Effective advertising (or inherited preferences) can sometimes convince consumers that a product from a particular brand is better than the same product made by any other brand. This can be true for things that are made with proprietary formulas, flavors, and manufacturing techniques, but there are times when going generic is just as good.
1. OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDICATION
Drugs that have worn out the 20-year patent granted by the FDA become fair game to other companies looking to create generic versions. This means that, despite differences in appearance (packaging, size, shape, color, etc.), the FDA requires the brand name and generic versions of the same drug to share the same active ingredients, dosage, and usage directions (oral vs topical, for instance). The inactive ingredients may be different, but they don’t affect the medication’s effectiveness.
A head of lettuce with a brand’s logo on it is not inherently better than the lesser-known lettuce three feet away that is 50 cents cheaper. Brands that don’t own their farms pay other farmers for their crops, and while different farms may have different methods for growing and harvesting food, a flashier name doesn’t guarantee you a better product.
3. LATEX CONDOMS
Just like drugs, condoms are tested and regulated by the FDA. So whether you’re getting them for free through your local health department or shelling out a few bucks for each one, their contraceptive effectiveness is the same.
4. PURIFIED WATER
The prices and packaging may be different, and one may use terms that make it sound healthier or more natural, but purified water is the same across the board (keep in mind that mineral or distilled waters are different). Generic or store-brand bottled water will hydrate you just as well.
5. TABLE SALT
Feel free to comparison shop when buying table salt. All table salt is made by adding iodine (which helps maintain a healthy thyroid) and anti-clumping agents to highly processed sodium chloride; so unless you opt for sea salt or flavored varieties, all brands of salt will taste the same and have roughly the same nutritional value.
Like over the counter medication, staple food products like sugar, flour, and pepper are regulated by the FDA.
With milk, you’re often paying for the brand and the distance that the milk had to travel to get to you, not the cow it came from. Just because a brand is local and generic, that does not mean that it was sourced from inferior cows (just keep an eye out for terms like “organic” or “raw,” which denote different types of milk).
8. ELECTRONIC CABLES
Paying more money for audio/video cables does not ensure better sound or video quality. With things like HDMI cables, there are specifications that have to be met before a company can sell them, so going for the cheaper option is not a bad idea.
However, the same does not hold true for phone chargers. While it might be tempting to save a few bucks by going generic, tests have shown that name-brand phone chargers are largely superior in terms of quality, safety, and craftsmanship. (You don’t want to risk harming your expensive device to save just $20 to $30.)
The two factors to consider when buying sunscreen are its SPF rating and whether or not it provides both UVA and UVB protection (usually called “broad spectrum” on the tube). Cover those bases and you can ignore the other stuff. The one caveat is for people with sensitive skin or special skin considerations—they should consult a dermatologist before picking a sunscreen.
10. CERTAIN BEAUTY SUPPLIES
Chances are you probably don’t know the company that makes your comb, tweezers, nail clippers, or shower sponge, and that’s not a bad thing. Staple products like these are all made to be cheap, uniform, and easily replaceable.
Despite claims on the packages, expensive batteries do not always outlast their cheaper generic aisle mates. While alkaline batteries have longer lifespans than non-alkaline batteries, studies have shown no discernable difference between generic and name-brand alkaline batteries.