8 items you should always buy generic

You’ve probably had the common experience of being out shopping and suddenly having to decide between a brand name and a generic alternative. If you frequently find yourself reaching for the more expensive brand name variety because it’s familiar and you see it on TV commercials, then you will want to read up on when it’s OK (and maybe even better) to choose generic instead and save money. Here are eight times you should go for the generic option:

1. Snack foods

In this category, you can buy generic store brands that are very comparable in quality and ingredients; some even find that certain store brands taste better or are healthier. The only major difference will be a much lower price. Cereal is especially known for a wide variety of generic options that offer a nearly identical product for significantly less cost.

2. Cleaning products

You can find a generic version of just about every cleaning product, including detergents, floor cleaners and all-purpose sprays. The ingredients in these alternatives are just about the same as the brand name counterparts. If you have some time on your hands and want to save even more money, you likely already have a few items in your pantry — mainly baking soda and vinegar — that clean just about anything when combined with a little elbow grease.

3. Pantry staples

Speaking of pantry staples, the items you always have on hand for your baking, seasoning and household cleaning needs usually consist of only a handful of simple ingredients. That means essentials such as flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, condiments and spices won’t vary much between brands and you can stick with generic versions to save money.

4. Pain relievers

In this category, you can find a dramatic price difference between name brand and store brand over-the-counter pain relievers. While that might alarm you into thinking a generic pain reliever is of lower quality, the FDA actually requires that these medications have the same ingredients and safety measures as the brand name versions. So don’t hesitate to reach for the generic option next time you need pain relief.

5. Water

Rather than debating store brand versus name brand bottled water, invest in a filter and a good quality reusable bottle and get your water from the tap. This option is by far the cheaper alternative and is much more environmentally-friendly, too. If you do need to buy bottled water, a store brand will be cheaper and is essentially the same purified water you find in brand name labeled bottles.

6. Milk

The milk you buy probably depends on multiple factors, not just a label — you might prefer raw milk instead of pasteurized or organic instead of regular. But here’s another important factor to consider: your grocery store’s brand of milk is probably produced regionally, which means less traveling and processing that can reduce quality. When you decide which milk to buy, read the labels and see where it’s from. Some name brand milk and store brand milk might even come from the same farm, but the name brand option carries a higher price tag.

7. Electronic cables

Cables for your television and sound system can set you back hundreds of dollars — if you buy the expensive, name brand version. Many sound tests have determined that HDMI cables don’t affect the quality of sound if they are more expensive or even gold-plated. Stick with the generic cables and save a ton of cash.

8. Sunscreen

There are a few very important factors to study when you purchase sunscreen: SPF rating and UVA and UVB protection. An SPF rating of 15 or higher is shown to prevent skin cancer, and those labeled “broad spectrum” protect against both UVA and UVB radiation. As long as your sunscreen includes these qualities, then less expensive generic brands are just as good as the more expensive versions.

I hope these tips help you save money the next time you shop. If you’re ever unsure about choosing generic, do some outside research first or talk to a trusted professional. Asking a store representative can be misleading, as they might be looking to sell higher-priced products.

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8 Items You Should Always Buy Generic originally appeared on usnews.com

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