My Guide to Buying Store or Off Brands vs. Name Brands

Yesterday, I gave you my opinion on vacuums so I thought I might as well keep the excitement going and give you my thoughts on Brand Name Products versus Store or Off Brands.

I speak from much experience. I shop at the Walmart just about every week.

There are four people in this house plus two dogs so we go through a lot of stuff. We also clip coupons though we are not coupon crazy people with huge binders that buy five to ten papers a week. I have a life and I am already flying through middle age too fast to waste time doing all of that.

Things You Should NEVER Buy Store or Off Brands Of:
  • Window cleaners – you might as well just throw some blue food dye in water and use that because it would probably work just as well
  • Just about any other cleaning supply – I’ve never had an off brand cleaner work as good as a store brand. They are ALL watered down.
  • Anything dental – toothpaste, mouthwash, you name it. Don’t do it. Walmart was out of Johnson & Johnson Reach Floss a few weeks back so I bought the store brand – Equate. It was like flossing with fishing line. It was way too thin and slippery and only 10 cents less. (Actually, I think that Walmart purposely runs out of name brands at times to see if we will try the store brand.) Well, these are your teeth, for goodness sake, and you shouldn’t skimp on them because they don’t grow back!
  • Coca-Cola – Store brand Coca-Cola just tastes flat. Yuck.
  • Batteries – Any cheap battery is a cheap battery. Have fun changing them out 3 times faster than Energizer. Was it worth the $1.50 you saved?
  • Q-Tips – Oh, crap – I bought the store brand of Q-Tips once and it was like sticking a piece of fuzz glued onto a toothpick in my ear. I was afraid it was going to break and pierce my eardrum and then my brain.
  • Dog Food – Your dog should bite you if you’re buying that crap.
  • Cat Food – Your cat probably already claws you randomly and you didn’t know why. Now you do.
  • Bandages – Store brand and off brand Band Aids don’t stick right. If they even see water, they peel off. Also, they feel like they were made out of the same material the seats in my ‘82 VW Rabbit were made of. It’s hard to heal when I’m scratching at an itchy bandage all day. What really stinks is that the generic ones are in first aid kits in every warehouse in America. Thank goodness that there is nothing that can injure you in any of those places.
  • Electronics (except for TV’s) – There are still crappy Chinese brands out there. Just remember, what ever you plug in might burn down the house. Whatever has batteries in it might overheat one day and burn down the house. Brands like Coby and Memorex (it’s not the Memorex you remember from when you were a kid) are notorious for only lasting as long as the warranty is in effect and that is mostly 90 days.
  • Lamps – It’s hard to find a good lamp. It’s also hard to find a brand name lamp. As a rule of thumb, don’t go cheaper than $20 for a desk lamp and $40 for a floor lamp. Apply my electronics rule here about how you might burn down the house.
  • Cereal – you might as well just eat the box because the box probably tastes just as good and is made of the same material.
  • Toilet Paper – what are you, some kind of sadist? If you can sand wood with it, you probably don’t need it touching your unmentionables.
  • Greeting Cards – Regardless of what you think, people always turn over greeting cards and look at how much you spent on them.
Things You Can Get Away with Buying the Store Brand Of:
  • Diet Cola – It tastes so bad, you won’t notice either way
  • Orange Soda – OK, it burns a bit more because it has more carbonation but it’s also typically 69 cents for a two-liter vs. $1.29 for the good stuff. You’ll get fat either way, my friend. Might as well save money doing it.
  • Spaghetti / Pasta’s – I think all spaghetti (except for the natural stuff that I don’t buy anyway) comes from the same factory. They just slip it in a different box at the end of the line. Maybe the Great Value spaghetti is packed by cheaper, angrier, less-hygienic temps on third shift. You have to save money somewhere and their cooties will die off when you boil it.
  • Medicines – Tylenol has proven that being a major brand doesn’t come with a guarantee of anything even close to resembling quality control. The reason to pay more for the name just doesn’t apply in the medicine aisle anymore.
  • Shoes – applying the “don’t go cheaper than $25 a pair rule unless they are on clearance” rule, I’ve had good luck with off-brand shoes. Like spaghetti, they probably come from the same factory. They are just run on the third shift under dimmer lighting with slightly cheaper materials. However, dress shoes from discount stores typically suck.
  • Televisions – the same factory rule applies again. We have three Haier LCD tv’s and they are wonderful. They’ll probably catch on fire as soon as I post this but the pictures are just as good (maybe even better) than our living room Toshiba TV.
  • Wipes – these wipes are the companions to toilet paper. Equate Flushable Wipes are cheap and they get the job done. Hey, Mad Men – I’ve got a good motto for these wipes!       “They are #1 on #2!”
  • Trash Bags – Great Value 30 gallon Drawstring Garbage Bags are just as good as anything else you are buying specifically to throw in the trash. They probably won’t hold a body. I haven’t tried – yet. Sadly, garbage bags are so expensive now that you don’t save much money going with the store brand.
  • Kitchen odds & ends – spices, flour, sugar, coffee sweeteners, non-stick spray, etc. I can’t tell the difference. Neither can the lab rats they tested all this stuff on.
The Toss-Ups (Are you feeling lucky? These are items that I have had just about an equal number of winners and losers with)
  • Shampoo – I find that store brand shampoos eventually make my hair greasy. It’s not 1955 so that look is no longer in.
  • Frozen meals – such as breakfast dinners. I no longer eat them due to the sodium.
  • Bread – Store brand bread is fine. It just goes stale faster. I have no idea how. Maybe it knows it’s cheap.
I think that just about covers it all. Happy shopping!