Buying Generics & Store Brands: Is There a Difference?

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One of the simplest money saving tips is to buy the generic or store brand version. From prescriptions to toilet paper or food, the generic version tends to be cheaper and can save you money in the long run. Yet, there’s two schools of though on generic brands.

The first is that these generics are cheap because they’re made cheap and don’t work as well or taste good or whatever. The other point of view is that it’s all the same and you’re only getting charged more for the name brand. Which of these opinions do I follow? Well, a combination of both.

First of all, I don’t automatically buy the store brand assuming that it’s the cheapest. When I shop, I consider all the prices, any coupons or deals, and the ultimate price per ounce or count, and then base my decision upon that. So for things like tin foil, dish soap, or dry pasta, we look for the cheapest option.

Now, there are certain things that I am brand loyal to, and these are usually health related. For example, since I have eczema I have to use hypoallergenic laundry detergent (All) and soaps (Dove). There are also certain brands we just don’t like (usually this is related to food, either being unhealthy or not very tasty). Beyond that, I tend to be open minded about most things.

I will say this: sometimes there is a noticeable difference between the named brand and the generic version of certain things. Sometimes it doesn’t matter but sometimes it does.

Here’s a recent example. I’ve been on this new crusade to use up random things we have around the house. The boyfriend accidentally bought some conditioner (he only uses shampoo) which has been sitting under our sink for over a year. Since I’m the only one in the house who uses conditioner I figured I’d just use it up.

So what we have is Garnier Fructis and Shique Essential Fruits (this is the Aldi brand from before they redesigned and re branded their products). They look almost exactly the same. The name brand is a “Fortifying Cream Conditioner” and the store brand is only a “Fortifying Conditioner” boasting an “Active Fruit Concentrate” while Garnier has “reinforced active fruit concentrate” plus some vitamins. They’re both labeled for “normal hair.” I check the ingredients, the first 17 on both are exactly the same, but the name brand has 22 ingredients and the generic only has 20.

I started out using the Shique. I have thick, frizzy, wavy hair that’s pretty dry so I usually use moisturizing shampoo and conditioner. I noticed after a week of the Shique that my hair was really dry, frizzier than normal, had a hard time holding curl, and seemed to get tangled a lot more. I chalked this up to the fact that the conditioner is for “normal hair.”

After awhile, I got sick of the Shique and decided to try out the Garnier. Immediately I noticed a difference. Obviously it still wasn’t as effective as moisturizing conditioner, but my hair was less dry and easier to manage. Even the conditioner itself just looked better and felt creamier.

In this case, the named brand is definitely better and I will never buy the Shique again. This hasn’t turned me off all generics. I’ll still buy the store brand saran wrap and hand soap. Sometimes the savings are worth it and sometimes you just have to wait for a sale on the name brand and stock up.

Have any generics you love or a brand you can’t live without? Let me know in the comments.