Walmart. You kind of either love it or hate it, don’t you?
Okay, I’m sure there are plenty people that are completely apathetic to Walmart. Or just kinda like it or kinda don’t. But one thing you can’t argue with is the potential for saving quite a bit of money if you shop at Walmart – IF you do it right. Because I’m here to tell you, you probably shouldn’t buy everything at Walmart, unless there are no other stores in your area.
Walmart isn’t always the best price on everything. But it is the best price on a lot of things, and if you know what you’re looking for and how to find bargains, you WILL find the best prices on many different things that you use and need every day.
I’ve written out a list of 6 strategies that I use when shopping at Walmart to make sure I’m saving as much as I can save – without losing my mind. You won’t find any extreme couponing tips here, folks, because that is not my jam. I tried that before, and it was a lot of work and a lot of margin for error and so much potential to drive me absolutely crazy. True story. There are plenty of other websites that can teach you about extreme couponing. But these 6 tips are ones that I have learned work for me, a busy mom of 5, while still keeping my sanity intact.
1. Write out a list and stick to it.
The most important thing you can do is to stick to your list. See, Walmart is a trap for impulsive buyers. If you don’t control yourself, lots of little (or big!!) things can sneak into your basket, and at checkout time, your total is huge, you’re discouraged, and you don’t understand what went wrong. You wonder if maybe you shouldn’t shop at Walmart at all! Don’t despair, you just need to stick to the plan! So, write out that list and then commit!
Now, there are times when you will run into crazy good clearance deals. I’m not saying you should totally ignore the clearance, but let’s ask ourselves a few questions, shall we?
Do I need it? Or am I just starry-eyed at the deal? If I need it or can use it in the place of another higher priced product I usually buy, and it’s a great price, then the answer is yes, throw it in the basket. If it’s not something you really use or need, put it back on the shelf!
2. Only buy produce that’s a really good deal.
Find a grocery store that has quality produce that goes on special. I have only found that a few produce items are a better price at Walmart: bagged apples, bananas, avocados, mushrooms, and tomatoes. There are other produce items that might be usually cheaper (like potatoes), but they don’t ever seem to be great quality. And most of their fruit and veggies seem to usually be much more expensive. So, find a grocery store that regularly has produce on sale, and buy the in-season things. Because usually the in-season produce is the stuff on sale.
3. Skip the fresh meat/poultry/seafood section.
You will almost always find better deals on fresh meat/chicken/turkey/fish periodically at grocery stores that have weekly sales than at Walmart. And the quality will most likely be better at the grocery stores, too. Walmarts usually don’t have a meat counter, and usually don’t have sales on fresh meat/chicken/fish. While a grocery store might offer split chicken breasts or whole chickens for .99 a pound, or lean ground beef or trimmed tri-tip roast for 3.99 a pound (these are great prices in my area), Walmart usually won’t.
After I shop at Walmart, I have a grocery store I go to weekly to buy certain things: Fresh meat/chicken/turkey/fish, milk, bread, most of our produce, and oddly enough, large cans of black beans (because they always have the best price on these really big cans). Everything else I buy at the grocery store are the “loss leader” items – the things that go on sale for a really great price that are meant to attract people to the store. If you don’t have a grocery store that offers quality fresh meat/poultry, consider buying frozen to save money.
4. Buy the generic brands for SOME items.
There are times you should not buy the generic and then there are times you really should. For example, I use a specialty shampoo, and Walmart happens to have an “Equate” brand equivalent. I save around $4 per bottle of shampoo, and the generic works just as well. Cha-ching!
Things like shampoo, hand soap, hand lotion, first aid items (like hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, guaze, paper tape, antibiotic ointment, anti-itch ointment, etc – everything except for self-adhesive bandages, the brand name is worlds better!), any pain meds, cold/allergy meds, vitamins, any other healthcare items, cotton swabs, toilet paper, flushable wipes, etc. Those are the items you should buy generic. The exception to this rule is if there is a really good deal on a brand name item that makes it lower than the generic – and we’ll talk about that next.
Most of the time, I would say you’re only going to want to buy generic brand food items when you need them and there is no better deal on the brand names. But you’re going to check on brand name things first because sometimes pairing a rebate with a coupon equals amazing savings. Which leads me to my fifth point, rebate apps.
5. Use Ibotta and Checkout 51 with coupons.
I’ve found the rebate apps that offer me the best return for my time. Ibotta (referral link) is the best savings app at the moment, in my experience. Use the code “trhxpny” in the referral code, and get a $10 welcome bonus! I started using Ibotta in June of 2015. There were some months, in the beginning, I didn’t use it, though I don’t remember why. Probably before I really discovered how great Ibotta and Walmart are together. But even so, I have earned over $1700 cash back in that time and the large majority of that is from redeeming rebates at Walmart.
Checkout 51 is another one that I have been able to save a fair amount with lately. Up until about 6-9 months ago, Checkout 51 had a few offers every once in a while that I was interested in, but they have really stepped up their game lately. My “lifetime earnings” for Checkout 51 are over $280, but most of that is in the last year. Not as good as Ibotta earnings, but still worth doing, because their receipt submission is usually very easy and processing is fast.
Note: Both Ibotta and Checkout 51 require you download an app to your phone to use them.
First: I check the 2 apps for things I think might be a good deal and make sure I save or activate the offers. If there are rebates for the same item on both apps, you are allowed to get them both. (You cannot use Checkout 51 and Savings Star together, though, for example. I used to use Savings Star but stopped because their offerings have not been worth the time I take to try working with their app that never seems to work right!)
Second: I make a list of all the really good deals that I am interested in. The fantastic thing about Walmart is that you can check the price and availability at your local store of an item on their website. So, there is no guessing whether it’s a good price or not. You can figure out how much you will end up paying without even setting foot in the store yet.
When you are using Ibotta and Checkout 51 – or any other rebate app – you need to read the fine print. Most items on Checkout 51 will not allow you to use a paper coupon, while most items on Ibotta do allow you to use a paper coupon, so keep that in mind.
A little note on how Ibotta gives you extra savings: Ibotta has bonuses. Teamwork bonuses are bonuses that you work on throughout the month. Product bonuses are ones that you can earn when you redeem certain related product rebates or if you redeem a certain bonus the indicated number of times. You have to check the individual bonuses for details. And then there are what I call “Boost Bonuses” – Bonuses that come up, usually on the weekends, to encourage you to redeem more rebates. They often have a bonus like this called whatever month it is followed by “Boost”, like “February Boost” but they have creative names for other bonuses. Every once in a while they will do mid-week bonuses, which I’m not crazy about because I do all my grocery shopping on the weekend.
Third: I check Coupons.com and Hip2Save’s Coupon Database for coupons that might pair up with your Ibotta items. (I am not affiliated with either Coupons.com or Hip2Save, but I use them every week myself). Or if you get a Sunday paper, save those coupon inserts and look through them. Hip2Save’s Coupon Database shows coupon insert coupons, printable coupons, and rebate app deals.
Fourth: Once I have the list of rebates, keeping in mind how many rebates I need to hit the next level Teamwork Bonus and the Boost Bonus, I go through my list and ask 2 questions:
- Is this really a good deal? Since you can see what price the item in question is, you can calculate how much you will end up paying after cash back from rebates. If the final price is not lower than the same thing in the generic brand, then cross it off. The only time you would not cross it off, is if you are brand loyal for some reason. I get it, though. I have a few brand names that I am loyal to because their products are really actually better than the generic version. And then there are some things in the generic brand that I prefer to the brand names, LOL.
- Do I need this or does it fill a need that I usually have? If I needed dinner ideas, and I see a bag of frozen chicken that is a great deal, that is filling the need of a dinner (or part of dinner). If my family hated that brand of chicken though, it’s not filling a need, it’s just taking up space in my freezer, so cross that off. The only time you would not cross it off is if you are getting the item for free after rebates and you know someone that could use it or someplace you could donate to.
That said, if you are crossing off things that you don’t pass those two questions, but you see that you need 1 more item to reach a really good bonus, then adding back in rebate that results in a low-cost item might make financial sense. Like that cheap box of pudding that ended up costing less than a dollar, I bought to reach a $5 bonus. Worth it. And who doesn’t like pudding? Let common sense and good judgment guide you.
All that’s left to do at that point is go shopping and submit your receipt through the app (or both apps if there are rebates for both). I double check to make sure the app has captured all of the rebates, and add any rebates it might have missed (which requires scanning barcodes), but otherwise, the receipt submission for Ibotta is as easy as scanning the QR code on the bottom of your receipt. The receipt submission for Checkout 51 requires you to take a picture of the whole receipt and check off the rebates you are submitting for.
6. Always, always, always scan your receipt with Walmart Savings Catcher.
Savings Catcher is in the Walmart app. All you have to do is scan the QR code at the bottom of your Walmart receipt and they will compare their prices with the ad prices of their grocery competitors. It does not compare for any items that are not in the grocery area, like automotive, kitchen, home, personal care, healthcare, etc. But it is totally worth it. Sometimes I get cash back and sometimes I don’t. It all depends on the competitor’s sales prices.
When I do get cash back, I have gotten back as little as 1 cent on a receipt and as much as over 6 dollars on another. My “Lifetime Rewards Earned” is over $190 in about 2 ¾ years that I have used it. I have not always been consistent with submitting like I am now, so I probably missed out on some cash back. Might not seem like much but for literally 5 seconds of my time for each of the 102 receipts that I have submitted – what is that, like 8 to 9 minutes total? Plus maybe a few more minutes for setting up an account – I’d say that’s pretty much worth my time! It is the easiest receipt submission of all.
Pushing your Walmart Savings game up a notch does take a bit of planning. It does require you to make judgment calls about what you need and what you don’t need. It might mean that you need to shop at 2 stores instead of just 1 because Walmart isn’t always the best price. But once you use these strategies and get the hang of it, saving money at Walmart – and on your grocery budget – is easy!