Stop Paying Extra for the Brand?

When was the last time you purchased a particular cosmetic or brand of over the counter drug just because of the name brand? Is your favorite brand of coffee-based solely on taste and quality or is it more based on appeal and popularity? We are a culture that is much too obsessed with appearance, and way too easy to brainwash with advertising. You don't have to go far to see this trait - probably not much farther than your own spending. My dad, for instance, flat out refuses to take generic equivalents. Consider these following categories and whether you might be paying for the name rather than the product.

Over-the-Counter Drugs

Let’s start with my dad’s stubborn refusal of generics. Generic drugs often carry the stigma of being somehow more diluted or not as effective as name-brand drugs. My dad agrees that yes, the active ingredients are the same in name brand and generic drugs, but the inactive ingredients being different is proof that they are different when it comes to how your body will react with the medicine. Yet, considering that most generics have essentially the same list and percentages of active ingredients as name brands, there's no actual proof that's true. And there shouldn't be, because all generics have to be approved by the Food & Drug Administration for safety and potency just as name brands do.

Drug companies are making a fortune with name-brand drugs considering that the pills are marked up over 1,000 percent. If you think about it, even generic drug companies are making a fortune, so imagine the profits name-brand drug companies are making off of you. All you are doing when you pay full price for name-brand drugs is to help them advertise even more so you'll keep buying the name brand and overlook the equally effective but under-advertised generic.

The next time you're at the store and reach for the Advil or Tylenol, take a second to compare them to their generic equivalent. Test them out and see if there's any difference in their effectiveness. In fact, have someone close to you give the pills to you without you knowing whether they were generic or name brand. If you end up just as happy with the generics, then you can sometimes save $3-4 per purchase. If, on the other hand, you have good reasons for brand loyalty, look for coupons and sales ads and stock up when you can get a good deal.

Prescription Drugs

The same applies to prescription drugs and stuff like antibiotics. Doctors will often prescribe a name brand antibiotic to you out of habit. The only problem is that this means you get to pay really high prices. The next time your doctor wants to prescribe a name-brand drug, ask if you can get generic. In most situations, your doctor will have no problem with it. Considering that many pharmacies only charge $4-$5 for certain generic drugs, you could be saving several hundred dollars, especially if your insurance doesn't cover prescriptions.


Cosmetic companies hire celebrities and models to advertise their products because they know we'll be more likely to buy them. That's why we can get suckered into buying a tiny container of basic clay (dirt), wax, dye, and perfume for double-digit prices. Brand loyalty is easy to fall into, and sometimes we have legitimate reasons for liking particular brands. But be careful how far your brand loyalty goes. If you're willing to try out cheaper brands in order to find items you likely just as well as their expensive counterparts, you could be saving hundreds of dollars a year just on your cosmetics.

Groceries and Consumables

This is a large category. Food companies feature large markups on their products, and not necessarily because their product is any better. In consumer surveys, the majority of generic brand foods and household products taste just as good and work just as well as name brands. It's okay to be a name brand snob as long as it's for a good reason - know why you're buying what you buy. You may just prefer a name brand product's smell, texture, or aftertaste, and that's fine. Try to buy more expensive brands you enjoy but don't need as a special treat when they're on sale and use coupons to save even more. Milk, for instance, is always cheaper if you go with the store brand. Pasta is another area that we always buy generic. They often taste similar enough, but the name brands could sometimes be as much as twice as expensive when you factor in sales and whatnot. Sometimes using sales ads and coupons can allow you to buy name brands for the same price as you would the generic, so just pick whichever one is cheaper.

Electronic Accessories

Cables, batteries, even power stripes are all made from generic companies at a fraction of the costs. Sometimes, you can see that the generic brands run slightly less efficient than the name brands. For example, name-brand batteries sometimes last longer than generic ones. However, for those who don’t mind changing a few batteries every once in a while, a bundle can still be saved. That’s because the cost of one name brand battery can cost as much as six generic batteries but only lasts twice as long.

Cables and power stripes are basically the same. You can argue that the generic cables are made of lower quality and need more frequent replacement, but I rather have always new charging cables than a cable that doesn’t need replacing but looks worn and dirty because I could buy 10 generic cables for the price of one high-end name brand charging cable from the original manufacturer.

Bottom Line

Name brands can be better but only if you can tell the difference. I have friends that will pay astronomical prices for a Hermes handbag. They can tell me that each bag is handmade by the same technician and that the quality control is second to none. They can tell me the difference of one material to the next, and how they can check back to the actual technician who worked on the bag if they have an issue with it.

You can argue that it makes sense for those people to pay more for a handbag. But what if you can’t tell the difference at all?

Can you taste the difference between a name brand spaghetti versus a store brand? Does it make a difference whether you had generic ibuprofen or Advil?

If you can’t tell the difference, then why are you spending more money on a name brand?

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