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.
Smart shoppers know it's not just about getting the lowest price — it's about getting great deals on high-quality items. Click through to see experts' tips on the worst and best things to buy at Walmart and Target.
Don’t Buy Store-Brand Trash Bags …
- Buy this instead: Name-Brand Trash Bags
Yes, Target's and Walmart's generic brands can save you money and are often the better deal. But it certainly doesn't pay to skimp on certain items, especially trash bags.
“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 Ultra FlexGuard Tall Kitchen 120-pack of bags and the Glad Guaranteed Strong 120-pack, which are similar in price, "opt for the Glad kitchen bags," he said.
Don’t Buy Fresh Produce …
- Buy this instead: Name-Brand Groceries
Neither Walmart nor Target is known for the freshest, best produce, said Kendal Perez, savings expert at coupon website CouponSherpa. Besides the quality, the prices aren't that competitive, either.
"I often find better prices on produce from my local Sprouts Farmers Market," she said. That being said, both stores offer many ways to save on the cost of food.
"Both Target and Walmart are competitive when it comes to name-brand groceries, like cereal, yogurt, condiments and other popular food products," said Perez.
For example, Honey Nut Cheerios from Ralphs costs $3.39 for a 12.25-ounce box. On the other hand, you can score a Family Size, 21.6-ounce box at Target for only $3.99 and a Giant Size, 26.6-ounce box at Walmart for $5.59.
Don’t Buy Shoes …
- Buy this instead: Select Accessories
Looking to save money on shoes? You might find some savings at Target and Walmart but better quality elsewhere.
"Shoes from Target and Walmart may look trendy and seem affordable," said Perez. "But, in reality, they’re cheaply made and consumers can find better-quality brands for similar prices at T.J.Maxx and Marshalls."
Instead, head to Target and Walmart to save money on must-have accessories.
"Accessories like scarves, sunglasses and gloves are good buys from both Walmart and Target," added Perez.
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.
"Cheap furniture from Walmart and Target is just that — it works well for college students, but in the long-run consumers will pay more to replace these items," said Perez. "Instead, shoppers on a budget should check out antique stores, thrift shops and discount retailers like T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods and Marshalls for affordable, better-quality furniture options."
But select home goods — such as bathroom linens, bakeware and tabletop kitchen appliances — "are good deals from Target and Walmart," said Perez.
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Don’t Buy Name-Brand Baking Goods …
- Buy this instead: Store-Brand Baking Goods
Bakeware might be one of the better deals at these two big-box stores. But when it comes to baking and cooking ingredients, experts recommend skipping Walmart and Target for name-brand products. Instead, go for their store-brand counterparts.
For bulk dried goods such as flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, pepper and similar items, buy the store brand, said Brent Shelton, a shopping expert at deals website FatWallet.
“Most store-branded baking goods are just repackaged from the name brand, so you’re getting the same product at a considerable discount,” he said.
Don’t Buy Name-Brand Snacks …
- Buy this instead: Store-Brand Snacks
Again, store-brand is the answer when it comes to snacks at both Target and Walmart, according to the team over at comparison shopping website DealNews. For example, you might want to buy a jar of Archer Farms salsa from Target and pair it with Great Value tortilla chips from Walmart.
“Based on data from my Walmart Savings Catcher receipts, Walmart almost never has the best prices on Wheat Thins or Triscuit crackers," said Perez of CouponSherpa. "Grocers like Albertsons and King Soopers offer these products for 25 percent to 30 percent less."
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Don’t Buy High-End Electronics …
- Buy this instead: Mid-Range Electronics
Multiple deals experts have singled out some electronics as one of the worst deals at Walmart and Target.
"While both Target and Walmart sell name-brand electronics, including LG and Samsung, [the] selection is limited and pricing isn't notably different from Amazon and Best Buy," said Perez.
However, not all electronics at Target and Walmart are bad buys. To score the best deals on electronics at these stores, it’s a matter of timing.
"For the cheapest, mid-range HDTV, come Black Friday ... Walmart and Target are your best bet,” she added.
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 460-count box of up & up sensitive baby wipes goes for about $8 to $9. "For the cost/count ratio, these wipes blow pretty much every other comparable makeup wipe out of the water," said Sherin. Meanwhile, some makeup wipes at Target can cost about $5 for just a 21-count pack.
Don’t Buy Name-Brand Medication …
- Buy this instead: Store-Brand Medication
If you need medicine, go for the store-brand, over-the-counter medications at Walmart and Target. After all, generic medications are usually identical to their name-brand counterparts, said Benjamin Glaser, editor emeritus at DealNews.
"Just check the labels, and you'll see they contain the same ingredients in the same quantities," he said. But, in many cases, the store-brand version will likely be cheaper.
Don’t Buy Gifts Cards …
- Buy this instead: A DIY Gift Basket
Target and Walmart sell a wide variety of gift cards but usually at full face value. However, online sites like Raise and stores like Costco sell them under face value, said James of Rather-Be-Shopping.
Instead of buying an expensive gift card, make a DIY gift basket as a present, said Jon Lal, CEO of loyalty and coupon website BeFrugal. "By perusing the dollar sections and finding what’s on sale, put together a personalized gift basket for an inexpensive, yet thoughtful, gift idea," he said.
Don’t Buy Store-Brand Water Filters …
- Buy this instead: Brita Filters
When you need replacement filters for your Brita water pitcher, the four-pack at Target costs $17.19. The store-brand filters are slightly cheaper — up & up four-packs at Target cost $16.99.
"But they’re not as reliable and don’t last as long as the Brita filters," said Shelton of FatWallet. "The value in spending a little more favors the name brand, as [do] the customer reviews."
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 DuraTowel to Target’s up & up full-sheet, two-ply strength, "the Target brand is cheaper, [but] the Bounty brand is more durable and requires the use of less sheets at a time,” said Lal.
Don’t Buy Certain Women’s Toiletries …
- Buy this instead: Men’s Toiletries
Women’s toiletries prices can be surprisingly high at Walmart, Target and other retailers. Fortunately, certain personal care essentials can be found for less — if you opt for the men's versions.
Just take a look at men's razors and shaving creams, which are prime examples of toiletries you should consider buying over the female versions. Despite the fact that men's razors and shaving creams are nearly identical and are of comparable quality to women's, some men's toiletries tend to be much cheaper, said Glaser of DealNews.
Don’t Buy Name-Brand Facial Scrubs …
- Buy this instead: Store-Brand Facial Scrubs
Here's another example in which Target's store-brand version will save you more money.
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 cheaper.
Don’t Buy Mobile Accessories…
- Buy this instead: An iPhone
The Apple Store might be your first and only stop when buying an iPhone. However, Target and Walmart are actually great places to buy an iPhone compared to Apple, said Glaser. Often, these stores offer competitive deals, including bundles with gift cards and some tough-to-beat prices on prepaid iPhones, he said.
On the other hand, you might want to skip the mobile accessories at Target and Walmart.
“Shoppers pay a premium for mobile accessories — including chargers, cases and phone screens — from Target and Walmart compared to Amazon and other online retailers,” said Perez.
For example, the OtterBox Defender Series case for the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 7 Plus in Bespoke Way cost $56.99 on Amazon at time of writing. The same case costs $3 more on Target and is not available for shipping. If you buy the case on Amazon, you can get free one-day shipping — but you have to be a Prime member.
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