What I Will and Will Not Buy Generic (Image by Flickr user zacklur)

For most intents and purposes, saving a dollar is almost as good as earning an extra dollar. The dollar that you save can then be put toward buying something else or saving up for a larger goal. However, there are some instances where saving that dollar isn’t really worth it. For example, if you have to spend five dollars in gas, driving all the way across town, just to save a dollar, that’s probably not worth your while. Similarly, I find that some generic products aren’t worth their savings either.

Don’t get me wrong. The “store brand” for many items is just as good as the name brand and the generic version usually costs a fair bit less. On the flip side, many “store brand” items are also of lesser quality than their name brand counterparts and that’s where you’re really paying for your perceived savings. Remember that there really is no such thing as disposable income; it’s all discretionary and it’s up to you how you want to spend it. So, what do I buy generic and what must I have in its name brand incarnation?

Cotton Swabs: Name Brand

It sounds silly, really, that I am bent on buying the Q-Tips brand of cotton swabs. They’re such simple (yet very useful) contraptions, but not all cotton swabs are made alike. As I mentioned in a post last year, you have to cut back on the right expenses and cutting back on cotton swabs doesn’t seem worth it to me.

In my experience, it is very possible to buy a fairly sizable pack of generic cotton swabs from the dollar store, but the “stick” portion is often far too flimsy and they usually skimp on amount of cotton at the tips. These two shortcomings fundamentally eliminate the usefulness of the swabs. That’s why I generally stick with Q-Tips.

Ibuprofen: Generic Brand

This is generally true of all over-the-counter medication that I purchase, from ibuprofen to cough syrup. If I’ve got a headache, I don’t care if it’s “Life Brand” ibuprofen or it’s Advil; so long as it gets rid of that throbbing stake through the center of my brain, I’ll take it. The generic versions are generally made up of the same ingredients and are just as effective. The kicker is that they can be so much cheaper than their “big pharm” alternatives.

Televisions and Tech: Name Brand

There’s a reason why that Sharp Aquos costs more than the Dynex on special at Best Buy. Granted, you are likely getting a lot more bang for your buck with the “store brand” model, but you are sacrificing picture quality, build quality, reliability, and other important features when it comes to televisions and other kinds of technology. Seeing how I review a variety of gadgets and tech as part of my freelance writing career, I think it’s fair to say that I know a thing or two about what to buy (and what not to buy).

That said, I try not to be loyal to any one brand, judging individual models on their individual merits. I won’t buy a Sony TV just because it happens to be a Sony. If I happen to find a better Samsung, I might take that route instead. The key is sticking to the upper tier brands that you can trust (and the brands that have a history of offering high quality products). The same idea generally applies to video game accessories too, though there are some third parties that are pretty good.

Soda and Beverages: Generic

This comes with a bit of a caveat, but it generally holds true. While I definitely prefer Coca-Cola over Pepsi, I’m not completely bent on one brand or the other. In fact, more often than not, I end up buying the store brand of whatever pop (soda) that I feel like buying, whether it’s at Superstore, Walmart, or Safeway. There are some generic brand sodas that really aren’t as good as the “real” brands, but several are “good enough” to serve their purpose.

This holds true for certain other beverages too, like juices and bottled water. Again, I will admit that certain name brands definitely taste better, but I’m not so picky about most of these inexpensive beverages as to care too much about the difference. This doesn’t quite apply in the same way to alcoholic beverages, but that’s a completely different conversation.

What About You? What Do You Buy Generic? Name Brand?

I’m curious to hear your take on this topic, Beyond the Rhetoric readers. When you go to the grocery store (or any other store, for that matter), what sort of shopping habits do you have? What products must you have the name brand version of what products will you gladly accept the savings of the generic alternative? Clothing? Gasoline? Watches? Ice cream?