Money

8 Expert Tips That Can Score You Big Savings at the Drugstore

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Whether you’re shopping for over-the-counter (OTC) medications, supplements, or simply a toothbrush, following these insider secrets from money-saving experts guarantees you’ll never pay full price again. Here are their best tips for saving at the drugstore!

Pay 20 percent less for groceries.

You may not think to buy your everyday household items at the drugstore, but you’ll likely find bargains on everything from toothbrushes to cereal. Since those items are expensive in grocery stores, drugstores price them low to help lure in consumers. Extreme couponer Christie Bisbee of WildForCVS.com says shampoo, conditioner, milk, eggs, and sweeteners are also great drugstore buys — you can easily get them for 20 percent (or more!) less than what you’d pay elsewhere.

Use an app to pinpoint deals.

“Who wants to hit up three different stores to save a dollar on hairspray? I let an app do the work for me,” says money-saving expert Vivian Cook. With the Basket app (you can download the app to your smartphone for free from Basket.com), when you search for specific products, it lists the prices they’re being sold for at different stores, so you can plan your shopping based on their list.

Get an Rx for your OTC.

Regularly take vitamins or over-the-counter treatments for chronic issues like allergies or heartburn? Ask your doctor if she can send a prescription for these supplements or meds to your drugstore. Many are available in nonprescription strength from your pharmacist (such as the antihistamine Xyzal and vitamin D), which means if your insurance covers prescriptions, you could pay far less with your copay than you would retail. No health insurance? A prescription from your doc could still help you save. That’s because many prescription coupon websites (like GoodRx.com) offer discounts on prescribed over-the-counter meds, as long as you pay for them at the pharmacy counter.

‘Cycle’ your way to super steals.

The timing trick that guarantees the best discounts? “Tapping into drugstores’ sales cycles,” says Teri Gault, founder of The Grocery Game. Retailers typically stick to a regular markdown schedule, with items going on sale every three weeks. By making note of your local store’s schedule, you can take advantage and stock up on nonperishable items like toilet paper and pantry staples when they’re at their absolute lowest price.

Match up for markdowns.

“Forget scouring ads for deals — let a ‘coupon matchup’ site do the work for you,” says savings expert Tom Nathaniel of LushDollar.com. “These sites are designed to find items on sale and match them with coupons you can use to save — and sometimes even make — money.” His favorite? TheKrazyCouponLady.com. “The site updates almost daily and recently matched three $1 off coupons for Crest products with a $6 loyalty reward at Walgreens, resulting in three products for 99 cents each!” Other helpful savers: Flipp, which lets you view all drugstores’ weekly ads in one place, and Karma (formerly Shoptagr), which alerts you when your favorite items go on sale.

Spend 75 percent less with generics.

Store-brand versions of OTC medicines are just as effective as their name-brand equivalents because they have the same type and amount of active ingredients — and generics have been shown to save you up to 73 percent versus name brands. To save even more: Shop Amazon’s Basic Care store. They offer a wide selection of Amazon brand OTCs, including cough medicine, pain remedies and sleep aids, for up to 75 percent less than store brands from competing drugstores. Prefer to shop in person? Try a discount store like Aldi, says money-savvy Chicago mom of five Sandy Keaton. “Aldi’s take on Extra Strength Tylenol comes in a bottle of 100 caplets, which costs $1.95 — about 1.9 cents a caplet — while at one big pharmacy chain, I found Tylenol to be closer to 9.4 cents a caplet, almost five times as much as Aldi’s.”

Put expired coupons to good use.

“Ask the cashier if you can use expired coupons — if you’re polite and friendly, your chances of success rise substantially,” says Kyle James of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. Also, many cashiers are trained to give the customer a working coupon if they have an expired one. It’s just great customer service — it creates a happy customer who’s likely to return.

Score supplements for $1.

You can find quality supplements at most drugstores, but dollar stores, like Dollar General, sell them for much less! In fact, the discount retailer recently partnered with Centrum to create a Centrum Energy Multivitamin ($5 for 30 tablets) — almost half the price of a similar products. Paired with a digital coupon, you could score a bottle for just $1!

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Save on Healthcare (Buy on Amazon, $12.99).  

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