We like to think that we're being smart shoppers when we pop down to the drug store for a few essentials, but usually that's not true at all.
Saving money at the drug store involves waiting for big sales, taking advantage of loyalty cards and stacking coupons. In fact you're losing money when you buy these 15 essentials at your neighborhood pharmacy:
1. Shampoo and conditioner
The best deals for these hair products are in the one place we usually overlook: the salon. You've probably noticed your stylist offering crazy BOGO deals on hair products, but passed them up before. Stock up next time you get your hair cut and you'll thank yourself.
These become a staple of your grocery list as you get older, and it's only natural to assume that the drug store would have these at the lowest price, but that isn't so. You can actually shave a few dollars off your grocery bill each month by getting them at discount stores like Target, especially when you buy in bulk.
3. Anything edible
Of course you wouldn't do your grocery shopping at CVS, but we're always tempted to pick up "one or two little things" while we're out. Don't. Unless there's a killer sale you won't save on anything. Even snacks and candies are cheaper at a real grocery store.
4. Paperback books
Now here's something we often overlook: odds are you have a points or discount card at a store like Barnes & Noble, so every time you buy a $5 paperback at the drug store you're cheating yourself out of money.
If you're feeling really frugal, consider getting your books from the library instead, or at least an online bookseller.
5. Brand name medicine
We'll discuss prescription medications later, but be aware that even over-the-counter brand names should be avoided at all costs. Compare your drugs to the generic version in the same section. If the formula is the same, there's no reason to buy the name brand.
6. Cleaning products
Don't take our word for it, NBC has done the math. They found Tide was $2 cheaper at Walmart compared to CVS, and across the board cleaning supplies follow the same trend.
These next two are staples, and you're probably guilty of buying them from time to time...
7. Toilet paper and paper towels
The Good Housekeeping Institute crunched the numbers and found that you need to buy these paper products in bulk to get your money's worth. What's more, "drug store-branded toilet paper was actually more expensive than other brands available in bulk sizes in our recent test."
For best results, you should invest in a Costco membership and stock up on TP when prices drop.
8. Greeting cards
Leaving that aisle of birthday cards by the cash registers is the oldest trick in the book, but we just keep falling for it. Here's an important reminder: you can always find cards 2 for $1 at Dollar Tree and other discount retailers. The same goes for wrapping paper and party supplies.
NBC compared the prices for mascara at different stores and discovered it was $2 cheaper at Target. You get comparable savings on facial cleansers and other staples at these big box stores. Look out for their beauty boxes, which combine products for huge savings.
You've got to buy them somewhere, but you won't get a good deal at your local pharmacy. Most parents find it's easiest to set up an Amazon Prime account. Not only will be able to get Amazon's great deals on diapers, you can have them automatically delivered each month. Easy peezy!
Most drug stores have joined the 21st century by adding a small section with big ticket items like TVs and video came consoles, along with TV cords and other tech accessories. Stay out of this section. There's no way you'll get a good deal, and the products are often low quality.
Even if you could find something comparable to a big box store item, the staff wouldn't be able to answer your questions or make helpful recommendations.
12. Photo prints
If you're one of the few people still getting pictures developed, there are better ways to go about it than a trip to your drug store. Online sites like Snapfish can help you print photos for as low as 9 cents per print, compared to more than 20 for drug store prints.
13. Gift cards
These are handy when you need to buy a gift for someone picky, but there's no reason to get them at the drug store. Most stores offer deals if you buy a gift card in-store, and you can save even more using sites like GiftCardGranny, which sells unwanted cards at discount prices.
14. Prescription medicine
America is one of the few countries in the world where it's not unusual to pay more for prescriptions at your pharmacy. Even compared to small pharmacy chains or grocery store pharmacies, big names stores like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid regular charge higher prices for medicines according to Consumer Reports.
You could try online retailers like Health Warehouse, but your best bet for cheap prescriptions is Costco - no, you don't need a membership to use the Costco pharmacy.
15. Hair supplies
It seems like we're always buying more hair clips, scrunchies, berets and combs, but you shouldn't pick them up at the drug store. Business Insider found that they're routinely cheaper at dollar stores and other discount shops.
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