Surprising things you should always buy at drugstores

Woman's Day
Save a bundle at the drugstore

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Save a bundle by shopping for these items at the pharmacy.

The days of hitting the drugstore just to pick up prescriptions are long gone. You can now stock up on beauty supplies, laundry detergent and more for less than what supermarkets, big-box stores and warehouses charge. Why?

Retail pharmacies, such as CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Duane Reade, have expanded their inventory but not necessarily their space, so they have to frequently rotate the products they sell.

“Department stores have one-day sales, and anything left over goes to outlets. Drugstore items go significantly on sale because they don’t have outlets, so they need a quicker way to sell things,” explains David Zyla, Emmy-award-winning stylist and author of The Color of Style.


Shampoo & Conditioner

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Shampoo and Conditioner

Keeping your locks luscious has never been so affordable, and you can save more on hair care at pharmacies than at supermarkets and warehouse clubs.

Drugstores often pair up with manufacturing giants like Proctor & Gamble (Pantene, Herbal Essences) and Unilever (Dove, TRESemmé) for promotions when the company wants to call your attention to a new product, says Kathy Spencer, author of How to Shop for Free.

Combine purchasing a product that’s already on sale with coupons and pharmacy rewards you get for signing up with a store program, and hair products can cost next to nothing—or be free! Drugstores are the only type of stores that offer free-after-rebate deals on hair-care supplies.



Drugstore Makeup

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Makeup

“Makeup manufactured for drugstores is less expensive than department-store brands because it has less pigment and offers less coverage,” says Zyla.

Still, the potential for savings can't be beat. When combining coupons, pharmacy rewards and promotions, cosmetics, like eyeshadow and eye liner, can be free (Spencer never pays for makeup!). They can even earn you cash back in the form of store credit or drugstore rewards.

Who doesn’t want to get paid for looking pretty?


Cereal

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Cereal

The savings on this breakfast staple just may bowl you over—if you take advantage of store coupons and loyalty programs. In addition to pharmacies offering discounts on cereal, product distributors, such as Kellogg’s and General Mills, release their own coupons.

Cereal coupons are also up for grabs on eBay.com, notes Spencer. In general, though, don’t go food shopping at the drugstore.

“Grocery items are usually more expensive in drugstores and drugstore items are usually more expensive in supermarkets,” says Gregory Karp, author of Living Rich by Spending Smart.

Food prices at supermarkets tend to be lower because they order grocery items in bulk, since that’s what customers typically go there for. Bulk purchases result in lower prices for the store, which trickle down to you. But stores may up the prices on items they don’t buy in bulk. It’s almost like you pay a convenience fee to buy groceries at the drugstore and pharmacy items at supermarkets.



Body Lotion & Body Wash

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Lotion and Body Wash

Similar to hair care, body-care products are regulars on drugstores’ promotional schedules. Although coupons will make the prices even lower, sometimes swiping your rewards card is all that’s necessary to get a good discount.

“Stores like CVS and Rite Aid run rewards promotions making these products cheap all on their own,” says Joanie Demer, co-author of Pick Another Checkout Lane, Honey: Save Big Money & Make the Grocery Aisle your Catwalk.

Another reason to buy bath-and-body goods at pharmacies: So many stores have released generic (read: inexpensive) versions of popular name-brand products. The store-brand varieties are now of equal quality to or better than the more well-known items, says Karp.




Laundry Detergent

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Laundry Detergent

Home and clothing cleaning supplies, ranging from paper towels to air fresheners, are smart to pick up at the drugstore.

CVS, Duane Reade and similar stores have created their own versions of brand-name cleaning items. Even though big-box stores and supermarkets have their own brands as well, pharmacy brands are still less expensive.

“Drugstores work much harder to promote their store brands, so you’ll find they go on sale regularly. Grocery stores may not put their store brands on sale at all,” says Erin Huffstetler, the Frugal Living Guide for About.com.

If you choose to go the brand-name route, well-known household product distributors Proctor & Gamble (Bounce, Tide) and The Clorox Company (Clorox, Green Works) frequently release coupons for cleaning items. Although detergent and house cleansers are best bought at drugstores, Karp warns to steer clear of mops and brooms. Since they’re typically displayed alongside cleansers, consumers tend to buy them impulsively and, therefore, stores sometimes give them higher prices.  




Hair Color

Photo: iStock

Hair Color

No need to spend a fortune at salons to update your hair’s hue. At-home hair-color kits are bargains at retail pharmacies as compared to supermarkets and warehouse clubs.

"First, hair color is considered a core item for pharmacies", says Karp.

"As a core item, drugstores typically have more brands and varieties available to purchase than supermarkets do. And that gives you more price points to pick from", explains Huffstetler.

She adds that the availability of large amounts of hair-color brands also means that at least one of them is likely to be on sale or part of a promotion at any given time.



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