20 things you should never buy at a pharmacy

Pharmacies are good places to find medicine and numerous other practical items. However, some things cost much more when purchased at a pharmacy. Here are 20 things you would be better off buying elsewhere.

By BĂ©atrice Bernard-Poulin, Espresso

Pharmacies are good places to find medicine and numerous other practical items. However, some things cost much more when purchased at a pharmacy. Here are 20 things you would be better off buying elsewhere.

Some over-the-counter medicines

While pharmacies primarily sell medication, the generic versions of some over-the-counter medicines (ibuprofen, anti-allergens, etc.) are less expensive in stores such as Costco and Walmart. In general, larger packages are more economically priced.

Toilet paper

As a general rule, larger packages of toilet paper are priced better. Generic brands also tend to be cheaper. Stores like Costco and Walmart and sites like Amazon are good places to find economical prices, too. Save even more money during promotions. Be sure to check out the cost per 100 sheets before buying.


Parents know that diaper supplies must be constantly replenished, sending the cost for these items sky high. Buy diapers at more affordable prices at Costco and Walmart or through programs like Amazon Prime.

Cleaning products

Some cleaning products cost more at pharmacies. Look for better prices at dollar stores (such as Dollarama), big-box stores, certain hardware stores, and during sales. To save even more, consider buying concentrated products or making your own cleaning supplies with ingredients you already have at home.


As pharmacies continue to diversify the merchandise they offer, customers can now even find toys. Such items can be practical, convenient gifts, but they are likely to be much more expensive than in larger, specialized stores (such as Toys R Us), at Costco, and on sites like Amazon.


Multivitamins are quite popular for supplementing a less-than-balanced diet, combating winter, and other uses. They are often less expensive at Walmart and Costco, especially in family-sized and generic formats.


Pharmacies sell several high-quality brands of make-up at good prices, but to find them for even less, take a look at big-box stores like Walmart or Giant Tiger. Costco also sells certain major brands. Try searching Amazon for other deals.

Shampoo and conditioner

Do you prefer generic-brand shampoo? Find low-priced, large-format products at Costco. Or perhaps you like popular brands. If so, head for big-box stores. Get the best prices on professional brands at specialized stores, Costco, and on Amazon.

Individually packaged snacks

Individually wrapped snacks are ordinarily more expensive than those in larger formats. Snacks sold in pharmacies can be even pricier. You'll find better deals at supermarkets, dollar stores, and the grocery section of big-box stores.


You may have noticed that batteries are often placed near pharmacy checkouts. In fact, it's often just as we get in line to pay that we remember that we need to buy a few! Buy batteries instead at Costco or during sales at big-box stores. Also look for reusable batteries. They're more environmentally friendly and less expensive in the long-term.

Contact lens supplies

Taking care of your contact lenses is important, and costs can quickly add up because you have to change the solution on a daily basis. Buy your supplies in bulk at Costco or in big-box stores. Choosing generic brands will help you save even more.

Office supplies

Pharmacies are not the best places to buy pencils, notebooks, and tape. You'll get a better deal at dollar stores, during back-to-school sales, and at office supply stores like Staples or other big-box stores.

Greeting cards

Looking to celebrate someone's birthday? Before buying a greeting card at the pharmacy, check out the dollar store! Rather than shelling out nearly $5 per card, pay just $1 and save the rest! Large quantities for particular occasions are also available on Amazon.


While the “grocery” aisles in several pharmacies have grown over the years, prices have not become any more affordable. Be sure to check the price per kilogram or pound to know if you're getting the best bargain, or opt for shopping at a supermarket or Costco.

Feminine hygiene products

When it comes to buying tampons or pads, you'll find the best large-format prices at Costco. Waiting for sales may also be a smart idea as these essential products have no expiration date.

Hair-care needs

Are you in need of a new hair dryer or curling iron? You're likely to find the best prices on Amazon or at Costco. Specialized stores may also be a good option for high-end products. For elastics, brushes, and barrettes, head to the dollar store instead.

Gift cards

Surprising, but true! Gift cards sold for their face value might actually be an unwise investment. Costco sells them for less than their real value. You may even want to buy a few for yourself and save them for future purchases.

Party supplies

Do you need tablecloths, banners, balloons, or other items for an upcoming event? Fill your shopping cart with deals from the dollar store. Big-box stores may also offer a good selection.


Pharmacies often sell a selection of books, both fiction and non-fiction, but at higher prices (especially for best-sellers) than some bookstores such as Indigo and Barnes and Noble, big-box stores, Costco, and Amazon. Also look into the possibility of borrowing books for free from your local library.


If you're in the market for a new camera, video game console, or speakers, stay away from pharmacies. The best deals are often found at specialized or big-box electronics stores, especially during promotions.


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Finance Magazine: 20 things you should never buy at a pharmacy
20 things you should never buy at a pharmacy
Pharmacies are good places to find medicine and numerous other practical items. However, some things cost much more when purchased at a pharmacy. Here are 20 things you would be better off buying elsewhere.
Finance Magazine
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