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The Worst Things To Buy at Walmart and Target

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FollowTheFlow / Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s true that Walmart and Target offer great deals on many items. But that doesn’t mean you should buy everything the two stores have to offer. Some Target and Walmart deals are just that — deals — and some aren’t.

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Smart shoppers know it’s not just about getting the lowest price — it’s about getting great deals on high-quality items.

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Don’t Buy Store-Brand Trash Bags …

  • Buy this instead: Name-Brand Trash Bags

Yes, Target and Walmart’s generic brands can save you money and are often the better deal in terms of price. But these are get-what-you-pay-for items that you don’t want to fail in the moment of truth.

“The small savings that Target’s up & up generic brand provides is not worth it when your trash ends up on the kitchen floor,” said Kyle James of coupon and deal website Rather-Be-Shopping.

So if you’re deciding between Target’s up & up FlexGuard Tall Kitchen 120-pack of bags ($14.99) and the Glad ForceFlex Tall Kitchen Drawstring 120-pack ($18.99), “opt for the Glad kitchen bags,” he said.

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Don’t Buy Target’s Plastic Wrap …

  • Buy this instead: Costco-Brand Plastic Wrap

It doesn’t appear that store-brand plastic wrap fares any better than trash bags with the retail experts, especially Target’s up & up plastic wrap.

It seems plastic wrap is one of those things you should always buy name-brands in, as the complaints about this one is that it doesn’t stick, even to itself, and comes in a flimsy box with a dull cutter, which can lead to injury,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “There are 286 reviews that give it an overall rating of 4 stars, but if you’re on the fence it’s probably better to opt for name-brands like Glad or even head to Costco where you can buy 3,000 feet of Kirkland Signature plastic wrap for $20 and avoid purchasing more for literal years, depending on how often you use it.”

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Don’t Buy Maple Syrup …

  • Buy this instead: Organic Maple Syrup at Costco

Purchasing either Target or Walmart’s in-house brands means you’ll still be paying more than you would by shopping at Costco,” Ramhold said. “For instance, Target’s Good & Gather brand is $16.99 for 32 fluid ounces, or about 53 cents per ounce. And Walmart isn’t much better — it’ll set you back $15.98 for 32 fluid ounces, which is about 50 cents per ounce. But at Costco you can buy 33.8 fluid ounces of Kirkland Signature’s organic maple syrup for about $13, or about 39 cents per ounce.”

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Don’t Buy Makeup Remover Wipes …

  • Buy this instead: Baby Wipes

Instead of reaching for the makeup remover wipes, try this beauty hack: Use baby wipes instead.

“Target brand up & up [baby] wipes are hypoallergenic and free of alcohol, dyes, chlorine, parabens, fragrance and phthalates, which can be found in makeup removing wipes that may cause irritation or skin to break out,” said Kerry Sherin, a savings expert.

A 500-count box of up & up baby wipes sells for $9.69. “For the cost/count ratio, these wipes blow pretty much every other comparable makeup wipe out of the water,” Sherin said. Meanwhile, some makeup wipes at Target start at nearly $5 for just a 25-count pack.

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Don’t Buy Gift Cards …

  • Buy this instead: Discounted or Promotional Gift Cards

Purchasing these at Target or Walmart means paying list price most of the time,” Ramhold said. “The one exception is around Black Friday when Target will sometimes offer a BOGO 30% off promotion for Apple gift cards, but even then that’s only on the one type. Your best bet is to head to your local warehouse store and pick up gift cards there, where you’ll pay discounted rates year-round.”

Or, if you’re looking for restaurant gift cards, go to the restaurant itself. They often will offer bonus gift cards — buy a $50 card, get a $10 bonus card, for example — especially around holidays. Give the recipient a higher-valued gift or keep the bonus for yourself.

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Don’t Buy Furniture …

  • Buy this instead: Select Home Goods

You can definitely find affordable items to spice up your home at Walmart and Target — but choose wisely.

Target and Walmart can be good for affordable pieces of furniture for those that need to outfit a new apartment during or just after college, but the truth is these pieces often won’t survive a move,” Ramhold said. “If you have the budget, it’s better to look at stores dedicated to selling furniture, or even consider shopping online at highly-rated stores like Article to try to make your purchase count.”

But select home goods — such as bathroom linens, bakeware, and tabletop kitchen appliances — often provide great value.

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Don’t Buy Walmart’s Vanilla Extract …

  • Buy this instead: Costco’s Vanilla Extract

Bakeware might be one of the better deals at these two big-box stores, but when it comes to baking ingredients, skip Walmart’s vanilla extract.

Great Value pure vanilla extract comes in a few different sizes but the one offering the best price is the 4 fluid ounce bottle for $9.24, which comes out to $2.31 per ounce. Granted, vanilla extract is a pricey product right now, although it’s much better than it was a few years ago,” Ramhold said.

“Even so, this is still a terrible deal; instead, head to Costco where you can find 16 fluid ounces of pure vanilla extract for around $12, which is about 75 cents per ounce. Additionally, the quality may be even better — Great Value’s extract has a 3.8 star rating, but Costco’s Kirkland Signature pure vanilla extract comes highly-rated from members. I will personally vouch that it’s the best vanilla extract I’ve ever used in my baking and you couldn’t pay me to use something else.”

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Don’t Buy Target’s Solar Lights …

  • Buy this instead: Solar Lights at Lowe’s

If you’re looking to light up the path to your front door, Ramhold suggested staying away from the Room Essentials solar lights at Target.

Sure you can get a six-pack of rounded pathway lights for about $24 at regular price, but the reviews are not great, to put it mildly,” she said. “In fact, 37 reviews just for a 6-pack give them an overall rating of just over 3 stars with reviews citing that they’re cheaply made and failing quickly after purchasing. The Room Essentials brand is one of Target’s more affordable brands, so might be OK for a temporary solution, but you may be better off heading to Lowe’s and picking up a four pack of solar path lights for about $10 more just for the better quality.

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Don’t Buy Target-Brand Diapers …

  • Buy this instead: Name-Brand Diapers

Ramhold said Target’s up & up diapers “don’t have terrible reviews — around 7,800 of them actually give the product four stars — but one of the most recent reviews complains about blowouts. If you have any doubts about what diaper to use and you’re thinking name brand is a better way to go, don’t risk diapers that literally won’t hold up. Instead, shop name brand at Target and save 5% when you pay with your RedCard, or even better, consider using Amazon Family as you’ll save 20% on many baby products, including name-brand diapers.”

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Don’t Buy Store-Brand Water Filters …

  • Buy this instead: Brita Filters

When you need replacement filters for your Brita water pitcher, the store-brand universal filters are cheaper, but not by much — and there’s a big tradeoff for those small savings.

“But they’re not as reliable and don’t last as long as the Brita filters,” said Brent Shelton, a shopping expert and media relations director at Bospar. “The value in spending a little more favors the name brand, as [do] the customer reviews.”

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Don’t Buy Store-Brand Paper Towels …

  • Buy this instead: Name-Brand Paper Towels

There are some items you should never skimp on just to save money, including paper towels.

When comparing Bounty paper towels to Target’s up & up brand, “the Target brand is cheaper, [but] the Bounty brand is more durable and requires the use of fewer sheets at a time,” said Jon Lal, CEO of loyalty and coupon website BeFrugal. Target’s six-roll up & up paper towels cost $12.99. By comparison, Bounty’s six triple rolls cost $15.79.

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Don’t Buy Name-Brand Facial Scrubs …

  • Buy this instead: Store-Brand Facial Scrubs

Here’s an example in which Target’s store-brand version will save you money at equivalent quality.

Target’s up & up Apricot Blemish Scrub is similar to name-brand St. Ives Apricot Blemish Control Scrub, said Lal of BeFrugal. But the Target brand is just $1.99 compared to $4.99.

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Don’t Buy Walmart House-Brand TVs …

  • Buy this instead: Mid-Priced TVs

Ramhold advised consumers who are shopping for a television to bypass the onn models from Walmart.

This is one of Walmart’s house brands and while the price might be good, the quality is not,” she said. “There are plenty of mid-tier brands you can find good deals on at stores like Best Buy or Amazon, so don’t waste your money on these cheap sets that you’ll just be looking to replace long before you should have to.

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Jami Farkas, Taylor Bell and Andrew Lisa contributed to the reporting for this article.