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brand names

In matters of house and home, I have an embarrassing confession to make.  As resourceful and cheap as I can be in some areas, in other areas, I am downright irresponsible.

Let’s back this up… I pinched pennies for so long through college and afterwards, I used coupons, compared prices, bought generic, you name it.  Then, when I started making decent money at my first ‘real’ job, I splurged. I splurged on everything from trash bags to Louis Vuitton bags.  Obviously, I saved a lot for those bigger purchases, but the problem came when I did little shopping – groceries, various sundries – I didn’t even look at the prices. I just grabbed what I thought was better… the name brands.

Yesterday, I went to the store to pick up normal things – paper towels, toilet paper, coffee, cereal.  Being in the recent self-employed state that I am, this time, I really looked at the prices.  I thought about the fifty-cent or dollar differences between brands and thought – is it worth it? 

This brought to mind the thought of worth vs price. There are things that are cheaper, sure, but are they as good? Alternatively, are the items that are pricier actually better? I think we both know that isn’t always the case.  There are generic things that are awesome and other times when you’ve really just got to buy the brand name.

I got to talking to some friends about this last night, and we’ve all got our preferences.  One friend swears by the $2 powder dish detergent (instead of the pricier pods) while another can only eat Jif peanut butter (absolutely no other brand!). This got me thinking about my own preferences.  I will tell you that one of those cheap paper towel brands is actually my new worst enemy – it won’t tear at the perforations! It’s been making me absolutely crazy and I end up using double the amount trying to get a piece that isn’t torn to shreds. When it comes to other household items, I have my favorites, but unless it’s trial and error, how do you know what you can get away with?

On my end, I clearly have an issue with cheap paper towels, but I am totally ok with Foldgers in my cup every morning instead of the ‘bucks (call me unsophisticated, but I like it and it’s like, a billion dollars less expensive).

Tell me… What splurges do you swear are a must and what things are you ok with the cheaper alternative? I’d love to hear!



photo source: Jock and Morag

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  • I buy only name brand products, but I buy them at Walmart.

  • My dad always told me, “Don’t skimp on toilet paper and trash bags!” I still think about that every time I go grocery shopping. In my wardrobe and in my home, it’s the staples that splurge on. I try to keep the trendy expenses to a minimum.

  • I swear by name brand dish soap because it doesn’t ever dry out my hands when washing dishes. However, I love my generic cleaning suppliers and dish washer detergent!

  • I always buy generic stuff unless it’s going to compromise my time or increase waste. So, for example, I’ll spend a little extra on good brand name dishwasher detergent cuz that means I can trust the dishes to come out clean and I won’t have to spend extra time rewashing anything (which is wasteful for time and energy). Or I’ll buy brand name paper towel cuz I know that half a piece will do more than a whole piece of the cheap stuff, so I’m saving more money in the long run by having rolls of paper towels last longer than a cheaper brand would (since I’ll use less of it at a time). Dried pasta, canned tuna, flour, or vinegar, for example, I’ll just buy as store brands cuz I can’t tell the difference. I think that’s the main thing. If there really is a difference in quality, I’ll just buy the better option because I’ll definitely save time and money and reduce my own waste in the long run.

    It took me a while to figure that out though! It used to always be whatever price is cheapest. But when you’re squeezing half a bottle of dish soap into each wash session just to get stuff clean, you start to realize you’re not really saving any money at all if you have to buy it every 2-3 weeks! 😀

  • I recently had a similarly terrible run-in with the generic swiffer wet wipes. We were counting down the days until those were gone! It took twice as much energy to swiffer the floors with those guys. Otherwise, I will generally buy the generic brand unless I’ve had bad luck with it in the past. For cleaning supplies, I like the natural ones (like Method). For wardrobes – definitely splurge on the staple items! Don’t want to buy a bargain black suit!

    Not sure what brand paper towels you got – but the Target brand select-a-size are actually pretty good!

    • I was just going to suggest the Target brand for a lot of home products. We buy the TP, select-a-size paper towels, garbage bags, kleenex (er, facial tissue?), and even things like my body wash and shave gel in the up & up brand. I’ve never had any complaints, and it saves a few bucks.

  • The cost of paper towels is mind boggling! I’m considering buying a set of these flour sack towels from Studiopatro – their mission is to replace paper in the kitchen. I’m hoping that by investing in these I never buy paper towels again! (Or maybe this is just an excuse to buy something new from a company with beautifully styled photographs on their website… Ahhh!)

  • Don’t ever buy store brand or generic aluminum foil; it never comes off the roll right and one ends up wasting a lot of it. I also agree with the admonition concerning cheap toilet paper and garbage bags; much more cost effective to go with the brand names. Using twice the normal amount doesn’t save anything!

    • I only buy Target aluminum foil and have never had any issues, to me it’s the same as reynolds. I also buy target small plastic bags (instead of zip loc)and paper plates.

  • As I’m stopping to think about it, I realize that I don’t have any sort of loyalties to any particular brands (except for perhaps Bullhead skinny jeans, they fit me perfectly). I usually buy whatever is cheapest or on sale unless I know it’s terrible…where I do generally splurge is my coffee and my chocolate. Gotta be whole bean and over 70% cacao 🙂

    Oh, and toilet paper. I grew up a Charmin child, and never bought any different until here a few weeks ago, Cottonelle was on sale…it’s pretty good stuff!

  • I swear dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent are a must splurge. Maybe if you have a really good dishwasher you can get away with cheaper detergent though. I save when it comes to cleaning supplies – I get them all at Big Lots during their monthly 20% off everything sale. I can get a whole cart for like, $40.

    Champagne Lifestyle on a Beer Budget

  • I won’t buy generic toilet paper or face wash. I use a dishcloth to wipe up most spills in the kitchen (which are switched out daily, always rinsed in scalding water before/after use, and bleached in their laundry cycle). I use paper towels only for the messiest jobs, like bacon grease or something. I maybe go through a roll every 2 months or something.

    I have recently learned how AMAZING Syran-brand plastic wrap is, seriously, I don’t know why I bought the crap stuff before. Man, is that worth the extra $2.00!


  • I hear ya! I am all about the store or generic brands. I love my generic store brand Keurig coffee cups and I even find most store brand cereal to be great. I typically find myself spending more on hair products. I LOVE to try things that are claiming to turn my hair into some shiny goddess mane like Kate Middleton’s.

  • My Mom always told me to invest in good shoes, jackets, bras, mattress and sheets. Nothing is worse than…cheap shoes that hurt your feet, jackets that don’t keep you warm/dry, saggy boobs, a sore back and scratchy sheets. Over the years I will add to that list, named brand Kleenex over generic, and toilet paper. Leaving bits and pieces behind are not good!

  • I’m pretty cheap and thrifty, but only buy the pricier Essie brand nail polishes. Until recently, I couldn’t figure out why every home manicure I did was sloppy and chipped so fast. But with Essie, my nails last just as long as when a pro paints them, and look just about as good. So for base coat, polish, and top coat, I go Essie all the way.

    *It sounds like I have been paid to say this, but Essie nail polish has been a HUGE game changer for me.

    • You’ve inspired me to paint my nails with Essie more often! I can’t ever seem to keep nail polish on very long!

  • I love this post. I recently quit my real job as well and am also suddenly finding myself on a tight budget that I haven’t had to think about since college. It’s taking me some time to get in the habit of paying attention to prices instead of just grabbing the brand name or the one in the prettiest packaging. This is slightly off topic, but another thing that has been a complete life changer for me is making a list and actually sticking to it, especially at the grocery store. Instead of just wandering around picking up what sounds good, I have a plan and don’t waver from it, which is saving me tons of money in the long run because I’m only buying what I need instead of random snacks and produce that I end up throwing away.

  • My honey pie will NOT stand for generic brand cereal. It’s been 10 years, and I am still learning what his likes and dislikes are. We both have an expensive taste for most things, but I just LOVE getting a deal.

  • -1 to the up and up brand paper towels. I also used to use what I thought were “green” or “safe” brands like Method or Seventh Gen but I found out recently many of their products aren’t green or safe. For example, most or Method’s products are graded with C’s, D’s and F’s. See

  • Okay, I must know, where does one get those plaid shopping bags?