Best when: You want to stock up on staples or try low-price products with high-tech ingredients.
Drugstores are still the place to get the most bang for your buck, and the world of online coupons (which can be used on sites and in stores) has made them even more enticing. Also, the products are more cutting-edge than ever before. “As the demand for advanced ingredients, like retinols and vitamin C, has grown, brands sold at drugstores have found ways to include these ingredients at a reduced cost — it’s demand driving supply,” says Ron Robinson, the founder of BeautyStat.com. To help customers navigate this growing pool of premium products, some drugstores, like CVS, are even hiring trained consultants to offer advice.
Go international. Many U.S. drugstores now carry a selection of high-end products imported from other countries, such as the Finnish brand Lumene. They may cost less at drugstores here as the brands try to build consumer awareness.
Don’t be afraid of house brands. When a house-brand product is packaged very similarly to a brand-name one, it probably contains the same ingredients as its more famous twin. Think of them as generic pharmaceuticals, says Robinson — almost exactly alike, except for the price tag. Just make sure the first few ingredients are the same and in the same order.
Sometimes the best buys are right under your nose. You may have heard that the greatest values are often stocked on lower (read: less visible) shelves. However, this isn’t the case with house-brand items, says Joe Trimble, the owner of Encinal Market, in Alameda, California, and a 20-year veteran of the retail industry. That’s because drugstores make a larger profit on these items than they do on the name brands, so they want to make sure you grab them.
Be loyal. Join your drugstore’s loyalty program and increase your savings by combining store coupons with membership points. Most drugstores will credit points to your entire purchase at checkout (including full-price items), without subtracting the value of your coupons.
Speaking of coupons, make collecting them less labor-intensive. Coupons.com, RetailMeNot.com, and Red Plum.com all trawl the Web for drugstore deals and offer coupons that you can use at more than 100,000 chains and independent stores. (Some can be used in store, some only online; check the fine print.) While you’re on one of these sites, sign up for its e-mail list, which will give you access to members-only deals. For a little more effort, RecycleBank.com, a site that partners with big drugstore brands, like Kiss My Face and Pantene, doles out savings points when you make your routine more green — by doing things like pledging to reduce paper-towel usage and recycling containers. It’s a win-win: You save money and the planet.
Read blogs. To help you further parse all the offers, blogs like SundaySaver.com aggregate weekly deals that you can use in national stores like Target and Walmart. To dig deeper, check out store-specific blogs, like SimplyCVSShopping.com and IHeartRiteAid.com. Although not affiliated with the stores, they compile inside information on unadvertised deals, rebates, loyalty-program tips, and more.
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