The modern-day drugstore or pharmacy has become a one-stop-shopping destination for household products, beauty items and groceries. The industry generates $220 billion in revenue every year, with stores often carrying some of the best deals in town, but only if you know what to shop for.
Here are what you should and shouldn't buy at the drugstore.
While prescription drugs aren't always the cheapest at drugstores, do take advantage of some of the other health services provided by your pharmacy, such as flu shots. Flu shots here tend to be about the same price or less than at your doctor's office, and if you're unemployed or uninsured, your flu shot might even be free. For example, last year CVS Caremark offered 100,000 free seasonal flu shots to the unemployed.
Common pantry staples like brand foods, spices, condiments and canned goods are often priced less at the drugstore, especially when they go on sale. The deals vary weekly, but try checking websites, such as 5dollardinners.com, SundaySaver.com and DealSeekingMom.com for updates on drugstore specials.
If your budget is tight this month, and you just need a little bit of a product to tide you over, try buying travel-size items. Travel-size shampoos, lotions and shaving cream sometimes cost less at drugstores than elsewhere and can last longer than you think. Buying travel-sized products can also help you save you when you're testing new products. And there is less waste if it turns out it's not for you!
Water Filtration Systems
The cost of water poured through a carbon filter comes out to about 31-cents per gallon, which is 12 times lower than the typical cost of bottled water. Your monthly trip to the drugstore is the perfect time to stock up on filters, sold for anywhere from $6 to $8 each.
Drugstore Rewards Program
You could also take advantage of the added savings a drugstore rewards program, such as CVS's Extra Care Rewards or Duane Reade's FlexRewards where you could earn cash back for purchases and discounts on products. A rewards program is your key to saving at a drugstore because even a dollar or a few cents in discounts will add up as you shop, especially if you're a regular customer.
Your local drugstore won't necessarily offer the best price for your prescription drug, especially if you lack health insurance. Compare prices at big box retailers, where you may find lower cost generic drug programs for uninsured consumers. At stores like Target and Wal-mart you can find a 30-day supply of a generic drug for $4 or a 90-day supply for $10. Just make sure to consult with your doctor to ensure the generic version of your prescription will work just as well and be safe for you. Some experts also caution against buying prescription drugs sold strictly online. "Those drugs aren't necessarily, regulated and that's not the safest place to be," says Jody Rholena, senior editor at Consumer Report's ShopSmart Mag.
The price per single box is pretty high at your average drugstore. You can save about 25 to 50% by buying store-brand cereals or in bulk elsewhere.
Small Appliances and Gadgets
While drugstores are expanding their aisles and offering a bigger variety of products, including electronics and small appliances, you may be better off shopping at a big box retailer or electronics store where you'll find far more variety and more affordable prices. In general, you may be limited to just a few brand choices at the drugstore and pay more for a lower-quality product.