Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shop Smart: Are you getting the most bang for your buck?

If you learn one thing from this blog it's this - you should never, ever again look down on buying a generic, store brand product. Whether it’s generic peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies, soap, or ibuprofen, name brand products can be as much as double the price of their generic equivalents. The truth of the matter is - store brand products are often identical to name brand products. Eugene Fram, Professor of marketing at Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Business, said the difference between store brand and name brand goods is that brand names spend more on marketing, not that they’re better quality. She goes on to say that she "once visited a cranberry factory in New England, and saw two lines of the same cranberry juice – one was for a national brand, and the other line was for a store brand.”

During my weekly (ok a lot of time twice weekly) run to Target, I picked up the name brand bottle of Listerine Total Care and read the ingredients. The price: $5.80. I then picked up the Target equivilant. THE EXACT SAME INGREDIENTS. Same percentages of alcohols. Ingredients listed in the same order. Target's price. $2.99 for that same 1-liter bottle. Is that wrapper really worth almost $3.00 more? I think not.

I found an experiment done by LearnVest, that I found particularly interesting that outlines which generic brands are actually the cheapest. They compared five national chains, head-to-head. They obtained their prices at stores in San Diego, California, and also rounded out some of the pennies - so the exact details may vary by locations. These findings should show you that 1) you should consider buying store brand products if you truly want to save and 2) certain stores (drugstores in particular) are a complete rip off.

Check out their findings:

Walgreens: Vaseline $7 /Store Brand lotion $4
Target: $5 / $3.50
Safeway(Vons): $6 / $4.50
CVS: $7 / $5
Walmart: $5 / $2.50
Winner: Vasaline - Walmart/Target & Store brand - Walmart

Walgreens: Softsoap $3/Store Brand soap $2
Target: $1 / $1
Safeway(Vons): $1 / $1
CVS: $2.50 / $7
Walmart: $1.50 /$1
Winner: Softsoap - Target & Safeway & Store brand soap - Target, Safeway, & Walmart

Walgreens: Tums $11 /Store Brand Antacid $9
Target: $7/ $4
Safeway(Vons): $9 / $6.50
CVS: $10 / $7.50
Walmart: $7 /$4
Winner: Tums Brand - Target/Walmart & Store brand Antacid - Walmart

Walgreens: Pepto $7.50 /Store Brand Stomach Relief $6
Target: $4 / $3
Safeway(Vons): $7 / $4
CVS: $7 / $5
Walmart: $4 /$3
Winner: Pepto-Bismol - Target/Walmart & Store brand Stomach Relief - Target/Walmart

Walgreens: Skippy $3.50 /Store Brand Peanut Butter N/A
Target: $5 / $3.50
Safeway(Vons): $4.50 / $3.50
CVS: $3.50 / N/A
Walmart: $4 /$2.50
Winner: Skippy - Walmart & Store brand PB - Target

Walgreens: Green Giant $2 /Store Brand Corn N/A
Target: $1 / $.67
Safeway(Vons): $1 / $.89
CVS: $1.50 / $1.25
Walmart: $1 /$.67
Winner: Green Giant - Target/Walmart & Store brand corn - Target/Walmart

Walgreens: Kraft $1.59 /Store Brand Mac N/A
Target: $.99 / $.50
Safeway(Vons): $1.29 / $1
CVS: $1.59 / N/A
Walmart: $.78 /$.50
Winner: Kraft - Walmart & Store brand Mac - Target/Walmart

Walgreens: Chips Ahoy $4.50 /Store Brand Choc. chip cookies $2
Target: $3 / $2.50
Safeway(Vons): $3 / $3
CVS: $4 / N/A
Walmart: $3 /$2
Winner: Chips Ahoy- Target, Safeway & Walmart & Store brand choc. chip - Walmart/Walgreens

The end result? Walmart And Target take the cake. Although I'd prefer to shop at Target any day, the simple truth is that Walmart brand has some of the best prices. Target comes in at a respectable second, and nearly ties with Walmart on name brand products.

I'm not saying that you should never shop at CVS again. After all, if that’s the store you’re closest to, the $2.50 difference on hand lotion might not be worth the price of gas. All the same, keep these lessons in mind for you next big shopping spree. And at least get a Rewards card to ease the sting.

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