Store brands provide extreme savings without the coupons!

Join the Store Brand Revolution

by Lynn Bulmahn

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Oops! Don't look now, but the "Extreme Coupon" show has made it harder for us to use coupons to our advantage.

According to an article on the Internet, stores are now cracking down on extreme couponing. Among other things, they are tightening rules about getting free merchandise and limiting how many coupons that can be used for the same item.

Coupons printed on computers or photocopied are also coming under scrutiny. A store in my area no longer takes these.

Hang up your scissors! There's another way to save big on groceries and health and beauty items, and that's private labels. Also called store brands, these products are often every bit as good as their "name brand competitors."

Because stores in my town do not allow double or triple coupons, I've found buying the store brand items at full price is cheaper than using a coupon for the name brand. It's estimated that a typical family could save about 28 percent of the weekly grocery bill by switching to private labels.

Only once have I been disappointed. That was when a tube of facial cleanser designed for oily skin did not have the same "tingle" as its name-brand inspiration. A closer inspection of both products found the problem, namely a lesser amount of active ingredient in the store brand. How do I know? Ingredients are always listed in the order of their amount, going from most to least. The active ingredient was about third on the name brand list, and the sixth or seventh ingredient listed on the store brand's label.

With this lone exception, I've always been pleased with the private label. It's not risky at all to try the store's own brand. Most store chains have a money back guarantee on their merchandise. If you're not satisfied, they'll give you a refund. What's there to lose?

An official with American Hygiene Products, which manufactures disposable diapers and training pants for such chains as Targets, Wal-Mart and Kroger, said advertising adds about fifty percent to the cost of the name-brand products. Private labels do not have TV commercials, billboards, magazine or newspaper advertising or sports sponsorships such as NASCAR to add to the bottom line of their product. You're not helping pay for these costs or for celebrity endorsements when you buy the generic equivalent or store brand merchandise. Who cares if Jeff Gordon doesn't have a patch on his driving suit touting your favorite private label product? That puts more money in your pocket!

In-house store brands include Equate and Great Value at Wal-Mart, Up and Up at Target, and Member's Mark in Sam's Clubs. There are many others. Merchants often do side-by-side comparisons, highlighting price differences between two almost-identical products.

Name-brand manufactures actually make products for the stores, in some instances. In other cases, such as AHP, there is a separate factory, but it is just as dedicated to producing quality products as the "big boys." Inferior store brand merchandise would damage the chain's good name.

Comparison-shopping is a must. I've found a big price difference between different store brands. For instance, store brand Benadryl allergy pills are much cheaper if I buy the Equate brand at Wal-Mart. This saves $2 to $3 over other drug and grocery chains' allergy pills.

Attention shoppers! Store brands are not only cheaper than national brands, but also they're often better quality. Forget coupons. Start enjoying real savings with store brands.

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