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According to some polls Walmart is one of the most hated retailers. And I have my own complaints. But many years ago, when Walmart came to the small town where I lived, and where I worked for $6 per hour, it was like getting a huge pay raise.
I walked into the new store and saw my shampoo on the shelf for 40% less than I had been paying. I looked around and noticed that almost everything cost 10% to 40% less than at other local stores. My paycheck went so much further.
Price matters, and you can save a lot of money shopping at Walmart. But beyond just taking advantage of their “everyday low prices,” there are many other ways to save at Walmart. Here are twenty-two of them.
1. Check the Unit Pricing Information
Any good shopper knows the importance of the “unit price,” which is usually displayed on the shelf. For example, a “cheap” small bag of potato chips might have a unit price of 20 cents per ounce, while the pricier big bag is the better value at 15 cents per ounce.
However, bigger is not always better. Consumer Reports says, “One study found that, in some supermarkets, as much as 25 percent of brand-name products are a poorer value in the larger size.”
At Walmart you’ll often find better unit pricing on the smaller packages rather than the “family size” ones. Check those unit price tags.
2. Watch for Secret Price Cycles
Have you ever wondered how Walmart can claim “new lower prices” year after year while prices are rising? To make the claim for a specific product FTC regulations require that “the former price is the actual, bona fide price at which the article was offered to the public on a regular basis for a reasonably substantial period of time…”
So here’s the trick used by Walmart: Have a higher price for “a reasonably substantial period of time,” and alternate that with a “new lower price.”
For example, I’ve noticed this cycle with the 9.1-ounce box of Nabisco Wheat Thins. For years it regularly went back and forth from $1.98 to $2.98 (and was advertised as the “new lower price” when at the bottom of the cycle). I’ve caught this happening with several other products.
So if you notice that some of the things you buy at Walmart suddenly cost much more, wait a month to see if the price drops back down, and then stock up before it cycles back to the higher price.
3. Check Clearance Racks
When Walmart is ready to get rid of stuff, they really like to move it out fast. I once bought six pairs of down mittens that were normally $15 for just $1 each (late winter, of course). I later sold them at a flea market for $3 per pair.
My wife regularly finds clothing on discount racks for $5, $3, and sometimes even $1. The deals aren’t usually as good on the men’s clothing, but last winter I did snag a hat for $1, and long underwear for a 75% discount.
Watch too for the clearance racks that are sometimes put out near the cash registers. These typically have food and household items on them.
4. Find Clearance Items on Walmart.com
You can also find Walmart clearance items online. Just enter “clearance” in the search bar to see what’s available. Then refine your search by selecting a category.
5. Buy Refurbished Items
Although I haven’t seen refurbished items in Walmart stores, they do offer a wide selection online. Just enter “refurbished” in the search bar. You can find vacuum cleaners, home appliances, and many electronics.
The usual return policies apply to these refurbished items. They also normally come with warranties and the option to buy extended protection plans.
6. Use Price Protection
Many sources say Walmart has a “price protection policy,” that allows you to get a partial refund if the price of the item you buy drops within seven days of purchase. This isn’t widely advertised, and policies change, so check with the store where you made the purchase.
In any case, Walmart is so easy about returns that you could always get a full refund and buy the item again at the lower price.
7. Take Advantage of Black Friday (Thursday)
I don’t do Christmas at all — not one present. But I will be at Walmart with the rest of the crowd on Thanksgiving evening. If it’s anything like the last few years I’ll buy jeans for $10 and movies for a dollar.
You can check out the Black Friday deals on Walmart’s website whether you’re shopping online or in the store.
8. Use Discounted Gift Cards
The good news is that discounted gift cards are a great way save money everywhere from restaurants to home improvement stores. The bad news is that Walmart gift cards have just about the lowest discount you’ll see.
Still, saving 3% (a typical discount) might be worth it if you do a lot of shopping at Walmart. I buy discounted cards from Raise, but there are several other good vendors.
9. Use the Right Credit Card
The Walmart credit card is probably worth getting if they’re offering a decent signup bonus when you apply. Otherwise, it’s not a great card. In-store purchases only get you 1% cash back, and many other cards do better than that.
If you have an American Express Blue Cash Prefered card you might get 6% back at your local Walmart Neighborhood Market, if it codes as a grocery store. Some do, but to be sure you need to make a test purchase and wait for your statement.
There are other credit cards that offer cash-back at grocery stores, but keep in kind that these too will only work at some Walmart Neighborhood Markets. For other Walmart stores use the best general cash-back card you have.
10. Use Amex Offers
From time-to-time American Express includes Walmart in Amex Offers. For example, they recently offered $20 back on $100 if you tried Walmart’s online groceries service. Login to your American Express card account to see if there are any offers currently.
11. Use a Receipt Scanning App
Receipt scanning apps pay you cash back on grocery purchases (some go beyond groceries). You just take a photo of your receipts. The data collected is used for market research.
Here are some of the apps you can use to get rebates on your Walmart purchases:
12. Ask for a Price Match
Two years ago I took Walmart up on their “Ad Match Guarantee.” I showed the cashier three ads from other stores and she struggled to figure out how to discount each item. I got $22 worth of groceries for just $13.
However, the shoppers in line behind me were not thrilled with the delay, which might explain why the ad-match policy seems to have disappeared at Walmart. Fortunately, according to their policies page, Walmart will still match prices of other vendors when you shop online.
They also match their own online prices in the store. So when you’re looking at an item in the store pull out your phone and check Walmart.com to see if it costs less there. If so, ask to have the price matched.
13. Order Online for In-Store Pickup
Online prices are sometimes lower than in-store prices. Since you can ask for a price-match you could still make your purchases at the store. But if you do much poking around on Walmart.com you’ll notice many items you can’t find at your local store, and they’re typically cheaper than at other retailers, online or not.
To keep it cheap you have to avoid the shipping costs. Many items have free shipping if you spend more than $50, but virtually all non-perishable items can be shipped to your local store for pickup at no additional charge.
14. Use the Walmart Savings Catcher App
Once you set up a Savings Catcher account you use the app to scan the barcode on your Walmart receipts. Then, if nearby stores have a lower price, Walmart pays you the difference, which you can redeem as a Walmart gift card once your balance is high enough.
If you don’t have a smartphone you can also login to your account and enter the receipt number manually.
My wife found this was worth the time when we lived in Florida, but not when we moved here to Tucson. It’s unclear what Walmart considers “local competitors,” since there are many cheaper options here, but we received no rebates at all.
In any case it doesn’t take too much time to try this app to see what kind of results you get where you live.
15. Use Coupons
Of course you can use coupons at just about any store, but Walmart gives you a special advantage. According to several sources, including “Queen of Free” Cherie Lowe, Walmart gives you any coupon “overage.”
For example, if you have a coupon good for $1.50 off any size X-Brand toothpaste, and you find a tube for $1.27, the extra 23 cents will be applied to the rest of your purchases. Most stores limit coupon value to the price of the item.
While you’re at it, check out the coupons on the Walmart website. You’ll find hundreds of them ready to print and use.
16. Join the National Consumer Panel
The National Consumer Panel consists of consumers who report on their purchases and get rewarded for doing so. The data is used for improving products and marketing. Once weekly you send in your information, and you are paid in cash or various gift cards.
17. Learn The Secret Pricing Codes
According to Tip Hero, Walmart uses pricing codes just like other retailers. So, although the following may not hold true in all cases, in general…
- If the price ends with “7” it’s the original price.
- If the price ends with “5” it’s the 1st markdown.
- If the price ends with “1” it’s the final markdown.
So if you see something priced at $29.95 you know it’s been marked down once, but you might want to wait until it has a price ending in “7” to buy it.
18. Fill Your Gas Tank at Walmart
Not surprisingly, gas is often cheaper at the Murphy stations associated with some Walmarts, when compared to other gas stations. But there are also special deals you can find out about on the Murphy USA website.
For example, at the moment they’re offering a 3-cent-per-gallon discount if you pay for you fill-up using a Walmart Gift card. Buy that gift card at a discount using a cashback credit card and you can save even more.
19. Get Free Samples
Walmart often has free samples in the deli area, so why not take advantage? At other times you’ll find display presentations where employees or outside vendors hand out free samples of everything from laundry detergent to wine (of course we had to show ID).
20. Use Free Grocery Pickup
Walmart Grocery Pickup is available in select cities. You order online and select a time to pick up your groceries. They’ll even load your car. And the service is free.
Okay, free grocery pickup may only save you time, but time is money, right? Also, you might spend less when selecting groceries from home rather than in the temptation-rich environment of the store.
21. Ask for a Discount on Damaged Goods
I’ve received discounts for damaged items at Walmart several times over the years. You usually have to talk to a department manager to get a discount. For example, if you’re buying a kids bicycle and it has scratches, locate the department manager and ask for $10 or $20 off.
22. Use Walmart as Your Default Store
Walmart is not the cheapest place for everything. Here in Tucson I can pay half as much for most vegetables by shopping at Food City, and the many dollar stores carry numerous items that cost more at Walmart.
But in my experience Walmart has the lowest prices on average when comparing the total selection of items to any other store. So to save money make Walmart your default store for everyday shopping, and go elsewhere only when you know there is a better deal.
Please share your own Walmart savings experiences with us below… and keep on frugaling!