Friday, March 13, 2009

Boot Camp: How to Save at Walmart

I've had some readers ask about how to save at Walmart, so by popular request, I've added a special Boot Camp segment just for all of you Walmart shoppers out there!

Most national chain grocery stores (three good examples are Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons) have weekly sales that include lead-loss promotions to get you in the door. The rest of their everyday prices are quite expensive, but their sales and promotions can be great- especially for a couponer. Walmart is a different story. Their everyday prices are great, but they don't run huge sales and promotions, which can make it hard to stockpile free or cheap grocery items.

I know we have quite a few Frugal Muse readers who live in areas where Walmart Supercenters are the primary source for grocery shopping. So since Walmart does not offer huge weekly sales, what's the best way to consistently save on groceries when shopping there? Here are my top tips:

• Price Match. Did you know that Walmart will match any advertised price from competitors? That means that if you bring in a flyer from Aldi with a specific product at a great price, your cashier at Walmart will change the price of the item you purchase to match the Aldi price. 

You might be wondering, So why not just go to Aldi? Well, a couple of reasons: 1) If Aldi is 30 minutes away from you, and Walmart is 5, price matching at Walmart saves you gas expense and time. And 2) You can take in several ads from different competitors, and get all the best sale prices from every store at one place: Walmart.  

One more note on price matching at Walmart: You can combine manufacturer's coupons and price matching. So if you bring in an ad that shows Darigold butter for $1.50, and you have a coupon for $.50/1, the cashier will change the price to $1.50 and then scan your coupon, making your final cost $1. Sweet.

• Utilize Coupon Overages. Here's the plus side to Walmart's everyday low prices instead of weekly sales: Walmart's prices are so low, that many coupons will give you an overage (because the actual cost of the item is less than the face value of the coupon!). While Walmart is not obligated to give you overages on your coupons– and some cashiers are friendlier about this than others– many, many cashiers will just punch your coupon through at face value, even if the actual item didn't cost that much. This is totally ethical and honest as long as the item listed on the coupon is the actual item you are buying, because Walmart will be reimbursed for the full amount of the coupon from the manufacturer. 

The bottom line is that when you receive an overage on a coupon, that overage can be applied to help you save on anything else you need to buy in Walmart! This is particularly helpful for cutting costs on things like fresh produce, which really never go on sale or have coupons available.

Here's my favorite example: Last year, 3m released a coupon for $3/2 Post-it flags products. One of the flags products, the page markers, only cost $1.24 at Walmart! That means that for every two packages of page markers I bought (total cost: $2.48), I made $.52 toward the rest of my Walmart purchase. The coupon was a PDF available to print online, so every time I went to Walmart over the course of about 6 months, I would print a stack of these coupons, and buy as many as the store had in stock. There were many, many times that I earned $5-$10 in overages just on these Post-its, and that overage went toward my other groceries. Awesome! (By the way, this particular coupon expired at the end of 2008. [sigh]  It was great while it lasted!) Anybody in need of Post-Its? I'm still trying to give them away!

So when coupon overage deals come along at Walmart, perk up and take advantage of them to help buy the items that you need! As a quick hint, if you do have an coupon that gives an overage, always make sure that you have enough items in your cart to cover that overage. Any cashier is going to frown on a situation where the register thinks it owes you money back. So keep it simple and make sure you have enough items to cover any potential overage.

• Look for Rollbacks and Clearance Finds. Walmart may not have huge weekly sales, but their prices do occasionally drop for brief periods of time. In Walmart lingo: The Rollback. These rollbacks can be your open door to a good deal when combined with a coupon.

Also, it might be worth your time to stroll through the clearance aisles and clearance racks when you're at Walmart. A Walmart clearance combined with a coupon can easily produce a freebie. Recently, some Walmarts had nice Gerber 2-piece pajama sets clearanced for $1 in the baby section, and there was a $1/1 Gerber clothing item available to print online. Free pajamas! The best way to keep up with these deals is to frequent the Walmart Forums at places like A Full Cup.  If Walmart is your primary option for shopping, it will serve you well to check in on those forums often.

• Stock Up on Freebies.  No explanation needed, but I'll just say this:  There are always a lot of freebies available with coupon match-ups at Walmart. Stockpile these freebies, and use them to cut your family's costs on items you need: goodies for kids' lunchboxes, personal hygiene items, pet food, etc. When you save on these freebies instead of having to pay for them out of your budget, you can use your budget to buy fresh produce, meat and other items that may not ever go on sale at Walmart.

Now are you ready for the FUN part? Head on over here to Deal Seeking Mom to check out the HUMONGOUS list of items you can get free and cheap at Walmart with coupon match-ups.

I was going to list off some of the best deals here at The Frugal Muse (which I will do in the future), but I decided that you needed to see for yourself the full list of available deals. I think you'll find that there's a lot on that list that your family could use... which means major savings to your grocery/household budget.

Okay, time for all you Walmart shoppers to chime in: What strategies have you used for frugal shopping at Walmart?


  1. Okay, this is wearing me out a little, IS fun! I've started a tiny little stockpile consisting of 3 Johnson's Buddies soap, 1 8 oz. Aveeno baby wash, 1 1 oz. Aveeno baby lotion, and 2 Purell trial size hand sanitizers, all for $1.64! And at Walmart, they accepted my Target coupons, which is good to know. :) I see addiction in my future...

  2. I have been price comping at WM for some time now. I have found that WM either 1) matches the price in the other store's weekly ads by posting a rollback at the shelf, 2) beats it anyway because they're WM, 3) doesn't stock the same size advertised, thereby getting away with not beating the price. Once in a GREAT while they will not meet a price and the same product/size, so then I use the ad and they will match it.

    ALDI's always has 4 great produce items on sale weekly that WM cannot beat. I always get a price match on those at WM. For example, this week I got red delicious apples at $0.33/lb! This is great for me because I juice frequently.

  3. Can you use Walgreens coupons at walmart?

  4. @madteapartyfurniture - No, Wal-Mart will not take Walgreens coupons, or match buy 1 get 1 free. They will only match price. :( Bummer.