This bargain hunter is a pro at spotting secret $1 sales at Walmart—here are her tricks

Kristine Solomon
·6-min read

Yahoo Life is committed to finding you the best products at the best prices. We may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Pricing and availability are subject to change.

If anyone knows how to find a great deal, it's Erica Miller. (Photo: One Cute Couponer)
If anyone knows how to find a great deal at Walmart, it's Erica Miller. (Photo: One Cute Couponer)

When was the last time you found a product that was secretly on sale at Walmart? Florida-based bargain shopper Erica Miller finds them almost every day. She loves to show up at Walmart bright and early, even if she has nothing in particular on her list. It’s not about the products for Erica; it’s about the sales — and she has a special knack for spotting them, thanks to her Walmart app and Walmart+ membership.

Now, we’re not talking just any deals. We’re talking drastic markdowns — as low as $1 (or less!) — on everything from clothing to housewares to groceries. These kinds of massive clearance sales are hiding in plain sight on Walmart’s shelves every single day, but go largely unnoticed by shoppers. And there’s a very good reason for that.

Erica tells Yahoo Life that when she first started shopping at Walmart, “I would start putting stuff in my cart and using my Walmart app to scan the price. And sometimes I would notice that things marked for one price would actually ring up cheaper once they were scanned.”

Soon, a lightbulb went off in Erica’s mind: If she was finding these “secret” sales by accident, there must be so many more deeply discounted products in the store that she was completely overlooking because the sticker price was misleading. She was on a mission to save.

Walmart+ and the Walmart mobile app: Two secrets to Erica's success

Walmart's free mobile app for iPhone and Android is an indispensable tool for clearance shoppers like Erica. Its built-in scanner reads the barcode on a Walmart sticker and lets you know the item's most up-to-date price in that particular store.

In fact, the app’s ‘Mobile Scan & Go’ feature even lets you sign into your Walmart+ account to pay and check out digitally. You then receive an e-receipt and an exit pass that lets you carry your haul right out the door. The whole process is contactless and extra convenient in the time of COVID. Not yet a Walmart+ member? No problem. You can sign up for your free 15-day trial here, but a quick three-question survey will add on an additional two more weeks for a solid 30 days of use. Walmart+ even gives you free shipping when you shop online.

A Walmart+ account is a must for any Walmart shopper — or anyone who shops online, goes grocery shopping or even drives a car. For just $12.95 a month or $98 a year (after that 15-day free trial), you get free delivery from your local Walmart store (that includes groceries!), free next-day and two-day shipping when you place an order on Walmart.com (no minimum required!) and even fuel discounts. A Walmart+ membership saves you 5 cents per gallon of gasoline at Walmart & Murphy stations.

Walmart $1 clearance shopping: It's more than a hobby — it's a lifestyle

Erica says there's a special kind of thrill in identifying a set of $20 headphones only to find out they’re actually $1 each at her Walmart store. In fact, she calls it a kind of scavenger hunt.

Erica remembers a time she scanned bottles of $6 shampoo to discover they were actually on clearance for $1 each. That’s when she pulled out one of her pro tips: using coupons on top of clearance discounts. She happened to have coupons for $2 off this particular shampoo, so when she applied them to her total, she was credited $1 per bottle. “They actually paid me back for buying shampoo,” she remembers. “I used the difference to pay for other things in my cart!”

But Erica’s proudest score of all happened one day when she was happily scanning in one of her favorite sections of Walmart: personal electronics.

“I found a ton of Vudu sticks for three cents each. And of course I bought them all!,” she says with a laugh. “I had them for about three or four months, and I just kept looking at them like they were my prized trophy. After a while it was ridiculous, so I ended up giving them to a local shelter that housed women and children who are running from domestic violence situations.”

Want to hunt down your own secret sales at Walmart? Follow Erica's game plan

Erica has become such old hat at finding secret sales at Walmart that she's honed a strategy for maximizing her time and effort. Her cardinal rule is to start as early in the day as possible. “I find better clearance deals at Walmart in the mornings,” she says. “It seems like employees are more diligent, putting things where they need to be.”

The beginning of the month is when items are scheduled for big markdowns, she notes — but that doesn’t always translate immediately to their sticker prices. “Employees don't always get a chance to mark those things down...or move them to the appropriate clearance section or the appropriate clearance end caps. That's a really great time to look around the store.”

Another goldmine? Seasonal items — especially right before the season starts and Walmart stores are trying to clear their inventory. “For example, you would think there's no way they're marking down spring merchandise right now [in the beginning of March],” Erica says. But if you scanned the camping gear, bicycle gear and other outdoorsy items, you’d see it’s all secretly on clearance “because they need to bring in the new stuff for the current year,” she says. “For all seasons — spring, summer, winter, fall — you want to look right before that next season hits.”

On any given day, though, “I usually make a beeline for the dedicated clearance section,” she says. Once there, she focuses on two things: seasonal items, and any product that seems to have different packaging than its peers. “If I see new branding next to old branding, I know immediately to scan the old branding; it’s probably on clearance.”

She pounces on aisles that seem a bit discombobulated, too. “When they start to do markdowns, you can kind of see the section getting rearranged, or things are looking kind of thinned out or out of place. I usually go hit up those sections.” She also eyes Walmart products with Rollback stickers.

Walmart bargain hunting: It's a family affair

These days, Erica has become so steeped in Walmart clearance shopping culture that she has a website and YouTube channel dedicated to her adventures.

She also recruits her family to bargain hunt — in fact, she says packing up the family and spending the day at Walmart scanning for secret sales makes for some great bonding.

“When I first started clearance shopping, picking up things and using my Walmart app, my relatives were giving me the side eye. My family would kind of just look at me like, ‘What are you doing?’” she says. “But once they saw these awesome things I was getting, and they began to use the app too, now it’s really just a family affair. Everyone gets involved. It's so much fun.”

Read More from Yahoo Life:

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for nonstop inspiration delivered fresh to your feed, every day.

Want daily pop culture news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Entertainment & Life's newsletter.