Skip Brands and Save Big

From diapers to aspirin to macaroni, buying non-brand items can save you big-time bucks. You may have been convinced (by very effective advertising) that brand names are better than store brands/labels, but Billshark would like to try to convince you otherwise.

Of course, not all store (aka “off-label,” “private label,” and “generic”) brands are as good as name brands. Then again, not all name brands are equal, either. A lot depends on individual taste, as well as specific ingredients. Which is better, Jif or Skippy peanut butter? Heinz or Hunts ketchup? Kraft or Sargento cheeses? Sometimes it’s simply a matter of individual preference.

It’s worth experimenting with store brands, because the price difference can often be huge. One study from the Private Label manufacturers Association found that consumers can save an average of 33 percent off their usual grocery bill by buying store brands.

What about quality?

According to Forbes, even though store products are typically priced much lower than national brands, the store still makes a nice profit because there are little to no marketing or advertising costs involved. And, because stores want repeat customers for their brands, they invest heavily in creating quality products.

Consumer Reports (CR) did a taste test comparing store brands vs. name brands on 19 staple items and found that national and store brands tied on 10 items, name brands won eight times, and a store brand was preferred once.

They also surveyed 24,000 of their readers, 72 percent of whom said they’d bought store brands in the past month. Of those, 74 percent reported being “highly satisfied” with the quality of the store brands in their supermarket. When they were asked, “In general, do you think that store brands are usually better, the same as, or worse than national brands?” three percent said better, 78 percent said the same, and 18 percent said worse.

Worth a try

So besides supermarket items, what kinds of “off brand” items should you buy? It’s worth it to your wallet to try everything, from makeup to over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs to gasoline.

Here are some off-brand categories you might want to consider.


According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generic drugs are required to have the same active ingredient, strength, and dosage as the brand-name product. This is true for both prescription and OTC drugs. Any difference between the two might lie in the inactive filler ingredients, such as caffeine or beeswax, for example, but the FDA ensures they work the same as the name brand.


Many Hollywood makeup artists swear by Maybelline or Max Factor, but designer makeup has more cachet (largely due to advertising). So which is better? It can depend on the type of makeup. Experts generally put designer lipsticks and foundations ahead of store brands because of their pigmentation and wear, but the less-expensive mascaras, eye shadows, and eyeliners do as well as or even better than the pricey designer kind.


CBS reports that the price difference between nationally known brands and off-brand stations can be as much as 20 cents per gallon, or $170 annual savings for the average driver. And studies show that gas at both types of stations is essentially the same.

They added that one report showed off-brand stations often receive their delivery from the same tank trucks that deliver to the name brand stations, and that even name-brand stations can receive gasoline from a different name-brand refinery.


When it comes to batteries, the difference between off-label vs. name brand lies in how long they last vs. how much they cost. Wired did a study and found that Duracell and Energizer batteries last twice as long as those from a dollar store. But cost-wise, both the generics and the name brands cost about the same, and it all comes down to how often you want to bother changing batteries.

Paper products

This is the one category where you might be better off sticking with name brands. You can buy cheaper store-brand napkins, for instance, but they can often be thinner than the name brands. If you need to use two as opposed to a single brand-name napkin for the same purpose, you might not come out ahead in savings. The same holds true for paper towels, tissues, and toilet tissue.

Bottom line? We suggest you at least give store brands a try. You might find you like them as well as the name brand, and could save yourself hundreds of dollars a year. Compare cost per ounce, and consider returning the store brand if you don’t like it. Some retailers will even offer a guarantee to replace the name brand with theirs if you’re dissatisfied.

One way you can save big is to let Billshark review your bills for free. Our professional negotiators can help you find hundreds of dollars a year!

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