47% of Americans Are Buying Cheaper Products to Combat Inflation

A couple shops for woven wool hats at an outside market.

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Who wins in the battle between brand loyalty and cost cutting?

Key points

  • Many shoppers are switching to cheaper or store-brand items to save money on everyday necessities.
  • The quality of store brands can vary a lot, so be prepared for some trial and error.
  • Stacking coupons and taking advantage of sales or discount stores could help you stick to your favorite brands while still saving money.

People are creatures of habit. Most of us tend to find the thing we like and stick to it. Once we pick a favorite brand, for instance, it can take a lot to get us to change. That’s one reason companies spend billions on advertising trying to lure customers from other brands.

But when times are tough, that dedication can be tested. In the midst of the sky-high inflation we’re all living with, many folks are reevaluating the true cost of their product loyalty — and finding it too high.

The result? Nearly half (47%) of U.S. shoppers are switching cheaper alternatives to keep everyday necessities stocked, according to the National Retail Federation. In fact, this has become the leading strategy for fighting inflation, topping both coupons and discount stores.

The resurgence of generics

When it comes to staying on budget, our first instinct is often to simply cut out certain items entirely. But for everyday necessities — like food and toiletries — there’s only so much you can cut before you’re faced with finding other ways to save.

If you can’t stop buying an item altogether, your only real option is trying to buy it cheaper. For name-brand fans, this means turning to the dreaded store brand. Depending on the product, switching to a generic or store brand could save you an average of 40% according to some studies.

But while the savings may be undeniable, the value has long been in contention. Store-brand quality is a much-debated topic in frugal blogs and forums. In most cases, the only real consensus has been, “It depends.” Some store-brand items can taste or work the same as the brand names, while others pale in comparison.

For example, many Costco devotees will swear that Kirkland brand products are just as good as anything with a major label. And, often, they’re not wrong — it’s an open secret that many Kirkland items are actually the same exact product as certain brand names, just in Costco packaging.

On the other hand, switching to a poor-quality store brand could end up costing you more in the long run. For example, switching from your favorite high-quality toilet paper to a store-brand single-ply could result in using three times the paper to get the job done — meaning you spend the same amount in the end, and your quality of life goes down.

Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule about which store brands are worth the savings — and which are a waste. So there’s bound to be some trial and error in store for the 47% of shoppers looking for cheaper options.

Stacking deals to keep your favorite brands

While switching products or brands is a key coping strategy for many, coupons and sales have also seen wide adoption by struggling shoppers. This makes sense. Thanks to the abundance of couponing apps available these days, couponing is easier than ever — no scissors required.

Even better, pairing a good coupon with a local discount store could be just the ticket for those who want to stick to their favorite brands without draining their savings accounts. Most retailers will even let you stack store-issued coupons with manufacturer coupons to save even more.

You should also look at your credit cards for extra savings. Rewards credit cards help you save on every purchase, especially if you pick the right card. Grocery rewards cards, for instance, can give you up to 6% back on your grocery bill. Additionally, most issuers offer savings portals with discounts or extra rewards with popular retailers.

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