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What Is a Dupe and How Can It Save You Money?

Learn more about #Dupes, a social media trend started by Zoomers and Millennials that has the potential to help all consumers save money.

Millennial shopper in mall embracing dupe culture.
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When inflation is high, consumers look for ways to save money on the things they need or want to buy. Recently, one such idea has taken particular root among Generation Z (Zoomers) and Generation Y (Millennials). It’s the art of shopping for dupes—short for duplicates, and anyone can give it a try, even you.

What are dupes? says that “A dupe is an inexpensive alternative to an expensive product.” Although the term dupe has only recently been coined and is trending on social media, the concept itself is not entirely new. Things like knock-off designer brands of clothing and grocery store private-label products have been around for decades.

So what’s new? In the past, people were more likely to be embarrassed when shopping for and wearing or using knock-offs. Today, those who have adopted a dupes mindset are proud of the fact, often so much so that they brag about it in their social posts by sharing their most recent dupe finds.

Dupes can be found in any shopping category, but are most often associated with these:

  • Groceries
  • Clothing
  • Makeup and beauty products
  • Fashion accessories like sunglasses
  • Cookware, dishware and countertop kitchen appliances
  • Other household appliances like hairdryers and vacuums
  • Tools

There is one thing that a dupe isn’t, and that’s a fake. While a dupe is an obvious duplication of a more expensive brand, it makes no attempt to deceive you into thinking it actually is that higher-end name brand. A fake, on the other hand, tries to deceive you with an almost exact replica of the higher-end products logo and/or branding.

Why has dupe culture become so popular?

Higher prices in the grocery store and at other retail shops are an obvious reason why younger consumers are joining the dupes bandwagon. They typically earn less than shoppers who are further along in their careers, so hunting for and buying dupes gives Zoomers and Millennials more flexibility in their budgets.

Recent layoffs in industries like technology may also be spurring people of all ages to find creative ways to bridge the income gap while they look for a new job. Once they try it and like it, they may very well adopt it as a lifelong personal finance hack.

And then there is social media, where #dupes started and continues to thrive. Many people like to share their dupe success stories on their social feeds. It’s a natural way to add more followers and elevate an online presence, whether you’re a dedicated influencer or not.

So, how popular is duping? One survey found that 67% of consumers aged 18 to 24 as well as those aged 25 to 39 have purchased a dupe. That same survey revealed a few other interesting statistics about Zoomers and Millennials:

  • 69% say that buying a dupe gives them a luxury experience without spending a fortune.
  • 60% indicate that they would buy a dupe even if they could afford the higher-end option.
  • 51% enjoy the rush of finding a dupe.

How can you find dupes?

You can find dupes on your own by shopping at dollar stores, drug stores and big box stores, especially for lower-priced makeup and other beauty items. At your favorite grocery store, intentionally look for its private-label products or other generic brands, which are typically situated nearby higher-priced name-brand ones. But this method will take some trial and error as you experiment to see which dupes make good alternatives to your favorite higher-end brands.

The other option for finding a dupe of a particular product is to use a search engine. Just type in the brand name item followed by the word dupe. For example, let’s say you love a certain luxury brand of makeup. You can search for a dupe so that rather than paying upwards of $50 for a bottle of its foundation, you can buy a drug store knockoff for maybe $10 to $15 that others have already tested and indicated is a cheaper-yet-effective alternative. Don’t forget about the site, too!

Likewise, you can find all sorts of content related to dupes while scrolling through your social media feeds.

Five Examples When a Dupe Mindset Can Benefit Your Budget

There are many times when adopting a dupe mindset can potentially save you money. Here are five prime examples:

  • Try complementing your high-quality basics (jackets, pants and skirts) with lower-priced accessories, blouses and shirts (aka dupes) when building your professional wardrobe.
  • Consider switching mostly to private-label products and generic brands during your weekly grocery shopping trips.
  • Encourage your tweens and teens to look for viable dupes for clothing and other back-to-school.
  • Check out dupe appliances, home décor and furniture to help you affordably furnish your home.
  • Use dupes to help offset some of the expenses that surprise you in retirement.

A Word of Warning about Dupes

You do have to be careful about dupes. Their cheaper prices can mean lower quality materials and/or manufacturing. Read reviews for any dupes you’re considering before you buy them. If a dupe isn’t actually a good alternative, i.e., it’s a waste of money rather than a money-saver, people will definitely be talking about it online. Heeding such warnings will help you avoid dupe disappointment.

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CUNA 2023 diamond award trophy icon

CUNA 2023 Diamond Award Winner

Financial Education

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