How to Buy Brand Name Items at Generic Brand Prices

This is a guest post from Halina Zakowicz of Your Money and Debt.

Like many of you, I'm always looking to save money on brand name items. Aside from drug prescriptions, generics have just never quite “done it” for me — the generic soda I bought went gone flat in hours, the generic toilet paper I've purchased has either shred in my hands or never come off the roll, and the generic snack items I've acquired either taste wrong or are just plain stale. Most of the store brands I've tried have also had one unfortunate problem or another.

Brand name items usually do cost more, though. So, how can you save money when you buy them? Here's what I do:

  1. Use manufacturer coupons. Last year, I signed up to receive the Sunday newspaper at my house. The Sunday paper typically includes 2-3 coupon inserts that are loaded with discounts on brand name items like Charmin, Johnsonville, Yoplait, etc. I cut out the coupons I think I'll use and give away the remaining coupons to other people.
  2. Use store coupons. My local stores like Copps and Target send out monthly coupon books to customers who sign up for their mailing lists. These coupons are usually not available in the store and offer substantial savings on brand name items.
  3. Print online coupons. Online coupon sites like Coupons.com and SmartSource.com offer many valuable coupons that are not available through any other coupon insert or source. In many cases, I have found myself using online-generated coupons far more often than the physical coupons I've received through my newspaper.
  4. Peruse online promo code sites. Sites like Tjoos, Buxr, Ebates, CouponSmarter, Savings.com, and RetailMeNot offer a dozens of promo codes that can be applied to online shopping sites during checkout. These promo codes give you a percent discount on your purchase, free shipping, free stuff, etc.
  5. Combine your online and in-store savings. Sites like CouponMom, The Krazy Coupon Lady, and Julie's Freebies alert you to where you can combine various manufacturer, store, and online coupons to either get your purchased item for free or at a severe discount. In some cases, you can even end up making money on the coupon item.
  6. Use online deal sites. Major shopping sites like Amazon and eBay offer discount plug-ins that alert you to deeply discounted brand name items. For example, WeLoveDeals is an Amazon-based plug-in that alerts you of amazing Amazon deals on a daily or even hourly basis.
  7. Shop after the holiday. Regardless of whether you are shopping online or in-store, you will find significant savings on brand name items if you shop right after a major holiday has ended. For example, I always buy designer Christmas stockings about two weeks after Christmas for 90% off of their original retail price. This year, I stocked up on about four sets of Paas Easter egg dye kits at 95% off of the retail price by buying them one week after Easter. I will save these dye kits for next Easter.
  8. Use group discount sites. Groupon and LivingSocial are wonderful online sites that offer brand name items that are discounted at 50% and more. Using Groupon, I recently purchased Okabashi sandals at 60% off their retail price. Today, I used Groupon to purchase two $40 gift certificates to Apple Wellness (a health and nutrition store) for only $19 each.
  9. Shop at discount retailers. Stores like T.J. Maxx and Filene's Basement sell designer fashion labels at huge discounts. I've seen labels like Victoria's Secret, Calvin Klein, Pacific Trade and Infantino on a regular basis at T.J. Maxx. At the Filene's Basement in downtown Chicago, I was able to find big name items like Coach purses, Dolce & Gabbana suits, Hugo Boss shirts, and Giorgio Armani suits and dresses. Keep in mind that such items will run $200-$500, but these prices are still a bargain when you consider that originally these clothing items were anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500.
  10. Earn online gift cards. Online sites such as MyPoints and Recyclebank offer free and easy opportunities to earn points that can later be redeemed for gifts cards at top retailers like Macy's, Home Depot, and Target. There is no cost to joining these sites or earning points through them; in most cases, points are accrued by simply clicking on and reading emails. However, if you make any purchases through the sites, you also earn points.

It's been over a year now since I resolved to never again pay full-price on any brand name item. In this time, I've been able to find all kinds of great online and in-store deals by simply keeping “my ears peeled” and talking with friends who like to shop and save on brand name items too. It's certainly been a learning experience; however, I'm now at a point where I never buy an item outright, knowing there's a discount on it somewhere.

Patience and determination are the cornerstones of my bargain-hunting process, and so far they have paid off quite well, saving me thousands of dollars.

What are your favorite places to find discounts and coupons?

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TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
8 years ago

For my wife and me, we use coupons sometimes, but we did some math and talked and realized that the time spent couponing and hunting down deals wasn’t worth the 50 cents off. So we stick to cheaper grocery stores and just get what we need because our time is worth something to us!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

Yes. I look for coupons for significant purchases– e.g. last month shopping for a new filing cabinet for my GTD system I got a coupon from Office Depot which I tacked on to a funiture sale + buying store brand. What could have been something like a $400-500 purchase ended up being $200, plus they gave me another $10 coupon for filling up a customer feedback survey. The only coupons we use regularly are from Costco– they mail them in advance and we can scan through the coupon book quickly and it’s our main place to shop. If there’s something… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I use Costco coupons too. I also look for coupons when I’m purchasing an unusual or large item. For example, I wanted to get a juicer last minute a few months ago. I didn’t have time to price shop but a I walked into the store I grabbed their newspaper flyer and saved a little extra! Store brand canned beans & tomatoes are fine with me. I don’t eat processed food or buy soda. There are exceptions, the store brand oatmeal is different tasting but I buy it at Costco anyway. I would use generic drugs. I think it’s more… Read more »

Jessica
Jessica
8 years ago

I do this to some extent. One huge thing is to take advantage of the free after rewards programs at the national drugstore chains. The deals sure aren’t what they used to be, but you can still get the occasional free name brand toothpaste, vitamins, cold medicine and such. This alone makes a nice dent in the grocery bill. I use coupons and I belong to a couponing forum that makes it very easy for me to make my shopping list and pull my coupons. I stopped subscribing to the newspaper because it wasn’t worthwhile, but I do have a… Read more »

Josh @ Live Well Simply
Josh @ Live Well Simply
8 years ago

You missed one important way. I do it all the time. Buy quality, used name brand items for a fraction of the cost of new.

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
8 years ago

Yep!

And when it comes to food eat real, whole foods. Not the processed crap that most coupons exist for. Brand names are pretty much the last thing I worry about these days.

Local? Sustainable? Yes. Stale crackers? No.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago

Exactly. For the most part, coupons are pretty useless to me. There are a few brands that I may stumble upon that I do purchase such as Dr. Broner’s, Seventh Generation, Bragg, and a few coupons for personal care items, but food is much more difficult. I generally don’t purchase national brands with the exception of Eden, and a couple of other not so well-known brands. You’ll never see coupons for fresh, local, organic chard or wild fish though. I try to buy what’s in season, local and try to find the best store for the best item at the… Read more »

Halina
Halina
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Hi there Carla, Actually, if you go to the FB or company websites of Kashi, Earthbound Organics, Annie’s, etc., you’ll find thst many of these places do offer some high quality coupons. I’ve been using Kashi cereal coupons for a while now, and I’m usually able to locate Cascadian Farm coupons as well. I don’t use coupons as much during the summer months, since that’s when I frequent farmer’s markets more often. Still, even for someone like me who prefers organic food to processed crap, I can still get away with using coupons.

Paula
Paula
8 years ago

Halina;
You have done a great service to those of us who know how to save $ but don’t really understand how to maximize saving by the use of coupons.
Most appreciated is how you have presented this subject in a succinct way so one doesn’t have to read a lot, hear a lecture or take a course (no kidding, one is offered in our area periodically on how to use coupons).

cca.
cca.
8 years ago

Yoox for discounts on designer clothes and accessories http://bit.ly/J2cBcm

Krantcents
Krantcents
8 years ago

Great ideas! If you plan out your shopping where you never need the product the same day, you can save a lot of money beause you ahve the time to find the lowest price.

Diedra B
Diedra B
8 years ago

somehow I don’t find that I have a bad experience with generics. The store where I shop has very high quality alternatives, some of which I enjoy more than the leading brand.

Marsha
Marsha
8 years ago
Reply to  Diedra B

This is my experience also. I’ve rarely been disappointed with a store brand, and all the stores I shop at offer a refund on any product you don’t like, so it’s a no-brainer to try the store brand.

I’ve found that if I spend the time that I would have spent clipping coupons, on preparing food from scratch using basic ingredients, I save more money and the food is tastier and healthier. I can spend the time chasing deals at the grocery stores or I can spend it in my kitchen. I choose the latter.

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

Spending time in the kitchen is fun too! I think it’s one of my hobbies that is also beneficial to our family.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Diedra B

I like the Whole Foods 360 brand when it comes to certain things, especially when it comes to personal care and vitamin supplements.

Christa
Christa
8 years ago

Like Diedra, I like generics as well…mostly because I don’t like to spend my time clipping coupons. But if my store is hosting a huge sale on name-brand, I’ll always choose the name brand instead.

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago

Has anyone else noticed that this post is largely comprised of one brand name and/or web site listing following another? I count 39… Also, is it necessary to use gushingly positive adjectives such as “amazing'” “wonderful,” “big name” and “top?” The first paragraph is grammatically suspect and the link to “Your Money and Debt” doesn’t work. There is such a website, but it’s remarkably thin on details about who runs it. No mention of what personal information the coupon and promo code websites will demand or of the mailing lists / spam you will be signing up for. Is there… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

I’m getting a “Let’s stuff this with SEO keywords” vibe from this one. So, yeah, I agree with you that there’s something off with this article.

Kingston
Kingston
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Yes, Andrew, that is one sketchy-looking website. And the “product placement” in this article is not worthy of Get Rich Slowly; nor is the article’s other content (to the extent that there is any other content).

I get the sense that GRS’s owners keep testing the waters to see how much of this dreck the GRS community will accept. Call it out when you see it.

ImpulseSave
ImpulseSave
8 years ago

Most of the time, I’m fine getting the generic version. But for a few items, you can really tell the difference and it’s worth it to me to get the brand name item. I try to look for deals when I can, but you won’t always be able to get the cheapest deal compared to generic. It’s usually worth it to me, anyway, on specific things to pay a few cents more, even after a coupon or sale.

Honey
Honey
8 years ago

This article isn’t as high quality as is normal for GRS. Most of these suggestions seem to set you up to spend more money, not less – i.e., Groupon, designer discount chains, etc. I can understand thinking that the name-brand crackers are better than the generic crackers, so food is one thing. But Coach purses, Dolce & Gabbana suits, Hugo Boss shirts, and Giorgio Armani suits and dresses? Certainly you can find things that are nice for MUCH less than even a 50% discount on those things. I do coupon a little bit, but nothing crazy. I do like that… Read more »

Linda
Linda
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey

Love the idea of Goodwill and Salvation Army etc., can’t stand the smell and, since I need a tall, can’t find my size. Also – as to printing coupons – we have a couple of smaller stores here that will NOT accept coupons you print out – only newspaper/preprinted ones

Libby
Libby
8 years ago

Without JD, this site is pretty terrible. There was no value is in this article whatsoever. I can shop online, on apps on my phone, or wherever. I come here to read and motivate me to do this different than that, not the same.

SB @ One cent at a time
SB @ One cent at a time
8 years ago
Reply to  Libby

Yeah Coupon Sherpa app is the one I use. No time is spent in clipping coupons and saves money.

Its not humanly possible to write interesting things everyday. For many people this article might have been very helpful.

Christine Sakariasen
Christine Sakariasen
8 years ago

I find that if you just wait for the brand name to go on sale it is usually cheaper than the generic stuff—at least it is where I live.

avt
avt
8 years ago

The more I shop at local, small business in my neighborhood, the less benefit I see to the whole “couponing process.” I understand that not everyone has access to food co-ops or local stores and for many, the only options are mainstream, large chain grocery stores. But I would encourage folks to seek out the small businesses, the small named brands, the local farmers market or community supported agriculture in their community…because they likely exist! Our co-op often has member only sales which we always take advantage of and our farmers market often will throw in extra food if you… Read more »

RJB
RJB
8 years ago

I agree that there wasn’t much in this that hasn’t been covered previously. I did like the idea about buying Easter egg dye after the holiday, though. We haven’t colored eggs in years, and it would be fun to do it again. I wish I had thought of that last month. I’d like to expand a little on one of the things mentioned, and that is the newspaper subscription. Yes, there are coupon inserts, but just as importantly, there are circulars from the grocery stores in your area, listing what is on sale that week. I read those thoroughly before… Read more »

Tina
Tina
8 years ago
Reply to  RJB

I do the same thing. I get the ads and plan my meal plan around what is on sale. I also go to my local grocery store and get all of my foods price matched. This saves gas from having to travel to all the different grocery stores, plus it is close to my home and it promotes the small grocery chain.

I hardly ever buy named brand except for Tide and Crest(can’t go cheap there) but I always watch for sales and clip coupons for them.

Triple E
Triple E
8 years ago

Another way to get “name brand” cheap is to figure out who is making generics in the name brand plants. For instance, many Kirkland products at Costco and Trader Joe’s brand items are really contracted out to brands you know and relabeled. The best example is the Costco branded booze if you life somewhere that has it — their beer is Gordon Biersch or Saranac, the wine comes from reputable wineries in California, and the vodka is made in the Grey Goose distillery. Seriously, generics aren’t what they were in the 80’s with the plain packages and bland ingredients. And… Read more »

Michael
Michael
8 years ago
Reply to  Triple E

Oreos. Generic chocolate sandwich cookies might taste fine, but no generic tastes like an oreo.

Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
8 years ago

Great list of ideas. What about shopping at stores that honor competitors discounts?

amber
amber
8 years ago

She did not address my major problem with coupons. If I bother to take the time to cut one I think I might use, 9 times out of 10, I am at the store thinking, oh, I have a coupon for this at home! I will wait and buy it next time … next time comes around and by then the coupon has expired. I guess product manufacturers believe their product is so indispensable to us that we will buy no matter what … but again 9 times out of 10 I just do not buy it at all because… Read more »

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

For no-list shopping I love the discount clearance rack at the grocery store though! 50% of is the starting point on a lot of great food or bath products. Wish Whole Foods had this!”

My Whole Foods does, but its mostly supplements and bath products.

Nancy
Nancy
8 years ago

I am as frugal as they come, but I just don’t feel that doing all those things is worth the effort. I’ll just buy the generics, saves money and time. I guess I’m just not as picky as other people. I don’t have any issues with generics (except peanut butter..yuck!)

AMW
AMW
8 years ago

I have to say there are some cynical people here this time around. I do use coupons and use thegrocerygame.com to do the hard work for me of matching the coupons with the sales. I spend about one hour a week cutting for a savings of $60-$75/week. That isn’t including fuelperks. That is a pretty good hourly wage and you would be shocked at what you can get absolutely free this way. You don’t have to be a crazy coupon lady to save a lot of cash. And isn’t part of personal finance spending less than you make?

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago
Reply to  AMW

We spend 60-75/week total on groceries. Maybe an hour of clipping coupons is worth it to some larger families more than others…

Noel
Noel
8 years ago

Before you follow these recommendations, do the math of time involved in this couponing or visiting offway TJMaxx (and time you spend there to search the item you need) and savings you make. Majority of the time, its not worth it. I used to clip coupons, go to TJMaxx, Marshals but I stopped, it costs me more than I earn per hour. Plus, the time spent with the family is priceless.

Thea
Thea
8 years ago

I’m just getting started with coupons, and I don’t plan on getting crazy with them. BUT, in just one visit, I saved $23 worth in coupons alone. And these are for items that I would normally purchase at the regular price. I didn’t do anything different than my normal trip to the store. I just used the coupons that I saw would lower my bill.

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
8 years ago

How about outlet shopping? I like to go to outlet malls a couple times a year. Discount retailers like Marshalls are nice, but I normally don’t have the patience to comb through the racks. The outlet stores I frequent look just like the regular mall stores, but everything is discounted–sometimes by as much as 65% or more.

Tracy
Tracy
8 years ago

I could barely get past the introductory paragraph on this article. The soda “went gone” flat? Purchased, bought, and acquired all used in the same sentence? Really redundant and needs editing. Instead of adding to the next article about what I want to see, I thought I’d comment here about what I hope isn’t a trend. This article should’ve been titled – suggestions for couponing – and included some links minus the unnecessary commentary. GRS is better than this type of post.

Lauren
Lauren
8 years ago

Before I do any online shopping, I go to fatwallet.com. Many online retailers offer cash back and they have coupon codes.

Patrick
Patrick
8 years ago

Generics and brand names are often made and packaged in the same factories, and are quite often the EXACT SAME PRODUCT. If more people went with generics, they wouldn’t have such a bad name, because there’s really very little difference between them and brand names.

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