Toilet paper and paper towels are the kind of purchases that won't give you a shopping high, but they sure can cost you a bundle.
So where can you get the best deals on your paper goods? We've rolled out the cost-saving options.
Shop Supermarkets During a Sale
Think that no one can beat the nation's big discounters like Wal-Mart, Target and Costco for the best prices on paper products? Think again. "If you shop the sales at grocery stores, you'll typically get a better deal," says Bob Shelton, a retail and consumer packaged goods consultant, who, until last year, served as senior vice president and general manager of non-foods for Safeway, the giant supermarket chain.
So here's the "aha" moment: While the mass merchants will usually offer prices of about 8% to 10% less than supermarkets on a daily basis, national grocers such as Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons will offer optimum sale deals on a more regular basis, Shelton says.
So shop the sales at supermarket chains, which traditionally run a big sale twice a month: typically, the first week of the month and then mid-month around or just after the 15th, "akin to a pay cycle," says Shelton. You can shave about 20% -- and even as much as 40% -- off the everyday price by doing so.
By contrast, the mass merchants, be it Wal-Mart, Target or Costco, will run sales much less frequently, about once a quarter. (While those sales will, for the most part, be on par with the supermarkets' sale prices, they'll only be offered around four times a year.)
The biggest supermarket bargains on paper products can usually be found the first week of the month. For instance, Charmin from Proctor & Gamble is priced as a premium brand. The average price of a double-roll, 24 pack of Charmin -- equivalent to a standard-size, 48-roll pack -- will run about $15 on average at a grocery chain, says Shelton. The same-sized pack will often sell for about $12, 20% less, during a grocery store sale.
At the same time, the average, non-sale price of a 12-roll pack of Bounty paper towels would be around $15, compared to about $12 during a sale. (Keep in mind that all prices quoted here are estimates; prices will vary depending on the store and where you live.)
And don't forget to sweeten the deal with coupons. "Watch the weekly supermarket and mass merchant ad circulars on Wednesdays and Sundays for high-value coupons," advises Shelton. "Also check the Sunday insert coupons issued by manufacturers to save even more."
Buy in Bulk
It might seem obvious, but if you're not buying household paper products in bulk, you're essentially throwing money down the toilet (literally, in this case.)
Just how big of a bulk package should you buy? Purchasing anything less than a nine-roll package of toilet paper means you're not getting the most bang for your buck. When it comes to paper towels, Shelton says, "If you have a family, buy a 12-roll -- usually featured in the big monthly sales -- or a 15-roll, available at warehouse club stores, as often as possible. If you're single, an eight-roll is still a value, but the 12- or 15-roll is still the best value."
And when you buy in bulk during a grocery store sale, that's when the savings really kick in. So look for such offers as two-for-one deals. At Safeway, for instance, you can often find Bounty 12-roll packs of paper towels on sale for $9.99 each if you buy two, a hefty 40% savings off the regular price.
Save With Store Brands
The quality of store brands -- once shorthand for cheaply made products -- has improved quite a bit, as retailers have been expanding their house labels, which typically bring them fatter profit margins.
Indeed, 43% of consumers polled by market research firm Mintel started buying store brand paper products "because they are cheaper than national brands," according to a Mintel report on household paper products.
"The structure of the market may be permanently changed since higher-quality private label brands have likely won the trust of many consumers who have tried them for the first time during the [economic] downturn," the report says.
But how much cheaper are we talking? Experts say store brands cost approximately 20% less than national brands. For instance, the average price for a double-roll, 24-pack of Cottonelle from Kimberly-Clark will cost you about $14 at a supermarket chain, while the store brand can cost as little as $10 to $11, Shelton says.
Meanwhile, an 8-roll pack of Brawny paper towels from Georgia Pacific will run you about $14, according to Shelton. The same-sized store brand will cost about $2 to $4 less. And you can shave off another 20% or more if you're shopping during a sale.
But keep in mind that the house brands of some secondary grocery stores have still not reached the quality level of national brands. So if you're buying a house label from a regional supermarket chain for the first time, test it out to see if it's to your liking. To sample it, buy just a single pack so that if you don't like it, you're not stuck with 16 rolls of lousy toilet paper.
However, says Shelton, "if you're happy with the quality and performance of private label, stick with the private label, because it's the best value."
Tap Deals Online
Beyond the brick-and-mortar stores, try scouring Amazon.com and OfficeDepot.com for deals, which also bundle bargains with coupon offers. "I routinely find great deals of 30% [off] or more on essentials like toilet paper and paper towels," Brad Wilson, founder and editor-in-chief of BradsDeals.com, a coupon web site, told WalletPop. "I usually buy them at Amazon because of the low prices and no sales tax, and OfficeDepot.com because of their very large coupons."
You should also check out personal care sites, such as Soap.com and Drugstore.com, for deals on paper goods, Wilson says.
So think first before you buy: By shopping supermarket sales, bulking in bulk, opting for store brands over national brands and tapping online sites for toilet paper and paper products, you'll be rolling in the savings!