Walmart touts its “everyday low prices” and broad selection, but that doesn’t mean the mega-retailer is always the best place to spend your paycheck.
In 2014, Kantar Retail Research compared the price of a basket of goods at Dollar General, Walmart, Target, and several other stores. Surprisingly, Dollar General had the lowest prices overall, followed by Walmart. Target was the least wallet-friendly of all the retailers.
But price isn’t the only issue to consider before deciding whether to spend your dollars at Wally World. While the 11,000-store chain seems like a bargain-shopper’s dream, it doesn’t always offer good value for your money, even if the price tag seems low. If you need any of the following 15 items, you might be able to save a little or get more for your money by shopping elsewhere.
Walmart sells more groceries than any other retailer in the United States, but that doesn’t mean consumers actually like shopping there. The store came in dead last in Consumer Reports’ 2017 ranking of America’s supermarkets. Though the prices are right, people were less impressed with the produce selection, bakery, and meats. The store is rolling out new services like curbside pickup, though, which could improve shoppers’ perception of the chain.
Next: Walmart doesn’t get great grocery reviews overall, but there are a couple of specific products you should steer clear of.
2. Organic produce
You can eat organic on a budget, but maybe not if you shop at Walmart. An analysis by Kiplinger found that Aldi and Trader Joe’s usually had lower prices on organic produce than Walmart. And in a separate review of prices conducted in 2016 by Cheapism, Aldi beat both Walmart and Kroger on price for organic foods. Some items, like apples, were significantly more expensive at Walmart than at Aldi.
Next: Costco easily beats Walmart on this item.
3. Maple syrup
Sometimes, generic “pancake syrup” won’t cut it for brunch. When you must have authentic maple syrup, head to Trader Joe’s, not Walmart. Among amber-colored syrups, Trader Joe’s 100 Percent Pure Vermont Maple Syrup tasted best and was the least expensive, at $1.06 per ¼ cup serving, according to Consumer Reports. For dark maple syrups, Costco’s Kirkland brand earned a “very good rating” and cost just 75 cents per ¼-cup serving. Walmart’s Great Value dark maple syrup earned a “good/very good” rating and cost $1.17 per serving.
Nuts for nuts? Then head to a store like Trader Joe’s rather than Walmart. The quirky California chain had better deals on nuts and seeds than Walmart, according to Kiplinger. Or fill up your bags at the bulk bins at your local grocery store or natural foods market because you can buy the exact amount your need and save on packaging waste, noted The Kitchn.
5. Store-brand supplements
If you’re picking up your ginseng or St. John’s Wort at Walmart, you may not be getting what you pay for. An investigation by the New York attorney general’s office found that many of the store-brand herbal supplements sold at Walmart, Target, Walgreen’s, and GNC didn’t contain any DNA from the plants listed on the label. Walmart was the worst offender of the bunch, with only 4% of products testing positive for the labeled ingredients. Its ginkgo biloba supplements were actually powdered radish, houseplants, and wheat, the New York Times reported.
Both outside experts and those in the supplement industry questioned whether the results of the government’s study were correct. Nonetheless, Walmart said it would address the issue with its suppliers, though it’s not clear if any changes have since been made to the products sold under its Spring Valley brand.
Next: One of the most popular gifts on the market
6. Gift cards
When you need a last-minute gift, it’s easy to pop into Walmart and grab a gift card. But there are ways to get a better deal on these pieces of plastic.
You can find discounted gift cards on sites, such as Card Cash and Raise, which serve as online marketplaces for people looking to unload their unused gift cards. If you earn rewards points on your credit card, you might be able to redeem those for gift cards, often getting more dollars per points than you would if you redeemed for cash. Members of Costco and Sam’s Club can also sometimes get discounts on gift cards.
Next: Gift wrap
7. Wrapping paper
Spending big bucks on wrapping paper is pretty silly, as it’s just going to end up in the trash. If you need paper, tissue, or gift bags to make your next present look presentable, head to the 99-cent store.
“You’re better off getting gift-giving supplies like wrapping paper, tape, bows and ribbons at dollar stores where they are less expensive,” David Bakke of Money Crashers told Philly.com.
If you’re in the mood to redecorate, don’t head to Walmart or Target. While their prices for furniture are on the low end, the quality is often not that great and their selection is limited.
“Yes, their furniture may be cheap, but if it only lasts a short time, you will spend far more money in the long run,” Kathy Woodard, a home decorating expert, told CBS News.
Antique and consignment stores may be a better bet if you’re looking for budget-friendly yet quality items, or simply save your pennies and invest in more expensive but built-to-last furniture.
Next: Cellphone plans
9. Prepaid cellphone plans
People looking to save money on their cellphone bills often switch to prepaid plans, such as Walmart’s Straight Talk. But getting your phone service through Walmart might not be such a smart idea. Tom’s Guide named Straight Talk the worst phone carrier in the U.S.
“[T]his is an instance in which you get less than what you pay for,” Philip Michaels wrote. The site reviewed nine different wireless carriers, including Verizon, T-Mobile, Boost, and Virgin. “Straight Talk had the slowest LTE speed of any carrier we tested, and it also came in last when we tested customer support. Straight Talk performance in other areas — smartphone plans, phone selection and special features — wasn’t strong enough to close the gap between it and other carriers.”
Glossy magazines tempt shoppers waiting in the checkout line at Walmart, but splurging on the latest issue of People or Cosmopolitan is a waste of money. The average newsstand price of a magazine was $5.55 in 2015. Considering that you can often get an entire year’s worth of the same publication for around $10 or $12, buying a single issue at a time is basically flushing money down the drain.
When you need batteries to power up your remote or razor, don’t grab a pack at Walmart. Costco’s Kirkland brand AA batteries are the best deal, according to Consumer Reports, and the only brand rated to earn the “best buy” check mark. Even if you can’t give up your Duracells, you’ll get a better deal at Costco than at Walmart, according to Kiplinger.
Next: TVs and laptops
When it’s time to upgrade your TV or laptop, your first stop probably shouldn’t be Walmart. While the chain sometimes advertises tempting prices on TVs, the models they sell are lower quality, according to GoBankingRates. For laptops, you can save money by shopping at stores like Newegg or directly from manufacturers, the site said. Customer service is often lacking, as this writer from Business Insider experienced when she tried to buy an Apple Watch at Walmart, and if you have questions about installation or how a product works, you may be out of luck.
Most people don’t head to Walmart when their refrigerator breaks or they need a new dishwasher, and for good reason. The store has a fairly small selection of major appliances and generally doesn’t offer the best deals. You’ll find better prices at more appliance-focused stores like Sears or Best Buy, according to GoBankingRates. And if you’re looking for knowledgeable salespeople and a more personal experience, don’t overlook your local mom-and-pop merchants, according to Consumer Reports, since they offer better customer service than the chains.
Next: Camping equipment
14. Outdoor gear
Your trek into the wilderness can cost big bucks if you need to load up on camping supplies and outdoor gear like tents, sleeping bags, and backpacks. But the slim selection at stores like Walmart can’t beat the deals you’ll find at more specialized sites. The Sierra Club recommends the (unrelated) Sierra Trading Post for overstock and closeout deals from top brands.
Gizmodo suggests beginners rent gear from REI or other outdoor stores, especially if you’re not sure you want to invest in equipment. But eager explorers should head to stores like Walmart to stock up on cheap polar fleeces and other outer layers of clothing, Gizmodo said. Also worth noting: Walmart recently scooped up outdoor clothing and gear retailer Moosejaw, but its products won’t be sold through Walmart stores.
Next: Gear for your gadgets
15. Tech accessories
Walmart isn’t the best place to buy new cables or cases for your gadgets. Big retail chains like Walmart are “charging WAY more for tech accessories than they need to,” according to David Dritsas of Brad’s Deals. Stores make a big profit on these small items, which they hope you’ll buy on a whim or in a pinch. To save money, shop online at stores, such as Amazon and Newegg, he urged.