Enter for a chance to win $5,000!

Skip to Main Content

10 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 sugar? You could save a hefty amount, possibly to 20–30%, by purchasing the generic version instead. You probably won’t even notice a difference in your daily routine. Plus, that extra money can make a big impact on your budget.

Sound too good to be true? It’s not, and here are 10 ways we can prove it to you. Next time you go shopping, look for the generic versions of these items.

10 Things to Buy Generic

1. Paper products. Having a cookout or taking birthday treats to share with your co-workers? That’s the time for paper plates and plastic cutlery. It’s also the 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?


Start budgeting with EveryDollar today!

2. Medication. The FDA requires generic medicines to use the same ingredients and go through the same tests as the name-brand meds. They are just as safe and effective. In fact, from 2005–2010, pharmacists went from prescribing generics 49% of the time to 71%. 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. 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. In a 2009 Consumer Reports study, 29 brand-name foods went up against their generic counterparts. Of the 29 pairings, 19 generic items scored “equally good” in the blind taste test. Even better, store brands cost an average of 27% less than big-name brands. If your cheeseburger in paradise always comes with Heinz 57, try a blind taste test with store-brand ketchup.

6. Pantry staples. Everyone needs things like flour, sugar and salt in the kitchen. But no one will notice if you prepare your meals using generic brands. In fact, even chefs at restaurants believe in generics. A 2014 study found that chefs were much more likely than non-chefs to buy generic! Also, 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.

Related: 5 Steps to a Grocery Budget That's Right for You

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 (or any other flavor) 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! Generic shampoo cleans your hair fine without cleaning out your bank account.

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 spend it on something that just sits around.

Don’t be surprised if making the switch to generic brands frees up $50 or $100 each month. You may not notice the difference in buying generic, but your budget will!

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

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.

Related Articles

Get a FREE Customized Plan for Your Money!

Get a FREE Customized Plan for Your Money! 

Answer a few questions, and we'll create a plan tailored just for you. It only takes three minutes!
Take the Assessment

Get a FREE Customized Plan for Your Money! 

Answer a few questions, and we'll create a plan tailored just for you. It only takes three minutes!
Take the Free Assessment