I often compare shopping at Walmart like going to hell. Not that I have been to hell nor do I ever plan on visiting, but I imagine Walmart to be very similar–overcrowded with dirty, scary, screaming people. Everywhere you turn people are in the way, running you over, and not caring to show any sign that they were ever taught manners. There is almost always a line and at times you can spend as much time in the line as you spent shopping in the store. This is why almost four years ago I swore off Walmart and have not returned.
When Walmart is the king of superstores and offers everything at a lower price, how can I avoid shopping there and still save money?
Let’s discover how you can save money and avoid Walmart by going down the list of reasons many people feel like they are getting the best deal when the shop at Walmart. As we explore that list I will explain how I do better shopping elsewhere.
1) It is easily accessable. No doubt, Walmart conveniently positions itself among communities. Sometimes there are Walmarts to be found in every neighborhood. In my community (actually I live in two different communities which I will tell you more about another time) not only are there several Walmarts but there are multiple other retailers and grocery stores extremely close as well. Safeway, Raley’s, Kohl’s, Justice and many other retailers are all within the same distance from my home as Walmart. If saving gas is your excuse, that just isn’t justifable for me.
Now if you live in the middle of nowhere and the closest store to you is a Walmart and there is nowhere else reasonable to shop, then grocery shop away because what you would spend in gas you will save at Walmart. However, I would still proceed to shop for all of my other items online. I can find everything that I want online for less than I can find it in a store. Usually I shop at sites like Amazon but recently I was introduced to a website called Cheapism. This site helps you locate the cheapest price on all kinds of things from cruises to crockpots. Whether or not I live close to convenient shopping or not, online shopping is the best way save money. Not only do most sites offer free shipping on purchases over $25-$50, but many times there is no sales tax either.
2) Walmart is a superstore and has everything. For some of you that statement is exciting and makes your day, for me, not so much. I am not sure I want to be the one who says “I buy everything at Walmart.” Do you really want your clothes, furniture, electronics, food, toys, plants and everything else you buy all coming from the same store? Maybe that works when you are in college and just starting out but once you have moved on with your life, found a career, formed a family I am not sure that is something to aim for. And again, when there is online shopping and other retail stores nearby, you are not convincing anyone with the saving gas theory.
More importantly, even though Walmart has “everything” that does not make it the best price or the best deal for your money. You may be able to buy a living room chair for $100 but how long will it last or look like it did the day you bought it? There is something to be said for running into the grocery store and remembering you needed a birthday present, but other than that, I am not impressed with all-in-one stores. Plus we are trying to save money here and just because you can get a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread and a transformer in one place does not mean you are getting the best deal.
3) Here is the biggie–Walmart has the lowest prices. I have found that while Walmart does have low prices so do other stores, you just have to be willing to shop for the bargains. I am not going to keep hammering you with this one, but coupon clipping pc style is the way to go. Expecting to go into any store, Walmart included and get everything you want at the best price is crazy. Retailers are in the business of making a profit while advertising the best deals to draw you in. Take my favorite store, Raley’s, and the known fact that they are not the cheapest, they might draw you in because of their amazing $0.50 deal on a loaf of bread, but does that mean you are going to walk around the store and pick up everything else on your list unless you want to give them all of your money.
By saying that Walmart has the lowest prices we really need to break the store up into sections because Walmart is a superstore and obviously not all stores can cater to this.
Groceries: My mom always told me that when you go grocery shopping you should stick to the perimeter of a store because that is where you will find the bulk of what you need. For the most part that is accurate–your meat, produce, dairy and bread are all part of the outer rim. And lucky for me at Raley’s, the natural foods section is also along the perimeter. My point here is almost all of these items are things that even when I was shopping at Walmart I would go to other stores for, specifically meat and produce. These items are not less then other supermarkets and their quality is lacking. However, if we want to strictly talk about grocery shopping and saving money, if you would like to shop somewhere other than Walmart, then the key is coupons and flexibility.
When I walk into Raley’s or Safeway I have a list of things I want but I also give myself a lot of wiggle room. Other than specific items that I have coupons for I look for the sale items. I know which bread is generally on sale but I still scan the bread and look for the best price. When I go to pick out cereal for the kids I don’t go with specific cereal in mind, I look up and down the aisle and pick out the boxes that are on sale. I know that I am going to have meat in my dinner meals along with vegetables and generally a starch, so I will walk along the meat counter and find which meats offer the best bargain and then make my decision on vegetables and starches. If your list is etched in stone and you cannot be flexible then maybe Walmart is the way to go for you. However if you can be a smart shopper and know you prices, plan ahead and be flexible, shopping at other stores will give you a better quality product for less money.
Clothing: I have never understood why it is thought that Walmart has such great deals on clothing. One of my favorite bargain places to buy clothes for our entire family is Kohl’s (which happens to be right across the street from my local Walmart). Kohl’s offers a better quality product of clothing for the same price if not less. They are constantly having huge sales where I can pick up t-shirts for my boys for $1.50 or that skirt I have been eyeing for $5.00. It is all about getting the “I must have right now” mentality out of you and understanding that if you just take the time to search a little through the clearance or sale rack you will find great deals, save money and end up with more than you were planning on getting but spending less then you had planned as well. Plus, I don’t know about you but I have never walked out of Walmart with a receipt that gives me money to spend in the store the next time I return. On the other hand, I cannot remember the last time I shopped at Kohl’s and left without their ‘Kohl’s cash’ in hand. This is just a reward they give you when you spend money in their store, you get to come back within a certain timeframe with X amount of money free.
Household Items: I think this is where Walmart has the biggest advantage. When picking up items like toilet paper and shampoo they are generally less expensive at Walmart. When I first stopped started shopping at Raley’s I really had to be careful with these items. I could not walk in and grab the same shampoo I had purchased year after year without it possibly costing me more. Here is where coupons and flexibility really pays. Now I have three different shampoos I rotate between unless I have a coupon. Between the three, one of the brands is always on sale. And the same goes for toilet paper, razors and many other household items.
Everything else you can purchase at Walmart, I would suggest you shop for online or at least check out cheapism.com to find the best deal. I have yet to find a better way to shop then online, you get the best price and it is delivered right to your door.
You may be thinking “I just don’t have the time for all of this, I want what I want and I don’t want to pay attention to the prices”. If that is you, Walmart is probably you place to shop, but if you are like me and do not want to go there, you have to find a way to shop smart and save.
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