When it comes to most items, drugstore chains like Walgreens or CVS can’t compete on price with stores like Walmart, Target, or the local grocery store. Like convenience stores, drugstores carry lots of staples, but you pay for convenience with higher prices. And there’s evidence to back that up. According to a ConsumerWorld.org survey, the average drugstore charged 50 percent more for a sampling of 25 common grocery items than the least expensive supermarket.
But as with many things in life, there are hacks that level the playing field.
For example, WildForWags and WildForCVS owner Christie Hardcastle recently told me she regularly finds deals at chain drugstores that beat the pants off big box and grocery stores. In fact, she claimed to routinely get things free, and sometimes even come out money ahead!
Impossible? I thought so, so I invited her to meet at a local Walgreens and explain how she does it. The following video is what resulted – check it out, then read on for more.
As you saw in the video, you can sometimes get a good deal at places like Walgreens and CVS just by keeping an eye out for ad circulars and in-store signs revealing what’s on sale. But to get the best deals, you’ll have to do more – join loyalty programs, look for coupons – both store and manufacturer – and check out sites like Christie’s for ways to get the best current deals.
While that may sound like a hassle, the rewards are powerful: very cheap and sometimes free stuff.
I asked Christie to expand on the tips she offered in the video. For those of you new to the drugstore discount game, here – in her own lightly-edited words – are some of her favorite products to purchase at drugstores…
This is one of the items drugstores price below grocery stores to get you in the door. Each week you’ll normally see a different cereal brand or selection on sale. If you aren’t brand-loyal you can pretty much bet on getting a great deal every week. If you have a brand you prefer, you’ll usually see sales every six weeks or so. Plus, there are often coupons you can print even if you’re new to couponing or don’t have newspaper coupon inserts.
2 & 3. Dairy and eggs
Drugstores will often run sales on milk and eggs with savings up to $1 over grocery store prices. Dairy prices vary regionally, but keep an eye out for sales or special offers.
4 & 5. Toothbrushes & toothpaste
These items will often have pharmacy rewards (like Walgreens Register Rewards or Balance Rewards Points) that can really lower the price. Combine points with coupons and you should be able to grab toothbrushes and toothpaste free or very inexpensively every four to six weeks.
If you’re using drugstore brands, you’ll usually get a much better deal at drugstores than grocery or department stores. There are often rewards for these products you can combine with coupons and sales to get fabulous deals. We see Buy One Get One Free or Buy One Get One 50% Off sales on cosmetics regularly. Plus, because of limited space, drugstores often have great clearance make-up deals to make space for new products.
Another tip: If your store has a beauty counter always ask the beauty adviser for coupons!
7. Personal care items
Soap, body wash, and lotions can often be purchased very inexpensively at the drugstore. Look for sales, rewards, and store coupons you can stack along with manufacturer’s coupons for these items too.
8. Store-brand garbage bags
I love Walgreens brand (Nice!) garbage bags. The quality is excellent, and the regular price is very reasonable. I usually wait for a sale, when you can grab them for about half the price of brand-name garbage bags.
9. Drugstore-brand diapers
While not a user myself, I’ve heard great things about Walgreens-brand diapers. Look for the Buy-One-Get-One-Free sale that happens a few times a year and you can grab diapers for about 12 to 13 cents each.
10. Hair color
Not only do drugstores have a great selection of hair color, they often run sales and rewards promotions. You can also find many clearance hair color deals. Combine that with coupons and you can easily get hair color kits from your favorite brands for about $2.50 to $3.50 a kit.
The bottom line
While surveys like ConsumerWorld’s offer evidence drugstores charge for convenience, learning to hack prices with rewards programs, sales, and coupons can turn those high prices upside down. If you haven’t tried it yet, do. And if you need free help, there’s plenty out there. For starters, check out Christie’s sites, WildForWags.com (Walgreens) and WildforCVS.com (CVS).
What deals have you found at the local drugstore? How about sites that help you save? Spread the word by leaving a comment below or on our Facebook page!