it? I hope nobody comes after you with a gun if you should get sick and need medical intervention or need a special diet. .to bad u can’t get a refund on the brain in your head, the one you have is a badly made generic which seems to have passed its expiration date

Trevor
7 years 10 months ago

Don’t just buy generic for the stuff you don’t care about… buy it for almost everything that you don’t mind giving up brand name to.

In my family, we just buy whatever is cheaper most of the time. So if the brand name is cheaper, we buy that.

lisa
lisa
7 years 10 months ago
Owning a pet is a financial commitment. It is a responsibility. It is not an accessory or a toy. If you don’t wish that commitment, don’t buy one, but to talk about putting one down because of cost just makes you seem like a total asshole. (I realize this was a commenter, but you brought it up and thus started the mindset that it was okay to act like an unfeeling dolt about animals.) I budgeted for my pet. I waited until my life was stable enough to take on the responsibility for the animal. There are sacrifices. But that’s… Read more »
dean
dean
7 years 10 months ago

Funny you mention Cheerios. Cheerios is one of the few cereals that I’ve never been able to find a good generic equivalent to. Generic copies, yes, but not that same taste.

Good tips though. I do this myself.

aa
aa
7 years 10 months ago

Don’t buy generic for anything you put into your mouth, period.

mobius
mobius
7 years 10 months ago

Great Blog, & amazing information. I’m looking forward to reading more from you.

Thanks,

Darrell
http://www.AlwaysMakingMoney.com
——————
Learn From Experts, Increase Your Wealth

Lisa
Lisa
7 years 10 months ago
I’ve been buying generic cereal for years now. I’ve actually found that I enjoy some of the generic brands (“Mini-Scooters” and “Coco-Roos”) BETTER than their non-generic counterparts. I’ve recently been going a step further and buying whole grains in bulk (couscous, bulgar wheat) and making my own hot cereal. Mix in a bunch of dried fruit, nuts, milk, butter etc and it’s fantastic. The way I save money on clothes though is to buy brand names… used at consignment and thrift stores. Looking for a brand name label sometimes helps to separate the wheat from the chaff easily at grungier… Read more »
stephanie
7 years 10 months ago
I definitely agree that both Kraft cheese and Cheez-Its are significantly better than their generic counterparts! My grocery items probably look strange to people at checkouts – I usually have a lot generic brands, but then I buy organic for milk, eggs, etc. 🙂 I concur with Lisa too – sometimes the generics taste better than their name-brand counterparts! I also agree about pets – one of my best friends in college used to complain all the time about being broke, barely able to afford her bills, but then she went out and adopted 2 huge dogs. Its one thing… Read more »
Grad Student -  Vanderbilt, Nashville-TN
Grad Student - Vanderbilt, Nashville-TN
7 years 10 months ago

Jaye is right – no point on saving money on pet food and spending on the vet because your pet got ill. (same for medicines, vitamins, etc… you must be sure about quality).

Otherwise, good tip 🙂

Janet
Janet
7 years 10 months ago
While there is nothing wrong with buying generic, there are reasons why the products are cheaper. Beyond the packaging and the lack of advertising, generic foods are sometimes made with lower quality ingredients. Compare the labels carefully before you buy, especially the sodium content, and the use of high fructose corn syrup and fillers. If they really are the same ingredients , I’d say go for it. If you stick to whole foods rather than processed crap, generics are less of an issue. Save money by buying in the ethnic food section of your grocery store. Rice and dried beans… Read more »
Richard Spicer
7 years 10 months ago

wow you mean buying store brands saves money? You mean that I’ve been paying for a fancy label this whole time? How foolish of me. These tips are pretty much every tip I’ve ever read on how to save money. Come on man, challenge me! Throw something unconventional at me. Like save money by giving your kids up for adoption! Or, Never own a dog! Those are ways to save money that aren’t in the books.

Studenomics
7 years 10 months ago

Sorry man I am also not really feeling this tip to be honest. Maybe it’s just me but growing up poor I have known about generic brands for many years. I find that many people are just superficial and like to be caught with brand name everything, which is just hilarious. Who do you impress with a horse on your shirt or a alligator?

Rahul
Rahul
7 years 10 months ago

Gotta agree with the rest of the commenters on the pet part. My cat is a part of my family, and his health is as important as mine. Some of the cheap-o brands of food are real bad for pets. They’ll lead to medical problems that will make your pet sick, in addition to being more expensive with vet bills in the long run.

If you’re going to have a pet, please be responsible about it. Know when you’re ready and can budget and afford the additional expense.

B
B
7 years 10 months ago
This is a great tip! I’ve started realizing that so much of what I do is because of the way I was raised, which isn’t necessarily the best or most frugal way. For example, my mom took me to the Clinique counter when I was 13 or so to get my first makeup. For the next 12 years, I always bought Clinique makeup – $28 foundation, $25 lotion. I only bought during bonus time so I would get lots of blush, mascara, eyeshadow, etc., for free. I discovered about a year ago that I don’t, in fact, need $28 foundation.… Read more »
Justin
7 years 10 months ago
I also agree with everybody about the food (both for pets and us). Studenomics — yes, while the horse or alligator on the shirt is a status symbol for many, they are simply better quality clothes than what you’ll find at Target for example. If you don’t care about this, great, that’s the point of this tip. I have some recent personal experience in this area: after becoming tired of the cheap polo shirts I’ve been wearing from Target (Mossimo) and Kohl’s (whatever brands they carry), I went to TJ Maxx to find some nicer quality stuff (but still heavily… Read more »
Stephenie Rulli
7 years 10 months ago

Another idea is look for free stuff. Walgreens every month has free products. You have to buy them and send in the rebate – but you can have it put on a walgreens card and then you just use that mney the next month. Look in your local area for similar offers. Coupons are also amazing. With double coupons and being flexible with your products – you can save hundred’s of dollars.

Peggy
Peggy
7 years 10 months ago
I’m with aa. I bought generics and “cheapest” possible foodstuffs for years until I began researching what passes for food these days, the poison it’s grown in, the megacorp takeover of the world’s food supply and the danger all that poses to life and health. I’ve completed the eat local challenge, the slow food challenge and several organic food challenges and you know what? My food bill went down, not up. So, while I agree it’s silly to buy based on a brand-name, I think education is a more important tool. Nothing (not even an alligator polo shirt) costs more… Read more »
Generation Millionaire
7 years 10 months ago

Another water idea is but a metal bottle and refill. That will also keep the concern about plastic and cancer out of your mind, and will keep the landfills less cluttered.

Some of the bottles are a bit pricey – Sigg sold at Dick’s is a little over $20 but once you own it – no need to keep buying plastic bottles. Target sells a differennt brand metal bottle but i have heard it has a metal taste.

Jade Cow
7 years 10 months ago
I just have to add to the food comments. You are what you eat. If you are eating a ton of cheez-its, diet pepsi, and individually wrapped cheese squares, regardless of the brand, your health will suffer. Buying organic grains and legumes in bulk is cheap. Buying seasonal (organic) vegetables at the farmers market is cheap. Add to that some (expensive) organic meat and dairy and quality sea food, and you’ll still save money (especially if you view these as seasonings, not staples). Not to mention that you will save on health costs in the long term. It is neither… Read more »
OogieM
OogieM
7 years 10 months ago
All food, even pet food needs to be of highest quality. If you can’t commit to the cost of a pet don’t get one. Period. We raise our own meats, buy local veges and are picky about the other food stuff we buy. Skimping by buying poor quality generic foods can result in more illness. The cost of cheap generic human food is obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Better to spend a lot less on other stuff and a lot more on food. For good generic hair care try mane and tail horse shampoo. A gallon jug costs about $20… Read more »
X  H
X H
7 years 10 months ago
I must agree with (almost) everyone here on pet food – buying generic/lower quality pet food is not going to save you any money and has a potential to ruin your pet’s health. If you care about your pet – consult with a vet, or lookup some info online – even certain brand names are very bad for pets, resulting in illness (suffering + vet bills). As for the rest of the stuff, I think a reasonable approach is to consider a value/price ratio, rather than just the price. Of course, the importance of a brandname to someone is part… Read more »
guinness416
guinness416
7 years 10 months ago

For all the “don’t buy generic for anything in your mouth” people, aren’t the generics for the most part the name-brands of one sort or another packaged differently? I agree that there’s a difference between natural peanut butter and the stuff pictured above, which is preservatives and colourings, but if you generally just buy Jif anyway why not go generic?

Peggy
Peggy
7 years 10 months ago
guinness416, you have to read the label. Sometimes generic is healthier with fewer additives. But most of the time, instead of using sugar, generic products use high-fructose corn syrup or corn syrup solids. To cover using lower-grade food in their products, MSG or other flavor-enhancers can be added. Cheaper fillers are often used to bring the manufacturing cost down to that “generic price” level. If you’re eating peanut butter, wouldn’t you want to be eating peanuts rather than corn syrup solids, sugar, soy protein, hydrogenated rapeseed oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, monodiglycerides, diglycerides, molasses, niacinamide, folic acid, pyridoxine, hydrochloride, magnesium… Read more »
Chris
7 years 10 months ago

This is also a strategy I employ, especially with clothes. Yes, for some people with young kids it makes sense to purchase a good quality shirt that can be a hand-me-down for the next several years. My recommendation, if you are committed to buying brand name clothing, is to wait until the end of the year and pick up as many items as possible during the largest store sales.I agree with everyone that you are what you eat!

Easily see where you are headed financially at http://www.buildmybudget.com

Susan
7 years 10 months ago
Ramit, you know I’m a crazy cat lady, so, as expected, I’m here to rail on you. Buying generics makes sense for plastic bags, dish soap, or maybe cereal. What makes even more sense is asking yourself if you really need plastic bags (instead of reusable containers that you only buy once), if you can buy dish soap in bulk (which you def. can here in SF), or if there’s something you can eat for breakfast that doesn’t come with packaging and marketing cost (like bulk oatmeal – $0.15 per serving – instead of box cereal – $0.46 per serving).… Read more »
HollyS
HollyS
7 years 10 months ago

When I buy food I don’t buy anything if I find the package advertising condescending. This means everything from Oreo Cakesters (I’m not three and I’m not buying your product) to anything labeled “All-natural” (I know that phrase has NO MEANING, stop putting it on everything). This probably doesn’t save a lot of money but I do eat somewhat healthier and feel less like a brand whore.

Sarah
Sarah
7 years 10 months ago
In addition – if you HAVE to have something that’s a brand name, only buy it when it’s on sale and when it is, stock up! For examples, I actually really can taste the difference between Cheerios and generic O’s, but I’m still not spending $5 on a box of the real ones. I wait until they are just as cheap as the generics, and then use a coupon, and buy 4 boxes. This way, I get the quality I want, without spending more for it. I do this whenever possible, otherwise, I go generic, or I make the conscious… Read more »
Alex Androski
Alex Androski
7 years 10 months ago
I was delighted to discover recently that my favorite cereal (Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs) now has a generic equivilant. In the grocery store, I always tend toward generics, and usually only go name-brand when the generics are bad. Of course, that’s with the understanding that the *real* cheese and lunchmeats are going to come from the deli counter versus the name-brand OR generic pre-packaged stuff, but the generic pizza rolls aren’t going to be any worse for me than the name-brand ones, and the peanut butter is more than likely the same product with a different lid and label. I… Read more »
Benita
Benita
7 years 10 months ago
This is a good point. There are things that I’ve bought a store brand and even my 10 year old won’t eat it! So I tried and I learned, not everything can be bought generic. But in most cases it’s just fine. My son likes the Target brand cheese crackers as much as Cheez Its. For those of you who are complaining about the ideas given in this challenge, then don’t read anymore! Not everyone knows all about saving money like you seem to..and if you already know all of it, why are you here? Thanks Ramit, I have been… Read more »
Susan
7 years 10 months ago

Indignant pet owners unite!

Peden
Peden
7 years 10 months ago

Great ideas Ramit – it is so easy to spend too much if you blindly buy expensive stuff. Rememer too that many stores, at least here in Denmark, will carry their own generic brands with the EXACT same content as their top-of-the-line brands.

I do not agree with you on the jeans part however, but for clothes in general you can save a ton of money buying from ebay or your local outlet-store. No quality drops, and lots of money saved.

John W
John W
7 years 10 months ago
I’m pretty with you on this. I look damn good rocking $15 jeans and dress shirts from Wal Mart, and I only eat food with generic labels. BUT I wouldn’t save money on pet food (this was mentioned earlier, but I’m echoing it). Most cheap dog food such as WalMart’s venerable brand “Ol’ Roy” have corn as their first ingredient. On the other hand, the good stuff like Iams starts off with meat. Dogs really need the protein, not just sugary carbs, or it makes them kinda haywire. Also, one very key way in which generics can help people cut… Read more »
Janet
Janet
7 years 10 months ago

Ramit, it looks like you opened Pandora’s Box with the generic tip. LOL
I am quoting you, “Today’s tip is to buy generics for the stuff you don’t care about — while continuing to buy brand-name for the stuff you do care about.”
If it makes people stop and ask themselves that question, you will have accomplished your mission. I forgive you for the pet comment. And I thank you for all of the tips. They have helped me to focus on the money that trickles away.

Jennifer
7 years 10 months ago

Many generic items are actually the exact same product as the brand name counterparts, but the manufacturer boxes it separately for stores. (ie: Aldi’s, Publix) Publix often has a buy ours, get their’s free so you can test the difference. Out of all the grocery stores, I really love the Publix brand for food. The quality at the very least, matches the brand name item.

For stuff I don’t care about like soap, cotton balls, whatnot, I prefer the WalMart brand Equate. It is dirt cheap and I can’t tell the difference.

Becoming The Marshmallow

Tom
Tom
7 years 10 months ago

HollyS: I agree with you on the marketing lingo, and I’ll add one to it. To paraphrase the late George Carlin: why is “homemade” on this packaged food? I don’t care if the foreman is living in the basement and cooking on a hotplate, this food is note “homemade!”

Battra92
7 years 10 months ago

I love all the food snobs and pet owners going bat-crazy on this one.

Seriously, will eating your organic oatmeal and eggs and butter make you live all that much longer or have that much higher a quality of life? Sorry, you will live 10 years less because you bought the store brand Cheerios. Seriously, get over yourselves.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
-Matthew 6:31

San Francisco Financial Planner
7 years 10 months ago

This article has lots of great ways to save money. And remember, even if that generic brand only saves you a dollar, those savings add up over time! Save $1 per day = $30 per month = $365 per year
Save $50 week = $200 per month = $2,400 per year

PDXGirl
PDXGirl
7 years 10 months ago

I use generic shampoo. Previously I was reluctant about using the cheap stuff but too poor for the good stuff. I just went to a fancy salon to get my hair colored and the stylist and her apprentice were ooooing and ahhing over how healthy my hair is.

I wanted to say “Yeah, I wash it three times a week with herbal essence, don’t use more than one product at a time and use as little heat as possible on it.” but I resisted and just went with a smile and “thank you”.

OogieM
OogieM
7 years 10 months ago
Yes in fact I do think that eating local food, organic veges, appropriately raised meats, and as little processed food as I can and especially avoiding all corn syrup I will in fact have a much healthier life. The benefits go far beyond my own life though, reducing food miles, eating in season and eating fresh is also healthier for the planet. I would argue that the real basis for saving should be to include *all* the costs. That means poor health, less energy, illness or obesity, more pollution due to poor quality, less nutritious food or excessive packaging or… Read more »
Jessica
Jessica
7 years 10 months ago
I have just recently started doing this the past month or two. I grew up on brand name everything and I am slowly venturing away of the brands I know. I have only been living on my own for a couple years, so a lot of financial changes of course have come about. And I am actually surprised how many generics are similar to the brand name. Now my boyfriend and I are living together so my grocery bill has grown. But on top of buying generic grocery items, I have also picked up the lost art of coupon clipping… Read more »
stephanie
7 years 9 months ago
@ Jessica – I generally shop at Kroger, which has the same spend $100 / get $.10/gallon program. However, I never shop to TRY to get over $100, because I have a 10 gallon gas tank. That means even if my gas tank is completely empty and I fill it up completely, I save $1. Every dollar is nice, but it is not worth spending an extra $5 or $10 a month on groceries to put me over that $100 mark, just so I can save $1 on gas. I’m sure that between the two of you you probably easily… Read more »
Ria
Ria
7 years 9 months ago

I total agree with this. I just love spa treatments and have spent a lot on them. However, one friend of mine who owns one let it out that many places use generic products like moisturizer, oils or scrubs. The only difference is the time and amount used that makes such a glowing difference. Since then, I have started doing a lot of at-home treatments (& saving a packet). But i still do go for regular massages..again as Ramit has said, it is your priority!

Tom
Tom
7 years 9 months ago
BUY IN BULK! and never buy packaged foods. I have several shops where I can buy high quality organic food (rice, flour, oats, beans, chocolate, tea, etc) for cheap. With all that money I save on food I bought a nice slow cooker and a bread machine. Dinners have never been: easier, cheaper, or more delicious. I don’t ever buy boxed cereal. I don’t ever buy cookies or crackers. I don’t ever buy bread. During the summer I grow half of my own vegetables and at the end of the season I save my own seeds for the next year.… Read more »
Kaila
7 years 9 months ago
I’ve been doing this for a long time. I agree with your “stuff for pets” comment, and I’m a pet owner. I don’t believe in skimping on pet food (I agree it’s bad to feed cheap food to your pets), but most pet toys are seriously overpriced. I have dogs, and they are happy enough with affection from their owners, and lots of exercise. My dog is happy with a stick or tennis ball (I bought a box of 50 used tennis balls on ebay for around $20), and a walk, or a hike, or a trip to the dog… Read more »
Cardinal
Cardinal
7 years 9 months ago

Nice tip. I already do this to some degree naturally but I never consciously thought about it.

The only places I really worry about buying less than premium is stuff that will affect my health. Like prescip. drugs- name brand just sounds safer on things like that. Also, I don’t want to be buying cheap products for skin/hair/body care if they will do some sort of damage in the long term.

Michelle
Michelle
7 years 9 months ago

And to tie Cardinal’s comment in with the pet stuff topic… cheap drugs for pets are also a bad idea. Prescription flea/tick preventive can be pricey but the OTC “equivalents” can be outright dangerous—take it from a vet tech who once had to give a half-conscious, twitching cat a bath due to drug toxicity after the owner used the OTC crap. And flea collars are awesome at flea prevention… for the inch of skin and fur around the pet’s collar.

Battra92, congratulations on being a truly reprehensible human being!

spacedcowgirl
7 years 9 months ago
I tend not to skimp on groceries as much as I should and as much as I used to (and I do buy premium cat food… we finally found a brand that my cat isn’t allergic to and that doesn’t import ingredients from China, so I’m sticking with it, and the $15 bag lasts a month or more so it’s hardly a huge expense) but I have always bought generics. I think it’s generically, er, genetically hardwired. 🙂 Lately it’s been, I buy generic if the generic version is not significantly more filler- or crap-eriffic than the brand name. Also,… Read more »
Amrish
Amrish
7 years 9 months ago

Two related ideas:

1) Be creative and use dollar stores – I recently got a neoprene sleve for holding additional lenses (for my DSLR) – $1 per piece and they fit perfectly. Lens cases regularly run $15-$17 if you buy Targus / Caselogic.

2) Two sided tape – $1 for a gigantic roll vs $2 for a half-sized roll somewhere else

Great tips, Ramit. It’s great to find them in one place too ;-p (and coming from someone other than your mom).

Jordan Pearce
7 years 9 months ago
Cosmetics. I was a commercial make up artist for seven years. Drugstore stuff does just fine even for photo shoots. I’ll second dollar stores and up them with thrift stores and Ikea for kitchen stuff unless it is an appliance. Cheeto’s rock. Cheeto substitutes – FAIL. Even the Cheetos Puffs are nasty. Vitamins = GMO in a bottle. Waste of money. Nutrients should come from food not what an overpaid scientist made convenient for you guessed it marketing purposes. Supplements will not make you live longer and you will not die without them. Jeans I disagree with and I wish… Read more »
leslie
7 years 9 months ago

you should NEVER pay over $4 for brand name cereal! A brand is always always on sale so boxes are under $3 at the grocery store and family size boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats are $2.50 at target!

So i don’t buy generic, i just get the brand name at the generic price

Aaron
Aaron
7 years 9 months ago

You people and your pets… I have 2 dogs, one that sheds, and one that needs cut. I cut his hair myself. They are both small dogs and only need 1 large bag of food a month. We buy treats for them and bones, but never the generic. Still we spend less than $25 a month total for both dogs. The key is in cutting costs, not pets. Pets don’t need extra things, they are animals not humans.

Lesley
Lesley
7 years 9 months ago

I’m a cat lover and buy my cats Hill’s products (not cheap), however – I took the pet food comment with a grain of salt (generic of course) just to make a point. I laughed – ha ha it was funny. I try many generics, and most I do not like. But it does not hurt – or cost you ANYTHING to try them – both Safeway and Wal-Mart offer 100% Satisfacation Guaranteed on their brands. I have to totally agree on the foil – cheap is bad.

ngk
ngk
7 years 9 months ago
My frustration is that when I do save up for something ‘brand name’ that I would like, it ends up being of poor quality anyway. I’m thinking specifically about clothes – after getting a new job last year, and saving up for a bit, I decided to splurge and do my fall shoe shopping at Kenneth Cole instead of Payless. The shoes were gorgeous and fit well, but within 3 months were falling apart. I was extremely disappointed. Sure, I wear them every day, but that’s the point of getting supposedly high quality shoes – they should wear well, and… Read more »
Nick
Nick
7 years 9 months ago
I buy equate (wal-mart brand) mouth wash. It tastes 95% like advanced cool mint Listerine but costs nearly 3X less! It’s a little over $6 for Listerine (1.5L) and a little over $2.50 for equate brand. The active ingredients are 100% identical. You rinse your mouth with it and spit it out (literally money down the drain). If you have an emotional attachment to Listerine or scope or whatever, just pour some of the equate brand in your brand name empty bottle. I bet you wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference. I also buy the cheapest toilet bowl… Read more »
Eric Eric
Eric Eric
7 years 9 months ago

I have to disagree with most of the pet people. I had a cocker spaniel and for her ENTIRE life (over 16 years) she ate wal-mart’s “Ol’ Roy” canned dogfood – 1/2 can a day. Then of course she supplemented with scraps from all over the neighborhood. Maybe that was the difference? 🙂 Well, if you live out in the country you can do that!

EmilyS
EmilyS
7 years 9 months ago
I concur with OogieM. Luggage is a great example of “Buy only items you need that have the lowest long term cost to you and your environment.” I travel frequently and one time needed an extra suitcase so bought cheap ($30?) wheeled carry-on from the drugstore. I was so frustrated when, within a year, the frame detached so that it became unusable and had to be sent to the landfill (no recycling program available for luggage in my area so far and no one thought it was fixable). I also added frustration to my life by trying to drag around… Read more »
EmilyS
EmilyS
7 years 9 months ago

To build on Jordan Pearce’s suggestion about giving animals a varied diet, here is a column from the San Francisco Chronicle which links to some resources:

While for many of us, this falls into the category of values which trump financial calculations, If you’re buying your own food unprocessed and cooking at home, I bet this is pretty cost-effective too.

EmilyS
EmilyS
7 years 9 months ago
Jennifer
Jennifer
7 years 9 months ago

I like the more expensive salon brands of shampoo and conditioner, but hate spending all that money on them – $20 for 2 regular size bottles that last maybe 2 or 3 months tops. I pay a little over $40 for the large bulk size of the shampoo and conditioner – this lasts me 6 months or more. That comes to a little over $6 a month for shampoo and conditioner. I can’t even get some of the higher end drugstore brands (Pantene, Dove) for that!! Just a tip…

Jess
7 years 9 months ago
You mention getting generic brand named prescription medicines here too. I often hear this suggested (mostly by the pharmacist), and can understand why… “It has the same active ingredient…” Blah Blah Blah. However, both my girlfriend and I have been stung by buying generic brands. Sure, the active ingredient is the same, but the other stuff they put around it differs wildly – She had a massive allergic reaction (hives, etc) to generic antibiotics (making the origin condition worse, too!) – I’ve had my air-ways close up from a reaction to stuff they put in generic pain-killers (the strong ones… Read more »
Karen K
Karen K
7 years 9 months ago

Jess, it may have been the coating on the generic meds that you were allergic too. This appears to be a known problem.

Ramit, great job on the inadvertent flamewar! You got everyone really thinking about this one.

I am also so glad to see so many people in agreement on how to treat a pet.

MzScarlett
MzScarlett
7 years 9 months ago
I buy Levi’s 501’s mint conditon at thrift stores for $3 & $4 for grandkids; get nice shirts (many brand new 99 cents); I have a recipe for make your own dog food & would do that if I have a dog rather than purchase ANY kind of “dog” food available on the market if you truly care about your pets. Yes, it takes time & effort but if you truly loved your pet it is worth it, just like good home cooking is far better for us humans! I do buy generic things like chocolate chips $1.19 a package;… Read more »
Christian
Christian
7 years 8 months ago
I love this one: I’ve been doing it for years with almost everything in the grocery store and OTC medications. I think only about twice has the name brand been significantly different (Mac & Cheese I think – strange!) The odd times I’ve been in discussions about this the push back I’ve got has really amazed me. Some people are convinced, for example, that OTC brand pain-relievers are always better than store brand. I suppose if you believe it to be so, that’s what you’ll get. Only thing I quibble with: if you are going to buy vitamins are all,… Read more »
Christina
Christina
7 years 8 months ago

I’m all for buying generic stuff, but don’t EVER compare generic Cheerios to real Cheerios. I buy generic Raisin Bran and Rice Krispies, but generic Cheerios suck. I’ll spend the $5 a box for the real thing. Actually, no I won’t. I just won’t buy them at all.

sola
sola
7 years 8 months ago
A great tip for those of you that are suckers for good marketing campaigns. My “other half” is one of those suckers, and develops a hankering for whatever he sees on a commercial… I have been utilizing this technique for years, but a good reminder is important. In addition to buying generic foods & vitamins, ever thought about buying generic toiletries, like tampons or shave gel?? Sounds tough to some, but i’ve found there is little or no difference, and the amount saved makes up for the difference. In terms of clothing, I think i dress quite well, but I… Read more »
Meri
Meri
7 years 8 months ago
My husband is way into Kraft Singles – I think they are a total rip-off – VERy expensive for fake cheese with less nutrition than real cheese – my kids like cheddar! Anyway, because they are fake,they last forever, adn the DO go on sale – instead of $649 (!!!) for 20 singles, you can find them once a month in my supermarket at 2 for $5. SO I keep an eye out for that and then I stock up. We live in NYC, so if the big one hitsx, those things will keep unrefrigerated for months, I figure. Another… Read more »
Kristoffer
Kristoffer
7 years 5 months ago

I switched to generics and my kids of course hated almost everything I bought – mainly cereals, ice creams, cookies, crackers, etc. I ended up buying the name brand one more time and saved the box/container. Then I got the generic brand again and re-filled the name brand box with the generic. Sounds like a hassle but I wanted to prove a point to myself and them. Not one of them complained or made comments about it not tasting the same when they were eating the generic brand item out of the name brand box.

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[…] 17: Buy generics when it doesn’t matter, name-brand when it does. Preaching to the choir here, Ramit, buddy. I used store-brand organic peanut butter to make my […]

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[…] me, Ramit undermines his own “anti-frugal” position when he gives suggestions such as Buy Generic For Stuff You Don’t Care About and Turn Your Thermostat Down 3 Degrees. Both great suggestions and both great examples of being […]

Nick
Nick
1 year 2 months ago
My dad used to work as an executive for a supermarket chain. It was always very convenient because he could tell me which products were exactly the same as the name brand (i.e. Made by the name brand, with a different label slapped on at the last second for a dollar less.) it was a decent amount of products. There’s some things I won’t get the store brand for, soda being the main one. Then there’s other things where the store brand is just as good. And then there are things where the store brand is better — what is… Read more »
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[…] that I am not necessarily talking about generic food brands. There are many other types of products where buying generic can be cost effective while maintaining quality. One of the categories where buying generic can […]

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