Editorâs note:Â This post was originally published in February 2020.
Whatâs in a name? A lot actually.
We often default to certain brands when shopping simply because of the name on the package â and the reputation that comes along with it, thanks to clever advertising.
We buy Bounty paper towels because theyâre the âquicker picker-upperâ and Frosted Flakes because âtheyâre gr-r-reat.â
But on the shelves next to those items you can often find a comparable store-brand version that costs less â sometimes significantly less. We often refer to these as generic products. Sometimes these rival versions are even made in the same manufacturing facilities and have little to no noticeable differences.
Ultimately, the decision to buy a store-brand product or your favorite name brand is a subjective one. Thereâs trial and error involved, and in some cases you might land right back on the premium paper towels because you find that they really do pick more up, and quicker.
But before your next shopping trip, itâs worth considering how much money you could save if you take a few name brand items off your list.
I visited two stores â Publix (a southeastern grocery store chain) and Walmart â to do a little price comparison.
(Note: Prices were sourced on Feb. 19, 2020 at stores located in St. Petersburg, Florida. Sales tax was not factored into this example.)
|Product||Store Brand at Publix||Name Brand at Publix||Store Brand at Walmart||Name Brand at Walmart|
|Jif peanut butter||$2.39||$2.72||$1.58||$2.22|
|Kraft cheddar cheese||$3.85||$4.19||$2.08||$2.38|
|Diet Coke, 2-liter||$0.75||$2.19||$0.68||$1.74|
|Dove body wash||$3.99||$6.81||$3.47||$5.58|
|Adult extra-strength Tylenol||$6.99||$10.29||$1.98||$9.47|
A shopper at Publix would save $12.72 or about 35% by buying the store-brand version of these eight items over their name-brand alternatives. A shopper at Walmart would save $13.10 or nearly 45%.
Consider that I only used eight items in this example. Whenâs the last time you went to the grocery store and walked away with just eight things?
The greater the grocery haul, the greater the savings by choosing the cheaper alternative. And since you likely go shopping more than once a month, you could see a significant difference in your monthly budget by swapping out name-brand items.
Since store-brand merchandise costs less money than name-brand counterparts, a common perception is that theyâre of lesser quality.
But thatâs not always true.
One reason name-brand items are more expensive is because it costs money to market those products to the public. Consumers pay the price for those commercial jingles that stick in their heads.
Most store-brand products are made to closely compare to their name-brand products. If you check the ingredients, sometimes youâll find theyâre made of the exact same stuff â though the recipes may differ slightly. What the decision really comes down to is preference.
We asked The Penny Hoarder community members about buying store-brand items over name brand. Respondents said they often choose store-brand products to save money but still have name-brand preferences when it comes to certain items, despite any cost savings.
âI will use generic for anything but my hair products,â said community member KellyFromKeene.âOtherwise, [with] food, clothes [and] household supplies, I will get the generic if the ingredients are the same.â
Community member Jobelle Collie said sheâs partial to Dove bar soap, Olay moisturizer and Palmolive green dishwashing liquid but buys generic trash bags, office supplies and kitchen staples like salt, pepper and sugar.
Sometimes going with the store brand is a matter of trial and error.
âI definitely try to choose store brand, at least initially. Sometimes, I can tell the difference,â said community member Sthom. âFor example, I tried my storeâs brand of filters for my Brita: I could tell the difference immediately, so I switched back. That happens sometimes.
âRecently, I tried my storeâs brand of peanut butter,â Sthom continued. âIâm partial to smooth [Jif] but the storeâs organic smooth brand was less than $2.00 â around $1.18, unbelievably â and was just as good if not better.â
When deciding between store brand and name brand, keep these things in mind:
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.