Save at the drugstore - MoneySense

Save at the drugstore

From generic products to points cards, there are many ways to lower your drugstore bill.



Every time I step into a drugstore I wonder at the range of products now being sold where once-upon-a-time you used to buy Band-Aids and aspirin. Sometimes when I’m standing in front of the shelf looking at 1001 iterations of ibuprofen I’m so confused I don’t know where to even start doing my comparison.

If more choice made us happy, we’d all be blissful with the multitude of options we have. But more choice seems to leave me confused and dissatisfied. And I’m not alone.

In economic terms it’s called “opportunity cost” and it refers to what you may miss out on when you make one choice over another. In its strictest terms, opportunity cost applies only to the next best choice. But in our multiple-choice reality, each option available comes with its own unique features, which could make it the best option depending on the criteria we’re using to rank those options. We end up feeling a sense of loss not only about the second choice we didn’t take, but all the choices we could have chosen that we took a pass on. The greater the number of options we have, the higher our opportunity cost.

Overcoming the paralysis that often comes with too much choice means knowing what you actually want… not going browsing. And the way to make that concrete is to shop with a list.

If price is a big concern and you want to save as much money as you can while you’re shopping, ask for a generic version of whatever you’re buying. You’ll always pay more for the brand name (except, perhaps, OTC drugs that are on sale). And compare prices since the cost to fill a script can vary from one store to another.

Don’t limit yourself to a traditional drug store if you can buy what you need at a big-box store. Dispensing fees may be lower and buying in bulk can save you a lot of money.

Take advantage of your age. If the drugstore offers a discount because of your age (I refuse to use the word “senior”), shop on the days when you can reap the biggest benefits.

Choose store brands over name brands to save a whack of cash. The drugstore isn’t in the business of manufacturing product, so the product with the store name is made by one of the guys charging more for much the same name-brand product.

Don’t forget about signing up for a loyalty card. My AirMiles can be translated into a drugstore shopping card (though the redemption process is a little like having a tooth drilled). My last drugstore shopping trip was considerably cheaper than it would have been without my points card.