The generic vs. brand name debate.
One reader asks, when is going to "off-brand" providers worth it? (i.e., switching to Mint Mobile from a legacy provider, as Katie has). Katie and Henah chat through what to look for instead, what's worth keeping "on brand" for, and their own real life examples (Louis Vuitton vs. Coach, All-Clad vs. DTC cookware brands, etc.).
Welcome back to #RichGirlRoundup, Money with Katie's weekly segment where Katie and MWK's Executive Producer, Henah, answer your burning money questions. Each month, we'll put out a call for questions on the MWK Instagram (@moneywithkatie). New episodes every week.
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Katie:Welcome back, Rich Girls and Boys, to the Rich Girl Roundup weekly discussion ofThe Money with Katie Show. I'm your host, Katie Gatti Tassin, and every week Henah and I will break down an interesting money discussion. And starting last week, we decided to move our weekly upload to Mondays, just in case you need a little somethin’ somethin’ for your commute. So before we get started, here is a quick message from our sponsors.
Before Henah and I get into it today, I would love if you would allow me to build some anticipation and suspense about this Wednesday's full episode of the show, because it asks the question, “Are most millionaires actually self-made?” We also talk about nepo babies, meritocracy, and why a certain billionaire seems so hell bent on staying in the news cycle, and I am pumped.
Okay, onto the Roundup. Henah, how are we doing today?
Henah:We're okay. I'm back from vacation, which I know you desperately missed me. So how are you?
Katie:Happy to have you back, and excited to talk to you about this topic. I think you're gonna have an interesting perspective. So today's question from Megan M. was about switching to off-brand providers of certain things, like using a product like Mint Mobile, which was recently acquired by T-Mobile, instead of a traditional cell phone carrier like Verizon or AT&T. I actually have Mint Mobile, so I do feel uniquely qualified to talk about this one. But before I go on my diatribe about Mint Mobile, Henah, any initial thoughts to share?
Henah:I'm someone who obviously cares a lot about money, and so sometimes I also spend a lot of time looking for off-brand or dupe products where I can save a buck…
Henah:I just know that our audio engineer is gonna use that. It's a very fine line between, you get what you pay for and lifestyle creep. And I think this is a really interesting experiment to be doing, because I think in some ways, you can have shortcuts that add up quickly and they make sense. But I think you can also have shortcuts or dupes…dupes…
Henah:…where you kinda have these long-term effects too. So for example, I think with skincare, like this is your face and you will have it for the rest of your life. And so I do think that it's worth investing in your skin and paying a little bit more to invest in that.
Katie:See, that's the hard part, right, though?
Katie:Is that like, you don't know. Am I paying for the brand, or am I paying for the fact that there's actually quality ingredients that are gonna work for me? And I feel like that's where the discernment has to come in. You kind of said it—it's not always that you're getting what you pay for.
Henah:Totally. You kind of talk about this as like the sweet spot of quality and price, and so you personally have Mint Mobile, so I wanna hear about your experience, because we have T-Mobile and obviously they just acquired Mint Mobile, and so I also have been like “Hmm, is this worth making the shift?” So can you talk a little bit about that?
Katie:I sure can. I switched to Mint Mobile in late 2021 and I had Sprint before. So it's not like I was rocking some premium wireless, if you know what I mean. I already had like a not super fantastic carrier, but I was encouraged by the fact that I think at the time, Mint Mobile actually used the cell towers of Sprint and T-Mobile, or maybe just one. I honestly don't really remember. I think Sprint and T-Mobile have merged, too? I don't know. M&A. Love it. Go USA. But it was $360 one time for the year, which works out to $30 a month for unlimited everything. And to me it is like the quintessential example of sweet spot of quality and price, where you're really paying for value, because I've literally noticed no difference between my service. I actually often have…my husband is still on his family's family plan, so we don't have a family plan together. There have been several times where he hasn't had service and I have, and I've kind of been like, “Oh, I'm actually kind of surprised,” 'cause typically those legacy carriers are the ones that you associate with good service, and they typically are pretty expensive.
So to confirm that Mint Mobile is a good product, I can definitely do that. I have not looked back, but I also think that this question gets at that larger discussion of the sweet spot of quality and price. Are you paying for a brand name, or are you paying for the quality of the materials and solid craftsmanship, or like sustainable production? So I always think of the designer goods example, because I have purchased a Louis Vuitton bag in my life, regrettably. And I don't even think it's made of real leather. I actually think it's made of canvas and it was what, $1,300?
Katie:I mean, it was pretty inexcusably expensive. But my mom has a Coach bag from like the eighties that is real leather and couldn't have been more than $200, I mean, at the time. But she still carries it to this day and it's in great condition. You know, when I think about designer goods especially, I think that's when you get into the realm of yes, sometimes you might be paying for better materials, but much of the time you're paying for the label or the logo.
Henah:Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. There's a lot of situations in which generic, it makes no difference if you do generic or otherwise. Specific medicines, generic can make a lot of sense. It'll save you a ton of money. Sometimes, gym memberships, if you're just getting what you need and you're able to get out, you don't need to pay for the Equinox…
Henah:Whatever million-dollar membership…
Henah:But then there are also obviously, like I was saying, some shortcuts where it does really make a difference. So fast fashion, I think, is a big one, that you really do get what you pay for with clothing. Certain things that really make a lot of sense to stay on brand as well. I think it's interesting 'cause in your notes you wrote about All-Clad and…
Henah:Yes, pans. Which I can't believe I'm talking about this with excitement. This is my thirties, I guess. So when we were getting married, I looked at every sort of review you could imagine about like, should I really buy All-Clad or should I just go for like the DTC trendy cookware?
Katie:And there's a lot of them. There's a lot of trendy DTC cookware brands, and it's interesting that you're saying you were debating between the two. 'Cause I also noticed that the trendy DTC brands with the millennial pink branding and the cool fonts are just as expensive, in many cases.
Henah:I mean even if it was a sizable difference, right? Like I was reading Wirecutter, I was reading CNet, I was reading every sort of review I could find, and at the end of the day, it just, there wasn't enough longevity in a lot of these brands to qualify it being worth the price. Whereas All-Clad has been around for a million years or whatever. So that's what we ended up putting on our registry, and we've had it and we love it. But I think, at the end of the day, could I have probably found something that was a little bit less expensive?
Katie:It's gonna last for a really long time.
Henah:Yeah, it's gonna last for the rest of our lives, if not…
Katie:And especially if you're gonna cook every night, like that was when I finally just invested in my first one. And if you get the full set, it's like a thousand dollars.
Henah:That's what we have. We have the full set.
Katie:Oh, so you'rerichrich.
Katie:I'm just kidding. Wedding registry. I know.
Henah:We did a wedding registry.
Katie:Well, we didn't, but we said, “Give us money so we can go to Scandinavia.” But yeah, so we, I got the 10-inch pan.
Katie:And the reason I ended up getting it is 'cause we had those like Target pans, which in my very frugal days it was like, “Oh, who cares? This is good enough.” But you know what was really freaky is that, you know how Teflon is like low-key very much a carcinogen?
Katie:It comes off the pan, and…
Henah:This is Science with Katie and Henah.
Katie:…leaches into your food. I was noticing little black specks...
Katie:…in the food and I was like, “Oh, I cannot justify this. This is ridiculous.” And so I finally was like, “Okay, I'm just gonna get like one good 10-inch” and I did the same thing, read all the reviews. I was like, “I want to invest in a good quality pan. I don't wanna pay for the branding, I don't wanna pay for like the fancy logo or the recognizable whatever. I just wanna get like the straight-up best pan that I can have forever that's gonna cook food really well.” And same thing, All-Clad just kept coming up.
And you know when you know a brand is good? It's when it's expensive as shit, but the website is kind of ugly and the branding is not sexy. You're like, “Oh, this is some good stuff right here.”
Henah:Did you watchSuccession’s season premiere?
Katie:No. So don’t…no spoilers.
Henah:I won't spoil anything. But there's this running meme that's happening online right now about this date that comes to an event with the family, and they have this comically large Burberry bag. And the reason that the meme has been going around is like this person was trying to fit in with the ultra elite by having this brand-name item. But if you're ultra elite, the idea is to have off-brand, logoless items. Like that is the ultimate…
Katie:That's like the ultimate stealth wealth flex.
Henah:Yes. That's the ultimate status. So I think this is a really funny conversation, because off-brand you could do for money reasons, to save money, or because you're trying to not show that you have money.
Katie:Yeah. You're like conferring the ultimate status. That's really interesting. There was a funny tweet about that that went around where it was like, “Rich yells; wealth whispers,” or something, where it was showing the differences between like the fancy flashy watch that rich people have, versus the far more expensive watch you've never heard of that…
Katie:Anyway, All-Clad is the far more expensive $99 pan. Like we call him Pan: capital P, proper noun Pan. And I love him. I'm obsessed. It came to mind when we were talking about this topic, because you know, I just didn't wanna spend a bunch of money on the brand name. And I think that in a lot of cases, you really have to, and Wirecutter’s a great resource for that. There are a lot of good resources online for kind of digging beneath the surface. Even like Reddit. You can find really good reviews for stuff on Reddit where people are not being compensated to talk about it.
Henah:Well, Reddit, YouTube, like they all have these really honest reviews. I even, when I bought my couch, I watched a YouTube video about their experience. And so I do think that there can be really informative off-brand options and you have to dig a little bit below the surface to find out if it makes sense. But I think the larger question that I thought of too is like, is there a major life shift that kind of takes on-brand versus off-brand totally out of the equation?
So for example, I am a toilet paper queen. I just love 3-ply Charmin. You know, I just…
Katie:The pandemic must have been so hard for you.
Henah:It was really tough. No, it actually wasn't ’cause I had already stocked up on it for a month. ’Cause that’s how much I….
Katie:You were the reason there were shortages.
Henah:True. No, I'm just kidding. But I think that whether you're like, “Should I do the 3-ply, the one-ply,” whatever, like a bidet kind of gets rid of the whole question of like on-brand, off-brand, one-ply. So I just think that there's a secondary argument perhaps. I do think that your point about not caring so much about the brand itself and thinking about the actual quality, use, value, craftsmanship, materials, those are the things that I would think about rather than being like, “Do I think that Verizon is gonna have a better…is it gonna have better coverage than this?” You can pretty much figure those out easily online, and then you can kind of decide on the cost differential. Is having a branded provider more exciting to you and something you wanna invest in? But I don't think it has to be.
Katie:Well, thanks for listening to this week's Rich Girl Roundup discussion that started with Mint Mobile and then took a really winding road to many other places. We're happy that you were here, and we will see you Wednesday for the full episode.