To this day, my mom insists ALDI round crackers taste exactly the same as Ritz.
I vehemently disagree.
But on some things, my mom is totally right. She taught my sister and I to analyze generic vs non generic and respect generic brands as part of our thrifty upbringing. Open up our cabinets today and you will still find them stocked full of Walmart brands Equate and Great Value.
Did you know? When you compare generic vs non generic brands …
- Generic brands cost 20-25% less than their brand name competitors (unless, of course, you're into extreme couponing!).
- Generic brands boast similar ingredients leading to similar (if not the same!) quality and value.
So I'll happily buy generic versions of milk, sugar, and produce, etc.
But do NOT try to convince me a crème-filled chocolate sandwich cookie tastes the same as an Oreo! Cheaper does not always mean the same quality.
These seven items are proof.
Generic vs. Non Generic
1. Running / Hiking Shoes
When I first started running and hiking, I wore Walmart sneakers.
Without the proper support, my ankles wobbled all over the place. And when I almost fell multiple times on our Grand Canyon hike (the tiny rocks are very slippery on the way down!), I decided to pay more for better footwear.
Here's what I bought:
- Brooks running shoes (I recommend getting fitted at a local running store. They usually do it for free!)
- Merrell Moab 2 hiking shoes
My feet have never been so happy. I'm thrilled with how well they are holding up after miles and miles of rough terrain!
Durability matters, which leads me to my next point …
2. Paper Products
I get SO frustrated when I open up a zip top bag only to have it split down the sides. Or use a napkin that practically disintegrates when food touches it. Or even worse, wrestle with plastic wrap that won't cut where it's supposed to.
Because paper products are one-use items, it's hard to spend more money on them. They'll just end up in the garbage anyway! But the more frustrated I get with how they fail in their one job, the more I'm willing to spend money for the right stuff.
I refuse to buy anything that is not:
- Bounty paper towels
- Actual Saran wrap
- Cottonelle toilet paper
- Vanityfair napkins
- Puff's tissues (with lotion!)
And maybe that makes me sound like a snob, but I don't care! The struggle is real. Especially when it comes to paper products … and jeans!
As I've gotten older, I've really come to appreciate well-fitting jeans! I have a long list of requirements for the perfect jean.
They need to be:
- Soft and stretchy
- Form-fitting, but not too tight
- Loose enough in the waist so they don't dig into my stomach when I sit down
- Available in a variety of washes and shades
The Lauren Conrad Super Skinny Jeans check everything on this list. I sure hope they don't discontinue this brand, because I'm a convert for life!
4. Fitness Trackers
Want to hear a funny story?
My sister and I planned to give my mom a FitBit for Christmas, but she didn't want us to spend that much money. (Remember my mom's belief in generic vs non generic brands? I come by the frugal bug naturally!)
Thinking she could save us some money, my mom bought an off-brand one. And guess what? One week later, this Fitbit knock-off didn't track or sync properly. She returned it and let us buy her a legit Fitbit, right?
Nope. She bought another off-brand tracker!
When that one didn't work either (I think it lasted a couple more weeks than the first), she finally relented. That was a year and a half ago, and her Fitbit is still going strong.
Need I say more?
Psst… Garmin is an excellent brand as well.
Time to get personal!
Every time my friends grumble about replacing their bras every six months to a year, I want to say, “You don't have to. Just buy a higher quality bra!”
I've always bought Victoria's Secret bras. I also own a Third Love bra that is in excellent shape three years later.
Bras from Walmart or Target would give me 6 months wearability tops … and while I was wearing them, they were wearing out … not to mention falling apart at the seams (literally).
Recently, I tried a few other bra brands at Kohl's, Ross, and T.J. Maxx to see if the quality had changed. Nope! I could tell right away the lack of quality by the way the wires dug into my skin. I also didn't feel any support.
Think of it this way: you could spend $45 on a bra that lasts three years (total cost: $45 every three years) OR $15 on one that last six months (total cost: $90 every three years). In other words, the cheaper bras cost more than if you had purchased a quality bra in the first place.
FYI: Your bras won't stay in great shape if you just throw them in the wash….they will stretch out and you will wonder why you ever paid extra for them. I never hand-wash mine (too much work!) and instead use a mesh lingerie bag to protect the structure.
Now let's talk about something less personal but just as important to we women: what we put on our face!
There are many well-made drug store makeup brands that cause people to second-guess paying for higher end ones.
But there are also a few expensive products that work so much better than a cheaper alternative! Sometimes generic vs non generic matters, friends!
I'm a huge fan of:
- Urban Decay Naked Foundation ($40)
- KatVonDee Studded Creme Lipstick ($20)
- The Anastasia Soft Glam Eye Palette ($42)
- Benefit BADgal Bang Mascara ($25)
These brands last a whole lot longer, don't clump or smear, and blend beautifully into my skin.
I'm always on the lookout for cheaper options (the nerd in me even has a makeup “database” in Notion where I list the products I try and what I think!), but I also won't hesitate to pay more for the results I want.
Related: Curious about what other beauty products I splurge on? They're listed in this post.
7. Select Food Items
Like I mentioned in the beginning, this whole generic vs non generic discussion started with food. So what do I purchase in addition to Ritz Crackers and Oreos?
- Hershey's Baking Cocoa (it offers a richness like none else!)
- Nestle Chocolate Chips
- Ghirardelli Brownie Mixes
- Heinz Tomato Ketchup
- JIF Peanut Butter (Peter Pan is a runner-up)
- Log Cabin Syrup
Just to name a few!
Bottom line: If you bought everything generic, of course you would save a ton of money.
But would you be happy with the value? Or would you replace those items a few months down the road because they fell apart? Or would you force yourself to endure the taste of a generic brand that cannot compare to the original?
Sometimes, we feel like we have to suffer through using items that are cheap, but when you invest in high quality items that last (sometimes just because!), then you're putting a lot more thought into every purchase. You might even spend less over the long haul.
I want you to save on the things that don't matter so you can spend your hard-earned money on the things that do.
Everyone will have different opinions as to what products they deem worth more of their paycheck. Don't discount generic products, but make sure you're 100% happy with what you buy.
What brand name items do you love?
Tell me in the comments what quality products trump price for you!
Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.