It's easy to overspend on personal care products. Costly necessities add up quickly, and before you know it, you're walking out of the drugstore with a tiny bag and a giant bill.
ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports, recently came up with a how-to guide for saving on everyday personal care items. The magazine also highlighted the most rewarding store-loyalty programs.
"Knowing what stores have the best values on personal care products can help you save big," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart.
For starters, Walmart can save you big bucks. It had the lowest prices on the most items on ShopSmart's shopping list -- similar to what its shoppers have found in previous price scans. Target was often a close second but rarely had the absolute lowest prices.
Drugstores can cost you. CVS and Walgreens had the highest prices on the most products. They might be convenient, and their loyalty cards can net you some good discounts, but you could pay as much as 112 percent more than you would at Walmart.
Websites are the place to go for higher-end brands. If you're looking for Aveeno instead of Vaseline, or a natural brand like Burt's Bees, you might find the best deals online. But you'll pay extra for shipping if you don't spend at least $25 at Amazon.com and Drugstore.com or at least $50 at HarmonDiscount.com.
Supermarkets aren't so bad. ShopSmart was surprised to see that their prices were pretty competitive. So if you're in a pinch, don't worry that you're paying a premium for the convenience of grabbing a bottle of shampoo along with your groceries. Here are some more ways to save:
*Stock up when stuff is on sale.
Instead of waiting until you run out of something or start to run low, load up on products when they're marked down. Ad circulars and websites like SundaySaver.com can help you plan ahead.
*Max out coupons. Read the retailer coupon policies. Most supermarkets allow stacking -- using store and manufacturer coupons together. Some stores, such as Tops Markets and Wegmans, double coupons.
If you hit a sale, you have a coupon and the store will double it, you may end up paying a lower price at a supermarket than somewhere else.
*Try store brands. Many store-brand products are just like their name-brand versions, and you might even like them better. Walmart's Equate brand, for example, got high marks in ShopSmart's most recent body-lotion test.
Don't forget store rewards programs:
*CVS ExtraCare Rewards Program (free). Earn 2 percent back on all purchases and ExtraBucks Rewards for select items. Use ExtraCare Coupon Center kiosks in stores for extra savings, and get special offers via email and on your receipt at checkout.
>What's new: Rewards can be sent automatically to your card so that you don't have to print and remember your coupons.
*Rite Aid Wellness (free). Earn one point for every nonprescription dollar spent; the more points you get in a year, the more you save. Access members-only sales, collect register rewards and get up to 20 percent off all nonprescription purchases. Collect bonus rewards when you buy select items; they're printed on your receipt at checkout.
>What's new: The Load2Card program lets you save, manage and redeem store and manufacturer online coupons from your computer. When you hit 500 points, you can earn health rewards to use for gym memberships, wellness screenings and other things.
*Target REDcard Rewards (no fee; variable APR). Get 5 percent off all online and in-store purchases. Plus, 1 percent of what you spend goes to the school of your choice -- if it's eligible.
>What's new: Use a REDcard on Target.com and get free shipping.