By Caroline Hailey, Contributor
Whether you're single or married, have a large or small family, finding ways to save money is always a good feeling. And with so many generic options out there these days, it's often tempting to just buy the cheaper products and save your money for something else.
But "cheaper" doesn't always mean better.
So, how can you know what brand names are worth the higher price tags and which ones just aren't? Follow these tips so that the next time you go shopping, you'll known when to go for quality and when to focus on your bottom line.
5 Best Things to Buy Generic
Eating a bowl of cereal each morning is a quick and cheap way to make sure you and the kids get breakfast before dashing out the door. For every brand name of cereal out there -- Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Corn Flakes, Apple Jacks and so on -- there seems to always be a generic version right next to it on the shelf with an almost identical name. And it's not just the name that's nearly identical; the product itself normally is too. So why bother spending more just to get the name brand?
Related: 30 Items to Avoid at Walmart
Take Corn Flakes, for example. The brand name version is Kellogg's Corn Flakes cereal, and it will run you $2.98 for an 18-ounce box at Walmart. Go for Great Value's Corn Flakes cereal instead, and you'll only spend $1.98 for the same-sized box. There isn't much difference in taste, and some people even prefer the generic brand.
Depending on how much cereal your household goes through in a month, this small change could add up to serious savings.
2. Spices and Seasonings
Skipping dinners out and cooking at home is a great way to save money. You don't have to pay tax and tip, and the food itself is not only cheaper, but probably healthier as well.
To try to make your meals taste as good as the food you get at a restaurant, you'll want to take advantage of a variety of spices to use on chickens and other meals. But just because spices can make a big difference in the kitchen when it comes to taste, that doesn't mean you should be spending more than you need to on them.
If your recipe calls for basil, you could be paying $2.96 for the McCormick brand name bottle at Walmart. Instead, grab Great Value's generic brand, and you'll only have to pay $2.24. It might not seem like a huge difference, but those 72 cents can add up over time.
When it comes to babies, all parents want what's best. It certainly makes sense to buy the brand name of baby food and other baby products, but not everything we buy for our babies is worth the brand-name price. Because babies go through so many diapers each day -- not to mention each month -- the generic brand will do just fine and save you a pretty penny.
If you buy the 88 pack of HUGGIES Little Snugglers, you'll be shelling out $24.99. Choose the Target generic brand instead, called up & up, and you can get 144 diapers for $28.99. When you break down the price by individual diaper, that's about 28 cents per diaper versus about 20 cents per diaper. You'd save almost a dime each time you change your baby's diaper.
Related: 23 Savings Hacks for Target
Many of us take medications, and many of us spend much more money on those medications than we should. As Business Insider points out, brand-name and generic drugs are both well-formulated, effective and have to go through the same rigorous tests for approval. But the difference in pricing is often staggering.
Take aspirin and ibuprofen, for example. At Walgreens, you can buy a bottle of Advil with 100 tablets (200 mg.) for $9.99. Its store brand bottle of 100 tablets (also 200 mg), however, only costs $7.29. That's a savings of $2.70.
For commuters who drive to work every day, gas can be a major monthly expense. It can also be an opportunity to save when you choose the generic brand at certain places, like Costco.
Fill up your car at a Chevron located in California, and you might pay $4.79 per gallon for regular gas in some parts of the state. Opt instead for the Costco brand, and you'd only spend around $2.85 per gallon, saving you $1.94 per gallon! If your car holds 15 gallons of gas, that would equal a savings of $29.10 each time you fill up.
5 Worst Things to Buy Generic
1. Trash Bags
While it might be okay to buy the generic brand of some cleaning and kitchen products, skimming when buying trash bags can end up costing you.
A box of Glad Tall Kitchen Quick-Tie Trash Bags costs $11.99 for 106 bags at Target, slightly more than the up & up brand, which goes for $10.79 for 110 trash bags. Y ou'll save more than $1 on each package by buying up & up, but you don't want to sacrifice quality when you're talking about keeping smelly trash contained. The Glad trash bags have gripping drawstrings and are more heavy duty; the up & up bags are flexible, but they have less-reliable flap ties.
2. Toilet Paper
Just like with trash bags, don't be too cheap when buying toilet paper. Brand name toilet paper is much better quality, won't break apart and is less likely to cause irritation when using it. As an added bonus, you can often find brand name toilet paper at a great price.
If you go with the up & up generic brand at Target, you would pay $6.79 for 24 regular rolls of toilet paper. Go for the brand name Quilted Northern Ultra Plush version, and you will only have to pay 20 cents more. Trust us, your you-know-what will thank you.
3. Major Electronics
While you can save some serious bucks when choosing the cheap version over the brand name for big electronics, you won't be getting the bang you want. The extra money spent on brand-name TVs and other electronics is worth it, considering these items typically come with much better customer service and support than the cheaper options.
So, although a 40-inch Insignia TV at Best Buy would be nearly $190 cheaper than the Samsung one ($279.99 vs. $469.), you'll be regretting your money-saving decision when you have to deal with the less-reliable customer service as soon as something goes wrong.
Much like major electronics, cheaper batteries can cost you in the long run.
Yes, you can save a lot when it comes to buying the generic brand. It costs only $3 for eight DG Home AA batteries at Dollar General compared to $6.37 for Duracell at Walmart. But when you're powering items like speakers, generic batteries might not have enough juice to make them work properly. And with other products, the brand-name batteries will typically last you much longer.
While good cheese can definitely be a bit pricey, it's one food product that is worth the extra money. For cheese lovers, the generic taste just won't cut it though, and as many of us know, there aren't too many things worse than bad cheese.
An 8 oz. package of Great Value Sharp Cheddar Sliced Cheese can cost $2.47 at some Walmart stores. Meanwhile, Sargento's 8 oz. package of Natural Deli Style Sharp Cheddar Cheese slices can cost $2.50. It's only 3 cents more -- go with the Sargento cheese. Your taste buds will thank you later.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 5 Best and Worst Things to Buy Generic