This Arkansas finance coach was once $70K in debt — these Walmart bargain-hunting tips helped make her debt-free

·6-min read

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Brandi Childs knows how to stretch a dollar, which is why you'll catch her hunting down clearance deals at Walmart. (Photo: Brandi Childs)
Brandi Childs knows how to stretch a dollar, which is why you'll catch her hunting down clearance deals at Walmart. (Photo: Brandi Childs)

If you spoke to Brandi Childs today, you’d probably never know she and her family were once drowning in debt. These days, Brandi is an Arkansas-based personal finance coach, but once upon a time — that is, up until 2015 — she and her husband owed more than $70,000 in student loans, personal loans, credit card bills and more.

“It was all consumer debt, and this was not including our mortgage. We were getting ready to put the kids into daycare. And we also had our regular bills,” Brandi told Yahoo Life. “It was putting us in such a tight bind. And I was, like, this is no way to live.”

Brandi and her husband decided that a strategic approach to spending was their best hope of making a dent in their debt. “I had a full-time job, and my husband had a full-time job. Our kids were small, so getting a second job wasn't an option for either one of us,” Brandi said. “We thought, we've got to figure out a way to make our money stretch a little bit further.”

So Brandi started budgeting. Then she began clipping coupons. This led her down a rabbit hole of discount shopping. Walmart quickly became her go-to for the best prices and the most unbeatable clearance deals in town, thanks in large part to the Walmart app and Walmart+. Her bargain-hunting prowess went into overdrive — and it paid off.

In May 2015 Brandi and her husband eliminated their 70k in consumer debt. “My Mother's Day gift from my husband that year was that he paid off my very last student loan," she said, noting that the couple is still chipping away at their mortgage. She also started her own YouTube channel. That’s where she dishes the discount shopping tips that have helped her get on the right financial track.

Here are a few strategies she swears by when shopping at Walmart.

Shop the “hidden” clearance deals using your Walmart app

walmart clearance shopping
The Walmart app lets you find the best clearance deals that aren't visible in store. (Photo: Walmart)

Brandi is in the business of budgeting, which means the lowest discount she can find is the one she’ll shop, and every little bit counts. That’s why she hunts down the “hidden” clearance deals. At all times, Walmart shelves are packed with items on extreme clearance — you can find things for less than a dollar — but they’re masquerading as full-priced items.

The trick to finding these hidden clearance products? The Walmart app, which lets you scan each item you find, then it displays the actual price (it’s often drastically reduced) in the Walmart store you’re shopping in. You can even toggle between stores in your area to find the absolute best deal on that product, as prices vary among stores.

“Of course, I've always gone down the clearance aisle and noticed the little yellow stickers on things,” Brandi said. Then she caught wind of the concept of hidden clearance. “I was like, let me go to Walmart and see. And sure enough, I went to Walmart, and I pulled out my phone, had my Walmart app on there and went scanning away and found all kinds of things on sale.”

A few of her most exciting scores? Simple necessities like Reynolds Wrap that normally cost $3.50 each but cost just 87 cents on hidden clearance. “That is unheard of,” she said. And $3 boxes of Ziploc bags were on sale for just 94 cents each. She also found $28 backpacks for her kids for just $5 each. It all adds up. In one shopping trip for everyday items, Brandi sometimes saves up to $200.

Use your Walmart+ membership for free delivery on groceries and fuel discounts

Walmart Plus offers Mobile Scan and Go, free delivery on groceries and fuel discounts. (Photo: Walmart.com)
Walmart Plus offers Mobile Scan and Go, free delivery on groceries and fuel discounts. (Photo: Walmart.com)

A Walmart+ membership 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, free next-day and two-day shipping when you place an order on Walmart.com (no minimum required!). Walmart+ even gives you free shipping when you shop online.

You can sign up for your free 15-day trial here.

One of the perks of a Walmart+ membership is having groceries delivered to your home for free (depending on your location). “Especially if you are in smaller towns, like I am, a lot of times our personal grocery store prices are a lot higher than the prices you find at Walmart Grocery," said Brandi.

Another perk is the fuel discount program at Walmart+, which gives you a potential discount of up to five cents per gallon of gasoline at Walmart and Murphy stations.

“I'm in Southern Arkansas, and I live in a small town. And so I have to drive 15 minutes to get to one Walmart. And then the other one is 30 minutes away. And then the other is like 45 minutes away. So it's not like we've got like a Walmart on every corner,” Brandi said. Walmart+ comes in clutch when you can’t get in the car and drive.

But when she does use her car to go to Walmart, Brandi makes sure to stop at Murphy’s to fill up the tank. “When I make my trip to Walmart, I'm also going to fill up my car when I go there, because gas is cheaper,” Brandi said. Even before the five percent discount offered through a Walmart+ membership “it's just lower than our gas stations here in town. The last I looked, it was like 15 cents cheaper at Murphy’s than it was in town.”

Use rebate apps when you shop at Walmart

“I hate to pay full price for anything. I'm always gonna wait until I can find some kind of way to save some money on it,” Brandi said. “I normally wait until I can either use a coupon or it’s on clearance. Otherwise I’ll use a rebate app with it. Once you match clearance shopping with the rebate apps, Walmart is one of my favorite places to shop.”

Her favorite rebate apps for her Walmart purchases are Ibotta and Fetch. “You can literally download the app today and go into Walmart and pick up some great deals on groceries and household things. Your prices are going to be lower [at Walmart] anyway, regardless.”

With rebate apps, Brandi gets cash back on the already discounted purchases she makes. And for Brandi, building those kinds of consistent financial habits has been life-changing — and not just because she’s no longer in the red.

“If we hadn't gotten out of the debt, I wouldn’t have been able to be a financial coach," she said. "So getting out of debt has also allowed me some great opportunities in life.”

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