It's happened to all of us — while waiting for your prescription at the drugstore, you end up throwing a bunch of other stuff in your basket. Then when the cashier rings you up, you're shocked by the high total (and insanely long receipt). And you wonder, Are there ever any good deals to be had from the drugstore?
The answer is yes, if you shop smart. Here's how.
1. Join the free rewards program.
Many major chains have excellent rewards programs — with so many offers and cash-back deals that there are entire blogs devoted to them! Christine Bisbee runs two such blogs: Wild for Wags (Walgreens) and Wild for CVS. If you're going to shop at a drugstore, she says joining its free reward program is a must; all you need is a few minutes and a phone number. And if you have some time to monitor sales, even better.
2. Use your coupons.
Collin Morgan, the blogger behind Hip2Save, also encourages shoppers to use their coupons, if possible in combination with sales and rewards promotions and especially on pantry, cleaning, paper, and personal care products. "It's a little more work to figure out, but I always save 70 to 80 percent at the drugstores on those items, and only 40 to 50 percent when I purchase them at the grocery store using coupons," she says.
Read more: 5 Money-Saving Tips from a Coupon Clipper
3. Shop for these 10 products.
Even if you don't have time to extreme coupon (or regular coupon), you can still find plenty of deals. Here are 10 products that are generally cheaper (or a better value) at the drugstore than at the supermarket.
- Dairy: "Dairy's one of those things they're going to try to get you in the door with," Bisbee explains. People always need milk and eggs — and drugstores know it. If they can get you to come in for those items (because you know the prices are low), they might have a chance of getting you to buy some other stuff while you're there.
- Soda: Although drugstores don't carry as much variety as the grocery store, you can usually find deals on 12-packs or two-liter bottles.
- Cereal: "There always seems to be a sale on cereal," says Bisbee. Stock up whenever your favorite variety is BOGO or part of any other deal.
- Nuts: Many drugstores sell their own brands of nuts and these brands are almost always cheaper than the brands you'd find at the supermarket.
- Gift cards: Drugstores carry gift cards for a variety of national brands, and Morgan says some (especially Rite Aid) will give you rewards points for future purchases when you buy a qualifying gift card.
- Personal care products: Because they go on sale regularly at drugstores, personal care products like body wash, shampoo, soap, and deodorant top the list of things you should never buy at the supermarket. And you should never pay full price for any of them, either, especially toothpaste: "If it's not super cheap or close to free, just wait until next week," says Bisbee. "It should never be more than a dollar." Who knew?
- Laundry detergent: "I don't remember the last time I bought laundry detergent somewhere else," says Bisbee. "If you're really brand loyal, you'll just have to wait a little longer; for example, every four to six weeks, there's gonna be a really good deal on Tide."
- Makeup: In addition to their constant "buy one, get one half off" makeup sales, CVS and Walgreens both have beauty clubs that make it easy to save. For example, if you spend $50 at Walgreens on personal care, you'll receive $5 worth of store credit.
- Baby supplies: Morgan says she finds the best deals on diapers and wipes at drugstores. Not only do they go on sale regularly, but there are also often opportunities to stack deals: "You can stack a sale price with a manufacturer's coupon, plus a store coupon, and get rewards points to use on a future purchase," she explains.
- Last-minute gifts: If other stores are closed, drugstores can come to your rescue. Nail polish, chocolate, magazines, gift cards, and bath accessories all make passable last-minute gifts. Or you can simply grab balloons and a card.
P.S.: Don't forget to check the clearance racks!
"Drugstores tend to clearance out inventory faster since they have limited space," says Morgan. "I've even scored free items by combining a clearance price with a coupon."
How about you? What do you buy from the drugstore that you never get at the supermarket?