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Money matters: Does being brand aware cost you too much money?

In today’s society, people are so much more ‘brand aware’ than they were 10 or 20 years ago. Kids want the best brand of trainers, people are attracted to the latest smart phones, and many of us will only buy specifically-branded groceries.

But, have you ever thought about switching to less well-known versions? Are expensive brands really worth the money? Or do we just buy them out of familiarity, or because we don’t want to shop around?

Years ago, there might have been a stigma attached to buying ‘own brand’ items in supermarkets. But over recent years, this has changed. In many cases, the increased cost of branded items is down to the ‘fancy’ packaging and not to the product itself. In some cases, the actual product is broadly the same.

Have you ever thought about how much money you could save by buying cheaper brands?

Food shopping is one of the biggest expenses for families, and takes a big chunk out of the budget. It’s something that unfortunately we can’t do without. However you could potentially cut your costs and save money on your food shopping - and even on clothing and beauty items - by choosing cheaper or ‘own’ brands. You don’t have to buy cheaper versions of everything to save money, but introducing a few small changes could really make a big difference.

When you are writing your food shopping list, why not divide the items into two columns – call one column ‘best brands’ only and call the other ‘possibly try cheaper brands’.

We all have favourites that we wouldn’t even consider changing, so put these into column one and the others into the column two. If you have time before you go to do your shopping, have a quick look online and compare the prices of the branded and non-branded items and calculate how much you could save.

When you actually hit the shops, take some time to consider the alternatives: Are they ‘like for like’ in weight, quantity and content? Do they have the same nutritional values and do they look ok? If they are similar but cost less, why not give them a try – nothing ventured, nothing gained. ‘Store cupboard’ items like stock cubes, gravy granules, pasta and rice are worth trying out. If the thought of changing everything in one go seems too daunting, why not set yourself the challenge of dropping one brand every time you shop?

Once you have tried out each of the cheaper products, you can then decide if you would use them again, and this will eventually help you to see a reduction in your shopping bill.

MoneySense is a free, independent programme by Ulster Bank for schools and parents covering topics including banking, borrowing, budgeting and running a small business.

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