Buying Generic: How to save money in college

Since I started college three years ago, my bank accounts are considerably less padded than they were in high school. Students have many expenses in their lives that have never been there before, including groceries, medicine, and other day-to-day items. (What? My parents don’t pay for these anymore?) Unfortunately, it is common for the newfound freedom to cause increased spending, leading to trouble. Which begs me to ask the question: Do you spend more money than is necessary?

Buying generic is a great way to save money, is fairly painless, and has a significant impact on your pocketbook. In the last few years many companies have hired market researchers to compare their products to new generic versions. Pharmaceuticals are a huge arena for the generic vs. name brand battle. In 2004, the Executive Director of the National Center for Public Policy Analysis, David W. Almasi stated "The competition should be welcome because it serves the needs of consumers. Because consumers now have more choices, all of the drug companies are forced to price their products lower to stay in competition." This is great news for us poor college folk: prices are lower, and quality is higher.

Some things to think about when buying generic are to put your presuppositions on the shelf, and not go straight to the product you grew up with because it is recognizable to you. Many times the ingredients in your favorite name brand cookies are identical to the generic option, so compare labels to see how different the ingredients really are.

If you don’t feel convinced yet, that is okay. This should do it: I conducted some research comparing generic brands to name brands. In our very own Cedar Falls Wal-Mart I compared three grocery items from my shopping list including wheat crackers, graham crackers, and salsa. To be fair and retain my credibility I asked three students to participate in the taste test.


Nabisco Wheat Thins vs. Great Value Thin Wheat Baked Snack Crackers:

Taste Comparison: 2/3 tasters could not distinguish the name brand from the store brand.

Price: Wheat Thins: $2.50 for a 10 oz box = $.25/oz

Great Value: $1.42 for a 9 oz box = $.15/oz

Conclusion: "They are equally salty, crunchy, and good - I didn’t even know which one was the name brand."

Tostitos Chunky Mild Salsa vs. Great Value Chunky Mild Salsa

Taste Comparison: 1/3 tasters could not distinguish the name brand from the store brand.

Price: Tostitos: $2.98 for a 15.5oz bottle = $.19/oz

Great Value: $1.88 for a 16 oz bottle = $.11/oz

Conclusion: "They both taste good, but the name brand is more flavorful. The other one is a lot cheaper though, so to save money, I would definitely buy it."

Honey Maid Cinnamon Graham Crackers vs. Great Value Cinnamon Graham Crackers

Taste Comparison: 3/3 tasters could not distinguish the name brand from the store brand.

Price: Honey Maid: $2.98 for a 14.4 oz box = $.20/oz

Great Value: $1.64 for a 14.4 oz box = $.11/oz

Conclusion: "They both have really great cinnamon flavor, and a nice crunch. This one is obvious."

On this shopping excursion, I found that if I had purchased each name brand item my total would have been $8.46, whilst buying generic my total would have come to $4.34. Savings equaling a whopping $4.12! I hope that next time we run into one another in the grocery store, you are saving some hard earned cash and buying good food for less.