Should You Pay for Name Brands?

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Some people are slaves to names brands – they even define themselves by the brands that they consume. For example, a person may be fiercely devoted to a certain brand of beer, a line of clothing, or the manufacturer of a car (BMW, Lexus, etc).

While that type of consumption pattern can feel really good on an emotional level, it’s also a very expensive way to live. Name brand goods are simply more expensive, and they are because the company behind them has invested a significant amount of money in building the brand and the level of prestige that surrounds it. As a consumer of name brand products, you are paying the cost of the advertising and marketing strategies that give name brands their special position in the market.

Is that something that you want to continue doing? Or is there a better use for your money?

As a general rule, avoid name brands

If your goal is to save more money, then you should avoid name brands wherever possible. Just taking this simple step can save you money across the board in your budget, especially when you consider that name brand items typically cost anywhere from 20% to 50% or more than their generic competitors.

Should You Pay for Name BrandsThough there may be certain name brands that you wish to continue buying, you should make a conscious effort to be sure that the majority of your purchases are generic. Think of generic purchases as saving money to enable you to buy a limited number of name brand products.

The fact is that while quality matters with certain purchases, with most it simply doesn’t. An example might include paper towels. Buying the best name brand paper towels is unlikely to result in a measurable improvement in either the quality or standard of your life. Buying a less expensive generic brand makes complete sense. This is often the case with food items as well. Do you really need to be paying a premium price for ordinary items such as ketchup and mustard?

There is a bonus in buying generics too. Sometimes the generic items are actually better than the name brands they replace. In that case you’re getting a double win: a better product and a lower price. But you will never know that unless you take advantage of generic purchases wherever possible.

But there are times when name brands are the way to go

The emphasis on savings aside, are there times when we might want to specifically focus on buying name brands? Actually, yes. Here’s a short list of items where buying name brands is definitely the way to go:

  • Wine
  • Cars
  • Certain types of clothing
  • Heavy duty tools
  • Computers

In each case, we would favor brand names here because there are no generic equivalents (cars), the product does not lend itself to adequate generic replacements (wine), or the item is work-related (tools or computers) and will require a higher level of quality and reliability. In the case of clothing, you can buy generics as a rule, but you probably won’t want to buy generics if they are clothes that you are using for work, or for attending a wedding or funeral.

Your finances should dictate which way you go

The degree to which you avoid name brands and favor generics will largely be governed by your overall financial situation. If your finances are on solid ground, then choosing between the two will be an option depending upon how much money you want to save. But if your finances are tight, you will need to lean toward generics as a matter of necessity.

It makes very little sense to use name brands if you are struggling to pay your bills, are deep in debt, or are working to save money for a future goal. Substituting generics for name brands is a relatively easy way to save money. The product may not always be as good as the name brand, but you will still have use of an item but at a lower price.

On major purchases – where name brand matters – buy used instead of new

Earlier we had a list of items that do not lend themselves well to generic substitution. But that doesn’t mean that you should be prepared to pay full price for name brands even in these cases. On certain durable items, particularly cars and tools, you can buy name brands but buy them secondhand. You will still have the brand name item and the quality associated with it, but you will have a lower price.

This is almost a half way – or hybrid – between buying generic and name brands. You’re looking to get the quality of the name brand, but at the price of the generic or less.

By making your purchases a combination of generic and secondhand name brands, you can save a lot of money without having to do without what it is you really need.

What items do you believe should be name brands, and which ones do you feel comfortable buying generic? How do you feel about secondhand name brands?

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Justin is the co-owner and grammarly impaired author of My University Money and Young and Thrifty. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.

6 Comments

  1. Koala on June 24, 2013 at 11:14 am

    There are very few toiletries and cosmetics where I would buy a generic brand. That doesn’t mean I pay $100 for one item, but I can’t even be in the toiletries aisle at a dollar store without my allergies acting up.



  2. Phil on June 25, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    I used to work for Stanley Black & Decker as a design engineer in there R&D Group, and as far as tools are concerned, there is a definite difference in quality, or at least there used to be… Our competitors used switches that activated the tools, in the $0.17-0.23 cent cost range. Our B&D tools, as a value brand used $0.25 – 0.30 switches which were quality tested to meet minimum reliability for 2 years heavy user profile. Our Dewalt branded, Pro grade products used $6-7+ switches, “Guaranteed Tough”. Most only look at price; Brands need reputations to reap long term rewards and customer loyalty for the premium paid, but I suggest a different approach – Just pay for quality, and do your own research – the internet is quite powerful. Having also worked in the Auto industry for a stint, never buy a new model of car until it has been out on the market for at least a year – so you can review reliability, and if possible buy a final year of a production run car that may be out of favour, as all the kinks and warranty items will have been worked out. Each Ford Escort early on in there release had something like 230+ known warranty items off the line in the first year of production, and in there final year with the line rate running at half, because of low demand, meaning the employees can assemble things next to perfectly as they had time and engineers worked out design kinks had something like fewer than 25… Money is hard enough to earn let a lone keep, so do your homework – Cheers.



  3. Kyle on June 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks for sharing those unique experiences Phil. In other words, paying more for name brands if those names have a well-deserved reputation for quality isn’t a bad idea eh?



  4. Phil on June 26, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Correct. Unfortunately, most fall for the flashy bling’s of new gimmicky things and is probably partly why we live in a world of debt and our landfills are overflowing… go figure. – Cheers.



  5. Nicolas on July 6, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Great post Phil, I’m a new follower of your blog, and I totally agree. Just by doing everyday things such as avoiding the brands on certain items can save you so much! Honestly I would buy secondhand items or non-brands for items of liesure and tools I need but won’t show to the public. Although whenever we want to have a good impression, such as a first date or a job interview or whatnot I would be more in my comfort zone having brands with me, which gives me that boost of confidence!



  6. bill from lachine on August 23, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Good post…insofar as food products are concerned pretty much everything we buy is either on sale or store brand/no name products….Don’t forget to check out ethnic markets also a lot of food items that are treated as luxury items and priced accordingly by the big chains.

    Some of these items items are considered staples and priced lower we get something like 10 lemons for $1.50/$1.75 range with the supermarket charging .99 each….likewise green onion 3 for $1.25 versus 99 cents each.

    Regards,

    Bill



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