Never Buy These 15 Things at Walgreens or Other Drugstores

You pay for the extra convenience. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This may shock you, but not everything you buy at the drugstore is a good deal. In fact, you probably pay about 55% more for common goods at Walgreens than any other store. The National Consumers League reports Walgreens often outprices even CVS drugstores by 20% for common items. They even received a lawsuit in 2013 as a result of overcharging. Many justify the higher prices with convenience. Others would rather take their wallets elsewhere.
Unfortunately, Walgreens isn’t the only place that’s iffy on savings. CVS, Rite Aid, and other drugstores also carry higher-priced items than retailers like Costco, Walmart, and Target. We’ve made a list of the 15 most common items you should never buy at the drugstore again.

1. Shampoo

You may not be getting what you think. | iStock/Getty Images

Where to buy instead: A salon
Consumers who buy professional hair care products at drugstores may not get a bargain. Instead, they could fuel a grey-market industry that sells counterfeit, stolen, or outdated merchandise in a problem known as “diversion.” Diverted professional hair products like Matrix and Paul Mitchell are often more expensive and less effective than the original. They can contain bacteria too, according to sources. Kristen Rogers of XO Jane reports:

Black market underlords (actually, they call it the “gray market”) will buy salon products from a legitimate distributor, then set them aside in a warehouse for years until the barcode expires so they can’t be tracked. During this time, not only does the barcode expire but so does the product inside, warping from heat or just the cruel sands of time into something that is an ineffective shadow of its former self.

Many salons’ anti-diversion policies protect against the grey market. For example, Redken’s advertising states “genuine products guaranteed only in salons.” If you buy professional hair care products, get them from a salon.
Next: Recharge elsewhere.

2. Batteries

close up of batteries
Batteries are so cheap elsewhere. | iStock/Getty Images

Where to buy instead: A warehouse store
Experts advise against purchasing electronics at the drugstore, so why would a consumer waste money on batteries from the same location? Buying batteries in bulk is an effective way to save. Therefore, thrifty shoppers should visit warehouse stores, rather than drugstores, to stock up on these items. Most expiration dates on batteries are a few years out, so you don’t run the risk of squandering hard-earned cash on expired products.
Next: You could actually get sick from buying this at a drugstore.

3. Milk

Pouring milk in the glass
Milk from the drugstore may gross you out. | naturalbox/iStock/Getty Images

Where to buy instead: A grocery store (like Trader Joe’s) or warehouse store (like Costco)
You may be tempted to swing by the local drugstore for a gallon of milk on the way home from work. But be sure to check the expiration date before hitting the check-out counter. CVS was once accused of selling expired over-the-counter drugs, baby formula, milk, and eggs to consumers in New York, forcing the company to pay $875,000 in settlement fees. Some items were more than two years past their sell date and impromptu inspections found that both CVS and Rite Aid continued these practices despite the warning issued by the Attorney General.
Next: Just get a coupon for these supplies.

4. Office supplies

Printer ink cartridges
The drugstore is not going to have a great price on ink. | vladacanon/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Where to buy instead: An office supply store, like Staples
Unless you run a busy home office or shop for your employer, office supply stores have the best deal on office supplies. Staples’ frequent deals on printer paper and ink are often much cheaper than the drugstore with a coupon.
Next: Grocery stores have better deals for this drink.

5. Soda

Soda is way cheaper at the grocery store. | iStock/Getty Images

Where to buy instead: A grocery store
Soda is another item you should never buy at your local drugstore. The reason: These stores rarely run worthwhile sales on soft drinks. However, grocery stores post regular deals on these items and shoppers who stock up when the time is right could save much more money in the long run.
Next: Overpriced drugstore product that’s cheaper at Costco

6. Cleaning products

Plastic bucket with cleaning supplies on wood background
Buy your cleaning products elsewhere. | logoff/iStock/Getty Images

Where to buy instead: A grocery store
Business Insider reports many overpriced cleaning products at the drugstore. Cleaning wipes, in particular, were cheaper at Walmart than CVS and Walgreens according to tests. Laundry detergent is cheaper in bulk, but it expires. So unless your family goes through 200 ounces of detergent quickly, the best choice is smaller containers from the grocery store.
Next: Don’t buy this food item at Walgreens.

7. Snacks

snack foods
All of it adds up. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Where to buy instead: A grocery or warehouse store
While it won’t necessarily break the bank to pick up a few last-minute grocery items at the drugstore on your commute home, frequent trips could set you back financially. A comparison tested the overpriced drugstore theory on snacks and other food items. Peanuts were just under $2 more expensive at CVS than Walmart and about $1.70 more expensive at Walgreens. Business Insider found SlimFast snack bars for less money elsewhere as well.
Next: An item you could spend thousands of dollars on

8. Diapers

Pile of diapers
Diapers are expensive enough as it is. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Where to buy instead: Online or warehouse store
Anyone with young children knows what a budget-buster diapers are to a money-conscious family. Pocket Your Dollars analyzed generic, Pampers, and Huggies brand diapers to find where families could score the best deal. Unsurprisingly, Walgreens lost to Costco, Target, Amazon, and in all categories. Considering the average family will spend about $2,500 per child, it’d be best to avoid drugstore diapers now and forever.
Next: Although it’s not a bulk purchase, this item is cheaper at Costco.

9. Over-the-counter drugs

Prescription bottles at Publix
Bottles of antibiotics line a shelf at a Publix Supermarket pharmacy. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Where to buy instead: A warehouse store
For years, experts have warned consumers about overpriced prescription drugs. Ironically drugstores are not your best option for low-priced drugs. Prescription drugs are nearly 450% pricier at CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and most independents than at Costco. You’re better off heading to your larger chains for cheaper drugs.
“Big-box stores such as Costco and Walmart use the pharmacy as a traffic builder for their stores, whereas traditional chain stores, such as CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens, make the majority of their revenue and profits from the pharmacy,” Stephen W. Schondelmeyer, Ph.D., Pharm.D tells Consumer Reports.
Next: You got a gift but nothing to wrap it in.

10. Gift supplies

You’re better off going to the dollar store. | Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Where to buy instead: A dollar store
If you’ve ever stopped by the local store for a last-minute birthday or Valentine’s Day card, then you know how expensive this can get. The high price tag is not merely the result of corporate-induced holiday propaganda designed to take your money, it’s also due to large markups commonly seen in drugstore gift items. Holiday or not, dollar stores are a much better option for both cards and gift wrap than drugstores or Walmart, according to
Next: Your healthy choices may not be so healthy.

11. Vitamins

Most of the vitamins don’t have all the nutrition they advertise. | Blackzheep/iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Where to buy instead: A warehouse store that restocks frequently, a nutrition store like GNC, or online
A Consumer Reports survey found that some women’s vitamin brands sold at Rite Aid offered only a fraction of the nutrients advertised on their labels. A separate Consumer Reports A Consumer Reports tested multivitamins sold in the dollar store and determined they don’t compare to name-brand vitamins sold elsewhere. The verdict? Shop for your vitamins at trustworthy locations; don’t settle for the slightly lower-priced versions at drugstores.
Next: Common product you must avoid buying

12. Housewares

wine glasses in a restaurant
You’ll be getting mediocre brands for high prices. | iStock/Getty Images

Where to buy instead: A department store or large retailer
Drugstores are not your typical go-to store for housewares and appliances. Even in a pinch, shoppers should make the extra trip to a Macy’s or Target for their next toaster, ironing board, or stemware, as these products can be purchased for less elsewhere, and you’ll have more than three mediocre brands to choose from.
Next: A compelling reason to eat healthy

13. Unhealthy foods

Halloween candy at a Walgreens store on September 19, 2013 in Wheeling, Illinois.
Candy savings won’t help save you in the long run. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Where to buy instead: Grocery or warehouse store
It’s unwise, both personally and financially, to buy unhealthy snack food at the drugstore. Walgreens offers Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices, meaning your fitness-related lifestyle choices will help you save money at the store. Setting a new health goal, testing your blood pressure, or walking a mile earns points shoppers can turn into massive savings.
Next: Sorry, kids. Better luck next time.

14. Toys

Baby boy lying on the blanket with many toys around
It’s hard to get the kids to stay away, but you’re better off. | AGrigorjeva/iStock/Getty Images

Where to buy instead: Online or warehouse store
With kids in tow, it’s hard to bypass the drugstore’s toy section. But even a quick walk-through could lead to a bad purchase as the mark-ups on these products are high. Not only is the selection less than stellar, but these type of non-core items aren’t always made to last. Save your toy shopping for the bigger stores and prioritize safety over price.
Next: Bargain drugstore item debunked

15. Makeup

a palette of nude colored eyeshadows and colorful pigments on a wooden background
You’re better off shopping at Walmart. | Bubbers13/Getty Images

Where to buy instead: A beauty supply store or online
Drugstores often tout themselves as the premier place to buy cosmetics. While this may be true if you shop at specialty stores like Sephora and Ulta, a recent price comparison from found that mascara was over $2 cheaper at Walmart than CVS. This means even savings garnered with a rewards card can’t compare to prices elsewhere.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.
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