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11 Items You Should Buy Generic

Sometimes it’s worth paying a higher price for a name-brand product. Maybe you like the taste of a particular food or you want a certain brand of baby diapers—we totally get that.

But what about those items you hardly think about, like trash bags or flour? You could save some serious money by buying generic items. Turns out 41% of American shoppers choose generic foods over brand-name foods.1 Plus, that extra money can make a big impact on your budget.

Sound too good to be true? It’s not, and here are 11 ways we can prove it to you. Next time you go shopping, look for the generic versions of the following items.

11 Things to Buy Generic

1. Paper Products.

Have a great cookout recipe you want to try? Or maybe you’re taking birthday treats to share with your coworkers? Snacks for a holiday party?

Those are the times for paper plates and plastic cutlery. It’s also the right time to save money by buying the generic versions. You spend your time enjoying the meal, not thinking about the napkin you clean up with. Remember, it all ends up in the trash can anyway, right?

2. Medication.

The FDA requires generic medicines to use the same ingredients and go through the same tests as name-brand meds. They’re just as safe and effective. In fact, 9 out of 10 prescriptions in the United States are filled with generic drugs.2 Use generics to get rid of that headache and save money. That gives you two reasons to feel better.

3. Cleaning products.

You don’t need a bald guy with a pierced ear or some scrub bubbles to clean your house effectively. Just like medication, the same ingredients can be found in name-brand and generic floor cleaners, dishwashing soaps and detergents. There may be some slight differences, but not much—certainly nothing that warrants spending a lot more.

4. Trash bags.

Commercials talk about how trash bags need to be Hulk-strong so they can handle heavy loads. What are you throwing away, a pile of bricks? Buy the generic brand and empty your trash before it overflows. That way you’ll throw out only junk, not your money.

5. Condiments.

Mustard, ketchup and other condiments are perfectly fine to buy generic. And what cookout would be complete without them? So if your cheeseburger in paradise always comes with Heinz, try a blind taste test with store-brand ketchup.

11 things to buy generic6. Pantry staples.

Meal planning essentials like flour, sugar and salt should be reliable pantry items. But no one will notice if you save money on groceries by preparing your meals using generic brands. Have you ever met anyone who took a bite of your home-cooked dinner and said, “Wait a minute—you didn’t use Morton’s salt!” Yeah, neither have we.

7. Toppings.

Who doesn’t love an ice cream sundae with all sorts of sweet toppings? You’ll love it just as much with generic chocolate syrup on it. Don’t forget the non-name-brand whipped cream and chopped nuts!

8. Pet food.

We all love our pets. We play with them, talk to them, and occasionally put sweaters on them. A loved pet has a good life, so you certainly aren’t a bad owner if you don’t feed them the most expensive food on the shelf. Ask your vet if there’s a generic brand that that has the same nutritional value as some of the pricier options. They can tell you what works best for Fido that fits within your budget.

9. Shampoo.

The way commercials talk to you, you’d think washing with anything less than designer shampoo will leave you looking like you belong in a 1980s rock video on MTV. That’s bogus, dude! You can absolutely find off-brand shampoo that works just as well as the expensive stuff. Just make sure you read the list of ingredients on the label. Otherwise, you could be buying shampoo that's 90% water!

10. Storage bins.

If you’re moving to a new house or have some books or clothes to put in the garage, buy plastic storage bins that aren’t name brand. It’s a lot better to put that extra money toward your money goals than to spend it on something that just sits around.

11. Makeup and personal care.

The truth is, some generic personal care products, like contact lens solutions, cosmetics and skin care products, often have the exact same chemical parts as their branded twin. It’s okay to be a little picky about some of the things you put on your face (if it’s in the budget) and it's true that some products, like antiaging creams, are patented.


Start budgeting with EveryDollar today!

But read those labels! Often the store-brand versions are such close copies that it's not worth paying extra for a fancy brand label.

Do Your Budget a Favor

Once you’ve joined the growing “buy generic” trend, don’t forget to budget! Put that extra money you free up every month to work. The best way to do that? With our free budgeting app, EveryDollar. EveryDollar makes it super easy to make a plan for the money you save by buying generic items.

Buy generic. Make a budget. Save some money!

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Ramsey Solutions

About the author


Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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