Saving Money

The Night My Son Discovered Generic Soda

generic soda, frugal living, generic items

My son is your typical high school sophomore. Social and peer pressure tells him that the brand name of his sports equipment, and where he buys his clothes and other products he uses matters. As an adult I know better, but as a kid I was the same way. I remember giving my mom a hard time for trying to be cost conscious. I cringed at the thought of going school shopping with her because I knew it would only be a matter of time before she’d tell a store employee that their prices were too high.

After a high school football game on Friday night, he climbed in the van as I was picking him and his friends up at a gas station nearby the field.  He pointed at the bottle of soda he put in a cup holder and asked if I had ever tried that kind. After I told him that I had not, he went on to explain to me that it was an off brand of cola, but it’s cheaper AND (in his opinion) better than Coke.


Seeing an opportunity to reinforce a lesson in value, I told him how this is a good example of why the label on a product isn’t always a good indication of the quality of the product inside.   I went on to tell him he should always try things for himself and if he likes them, there’s no harm in saving a little money in buying an off brand product.

“But Dad, this bottle of soda was literally half the cost of real Coke. Can you believe that?”

I smiled as I realized what this was really all about. He had just showed me some new headphones that he wanted to buy. I didn’t think I needed to ask, but I suspected his new found frugality was rooted in his desire to go out and have fun with his friends while still trying to save money for some new headphones.

This is the same young man that wanted a specific pair of baseball cleats because of a brand name. It’s also the same person that while school shopping said he wasn’t interested in looking at certain stores for jeans.  It’s interesting to see how his perspective and his choices change when it’s his own money being spent.

“I can believe it,” I said, “There’s a lot of products like that around. You just have to look for them.”

Here’s to hoping he finds them.

Do you remember if your spending choices changed once you were responsible for your own purchases? Have you ever witnessed a child making different choices when it was their own money being spent?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • That is a beautiful thing.
    I actually can’t remember a moment like that because I believe I was born frugal with champagne taste. So I’m always searching for good things cheap. And I just love it when my kids get on board. Congratulations, Clever DAD!

  • Sorry, I am going to have to unsubscribe from your website after years of reading it. I just don’t think your title of ‘Clever dude’ fits anymore. This is the same son that is popping acne meds as he is downing cheap crappy ‘pop’. No wonder his hormones are all over the place and making his face look like a pizza.

    If you were a clever dude your family would be eating clean and healthy saving you money and your health in the long run. Good luck with your blog!

  • if you write a blog, your open to be judged. I base my judgement solely on what has been presented here. I don’t find giving your kid soda which indicates a typical standard american diet… which is without doubt contributing to the acne amongst other things to then pump drugs down your throat very clever.

    What’s clever is making the link between what passes your lips and that you spray, lather etc on your skin and reduced medical bill costs and increased health. Then you are a clever dude that looks after his finances. Anyway, you won’t need to worry about me ‘judging’ anymore since I unsubscribed.

    I want to be clear I have been reading this blog for years and its only in the last few weeks that I have got that fed up with it that I decided to not come back. Sorry clever dude for ‘judging’ you.

  • @Cathie – “Frugal with Champagne tastes,” is a great perspective, my friend. In my opinion, it lends itself well to trying to get the very best possible for the least amount of money – that’s called value, and I’m all about value!

  • @David – I’m sorry to hear that you’re unsubscribing, losing a reader makes today a sad day. The unfortunate thing is, it appears you’re disengaging because you disagree with what you perceive to be my parenting choices, and not the intended point of the two articles you referenced.

    The article where I mentioned my son’s acne was supposed to highlight the true cost of prescription drugs, and get readers thinking about how the health care system in the US is broken.

    The point of this article is how my son had an “aha!” financial moment on his own regarding brand name vs off brand products even though I’ve been trying to teach him that for quite some time.

    I hope you do come back and read my response to your comments, because I really would ask you to reconsider given that a.) you seem to be unsubscribing because you disagree with my parenting choices b.) you do not know all the facts of my parenting choices, nor do you know the facts regarding our lifestyle.

    What if I told you that our family, while not being 100% perfect (because who is?), actually makes fitness and health a priority in our lives? We emphasize fruits, vegetables and unprocessed foods in our home. We go to the gym as a family several times a week, and I’m actually just weeks away from running my 4th marathon.

    I also, as a parent, allow my son to make some of his own choices. If he’s out on a Friday night with his friends and decides to spend his own money on a soda? Well, that’s his decision – as already mentioned, everything in moderation.

    I apologize if some of the more recent posts have rubbed you the wrong way. I would simply ask that you use them as a stimulus for conversation. I never shy away from a spirited conversation here in the comments as long as it remains respectful – that’s really what I want out of blogging – that the post itself is simply a way to start a conversation, even if the topic is slightly off from the intended subject of the post.

    I genuinely hope you’ll reconsider and keep coming back!

  • @moneybeagle – Moderation, ah yes, the key to life. The thing that I liked the most about my son’s revelation is that he explained it to me with his friends in the van – without fear of being made fun of for buying an off brand soda. I honestly don’t know if that’s a point of importance for kids these days….I just remember once when I was about his age I had friends over and handed out cans of an off brand soda, and one of them asked, “What kind of soda is THIS?” and shook his head. I felt really embarrassed….of course now as an adult I shake MY head at being embarrassed at the situation. It’s a label, who cares?

  • When I first read David’s comments, I seriously thought he was joking. I have to RESPECTFULLY (pay attention if you’re lurking, David) disagree: just because you read someone’s blog doesn’t mean you have the right to judge their lifestyle, or their parenting choices. My family happens to eat mostly organic, rarely drinks soda (and then Virgil’s RB-yum, but pricey!) but everyone is different. This is a personal (PERSONAL) finance blog. Glean what you will from it and move on. Chill, dude.

  • @Kayla – AND he’s learning while the stakes are low – I mean if he spends an extra dollar and doesn’t get his new headphones it’s not a life or death situation. But it’s great practice for when his budget decisions will affect his ability to pay his bills and provide for his family in the future. Thanks for reading!

  • @Cathie – I certainly appreciate your support! I actually don’t mind being judged – I mean, let’s face it, we all judge each other whether we admit it or not. But, we can either take our disagreements and present them in a manner that facilitates constructive discussion that makes both parties (and the readers) think a little deeper, or we can just wave our hand and stop paying attention. I personally prefer the former – discussion is the whole reason bloggers put ourselves “out there” – to stimulate the exchanging of ideas!

  • @Kate – Thanks for your kind words…..everyone has their own parenting style, and many roads lead to having a well balanced, respectful, financially savvy young adult. I’m hoping the path I choose works out. 🙂

  • (commenting on an older post that I just now read as it is Oct 5th now)
    Boy some people can’t see the trees in the forest.( in regards to David’s comment’s) I’m thinking he doesn’t have any kids because if he did he would know that it would be near impossible to get his kid to NOT drink cola of any type when he is with his friends let alone have an epiphany I think your hitting on all cylinders here Brock keep enlightening us and don’t worry as I know your not about losing one little short minded “David” because he to now is letting himself be judged by posting on your blog.
    See you later, Mike Cee

  • @Mike Cee – appreciate the kind words. The important thing to me is that I’m comfortable with my directions and decisions as a parent and I see my son developing into the respectful, thoughtful, cost conscious young man that I hoped he’d become!

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