Sunday, 4 November 2007

Do You Get What You Pay For?

I've been fascinated by generic or home brand items for some time now, but haven’t been buying them nearly enough. Coffee with my work colleagues last week sparked a lively discussion about buying generic items. Interestingly enough we all do, and are all quite proud of ourselves for doing it!

As the conversation went through what we would or wouldn't buy, we were debating whether or not the fact we’re in marketing means we’re able to see through the hoopla & branding and able to just buy what suits our needs. I think this is true, but I also feel that frugal is the new ‘black’, to borrow from the fashion vernacular.

Rising interest rates, high petrol prices, and ever increasing consumer debt means more and more people are looking for ways to cut back on expenses. Throw in climate change and living ‘green’ into the mainstream consciousness and we’re about to hit critical mass. Look at the proliferation of PF blogs out there for example (this one included!).

If the 80’s were all about ‘Greed Is Good’ then I think the second half of the ‘Noughties’ is shaping up to be all about ‘Frugal is Fab’ ;-)

As for my own story, before I started on my ‘debt diet’ I was aware of and used certain generic items, but I certainly didn't use them to stick to a budget or for anything remotely resembling frugality. I've always thought it was silly to buy name brand soda water for some reason; it’s just fizzy water after all.

To this day I think of chocolate biscuits as being a status symbol of sorts, as we never had them growing up, while my friends in the next street always did (my first ‘Jones’ perhaps?). I have a friend who feels the same way about frozen meat pies!

I still have a barrier with certain things at this point, such as shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes, make up and deodorant, but I’m at least cutting back to cheaper brands or keeping my eye out for specials.

The top 10 things I now almost always buy generic (unless the name brands are cheaper) are:

  • Milk
  • Sugar
  • Water Crackers
  • Paracetamol/Ibuprofen
  • Laundry Soaker
  • Washing Powder
  • Fabric Softener
  • Scourer Sponges
  • Plain/Chocolate Biscuits – strangely enough I don’t buy chocolate ones that often!
  • Soda/Mineral/Tonic Waters

I’ve tried all of these over the last few months and I genuinely don’t notice any difference, and in some cases they’re actually better than the brand name ones!

Something to watch out for though are ‘fancy’ store brands, they’re not always the cheapest option (yes, I’m looking at you Woolworths Select, taunting me with your delicious white chocolate and macadamia biscuits).

Louise at My Journey To Eliminate Debt has a great post about milk that relates to this, (I personally can’t stand powdered milk and refuse to drink it under any circumstances), but if it works for you and your family you can save a fortune!

Are you a ‘generic’ shopper? Are you like me where there’s a limit and certain things you would never buy generic? Or can you just not bring yourself to buy the stuff at all?


  1. we're both thinking generic today! I thik it's interesting what you say about frugal being 'in', I hadn't thought of it like that but there is a definite change in peoples attitudes in general.
    Powdered milk, an acquired taste!

  2. I know, spooky eh?

    Powdered milk is something I choose never to acquire a taste for, but I have full admiration for everyone that can!

  3. Two things :D 1) Saran wrap, because every experience I've ever had with generic plastic wrap, it got all tangled up or drove me nuts ripping in the wrong place, and 2) Shortening, because I find that generic tends to get melty and smelly long before Crisco. Otherwise ... I'll take cheap over Name Brand any day.

  4. Good ones Zara! I don't use shortening myself, but I'm SO with you on the Glad wrap!