Should you buy brand name or go with the cheaper alternative?

It’s really easy sometimes to stick with what you know and never think about alternatives, but with the economy on a downturn more of us are thinking about whether we should try cheaper alternatives to our normal brands as a way to economise. Is it really worth it though? Will the food taste as good, will the shampoo last as long or will the quality be poorer generally and if so will we really notice it.

It seems to me that some things are a pretty safe bet and yet when I’ve tried them, I’ve still found myself disappointed. Others, I’ve tried with trepidation, and been very pleased with the results and there does seem to be a fairly large amount of trial and error involved. An example of this for me was that cheaper wrapping paper seemed pretty obvious to me when I bought it – after all, you wrap the present, and someone unwraps it and then the paper is thrown in the bin, but sadly it was a false economy as the stuff was so thin you could read the title on the dvd I was trying to wrap, and so I had to use twice as much as I would have of the more expensive paper.

So how do we get it right? I’ve found that discussing things with friends helps, particularly people who I know have similar tastes and values to myself. If one of them tries something different and says yeah it’s not bad, then I think hmm maybe I’ll give it a go. If they say don’t touch it, it’s rank then I’m likely to not bother trying it.

Forums and discussion boards are useful too I think – people can talk about their choices and preferences and that helps everyone. Also I think some people feel a bit self conscious talking to friends about economising, but talking to strangers when you can use a ‘username’ and no one knows you, doesn’t feel so embarrassing.

10-minutes! My bath’s last longer!

In a recent article Ross mentioned buying cheap batteries and having them only last 10 minutes, and feeling disappointed that he’d wasted his money while trying to economise. I find myself going the other way, I buy the rechargeable batteries so that they last – well if not forever then often for longer than the product I’m putting them in anyway! – Ok, it still costs me money on my electricity bill to recharge them, but less than replacing them each time would. I’ve not sat and worked out whether I’m reeeally saving money or not, but it certainly feels like I am by doing it that way, and I also feel I can pat myself on the back because I’m being a bit greener too.

How do you do it? Have you found a way to balance the money saving advantages of the cheaper no name brands with the quality of the brand name products? Or do you think all brand names are just that – names and nothing else?

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