How to Save Money by Avoiding Name Brands

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photo by basykes

I have been noticing that there is quite a divide between what personal finance bloggers write about and what people actually do.  Sure, you might think, that would save me money, but who wants to deal with that hassle?  Below is such an example:

Personal Finance blogger: “Don’t buy name brands.  Buy store brands”.

The informed public: “But, the generic brand just doesn’t taste the same”.

Me:  “Well, that may or may not be true”.

We have been conditioned (through advertising) to trust products.  Do you remember the story back in 2005 of the woman who claimed she found a finger in her chili (she actually planted it)?  Wendy’s said that stunt cost the company 2.5 million dollars in lost business in the Bay area alone.  Why?  Consumers lost trust in the Wendy’s brand.

For this reason companies pay a lot on advertising – they want us to believe their quality is superior.  Perhaps it is, and perhaps it is not.  In fact, it doesn’t matter if it is or not.  It only matters if you perceive it to be better.  Often we have formed preconceived notions about generic brands that remove our ability to be objective.  The solution is blind testing.

What is blind testing?

When a drug is going through the FDA testing process is must pass a testing period.  An individual is given either a legitimate medicine or a similar non-drug substitute.  Researches test to see if the medicine is actually doing something.  First, it is interesting that people can think they are better because they think the medicine is helping. Then there is also double blind testing.  In these tests neither the doctor nor the patient knows which pill is real and which is a substitute.  The double blind test is necessary so the doctor does not influence a patient’s reaction.

How does this relate to personal finance?

  1. When we shop we are influenced by our expectations and perceptions.
  2. The only way to get an honest answer is by a blind test.
  3. Blind testing is the only legitimate way to know if a brand name is really better than a cheaper store brand.

How to set up your own blind taste testing:

  1. At your next trip to the grocery store, pick up your regular name brand products and some generic brands.  During your cooking and serving for that next week serve some generic brand items and gauge the family reaction.  Remember, don’t tell them, “Hey guys, I’m trying something different, let me know if you can taste a difference.”  You know why?  Because they will taste a difference.
  2. After you have done some of these above trials, then sit your family down and do a blind taste test one evening.  In a different room from where the product was opened offer one generic product and one name brand product.  Then ask the family if they can tell the difference. Not only would this be a lot of fun, but it will also be insightful as you will discover which generic brands your family cannot differentiate from the name brand.  Also, you will know which generic brands definitely taste different from the brand name.

My blind taste testing experience:

My wife poured a glass of Dr. Pepper and a glass of Dr. K. (Kroger generic brand).  Guess what?  I could tell a difference, but I had no idea which was better.  Honestly, I wouldn’t know it if someone switched the drinks without my knowledge.  The more products like that I can discover, the more my family can save on groceries.

Have any of you ever tried a blind taste test?  What products can you really tell a difference between with name brand and generic brands?  Do you have a favorite store brand?


  1. Laurie C says

    I can’t say this works for every brand. I do buy a lot of things that are store brand, but I also look at unit prices, how much you get in a box based on the price, and how much the stuff weighs. Sometimes buying store brand only LOOKS cheaper. Sometimes buying the name brand is cheaper because you’ll spend a few cents more, but you’ll get one or two more bars the than store brand has.

    This is my only pet peeve with blindly buying store brand. Look at the unit price before you make your decision. It will take longer, but I’ve found I save money when I do that.

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