Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Is Sam's Club Cheaper than Wal-Mart or the Grocery Store?

I have resisted rejoining Sam's Club for a long time. It wasn't that I didn't want to shop there at times but it kills me to pay $40 for the "Privilege" of shopping at a store. So, for the last couple of years I have used the "Take Advantage of Friends and Family" plan. Otherwise known as the "I'm-too-cheap-to-buy-a-membership-will-you-take-me" strategy. 
When I went in the store to sign up, I was given the hard sell about upgrading my membership to some premium plan which cost $100. The main difference appeared to be you could then shop even more (starting at 7am as opposed to 10am) and an extended warranty plan on some items you purchase.  If you pay $100 to shop somewhere you are going to have to buy a lot of stuff to make back the initial cost of membership.
Before I went to Sam's, I did a little grocery shopping and wrote down some prices so I could compare to prices at Sam's. First, Apple Market.
I personally didn't find a lot of great deals this week at any of the Topeka grocery stores. At Apple Market, they did have Tostito corn chips on sale for $1.98. I had some $1 off coupons which made each package 98 cents. Rotel tomatoes were 98 cents each so after doubled coupons, I paid 48 cents a can. Roberts dip and sour cream were 98 cents so after doubled coupon, were just 18 cents each. I finally used my rain check for the 98 cent package sausage which was on sale last week. I bought hamburger at $2.99 a pound (cheapest I have found in town) and lettuce for $1.29.
Then on to Aldi's. Aldi's has the cheapest old fashioned oatmeal I have been able to find at $2.19 for a large container (used in my granola). Strawberries were $1.69 a package. Raisins were $1.79 a package, avocados 49 cents each (about half Wal-Mart's price), tomatoes 99 cents a package and Apple Juice $1.49. Aldi's has the least expensive marshmallows for 89 cents a package, cookies just $1.19 (similar cookies at Wal-Mart cost $1.88) and vegetable oil for $2.49 ($2.98 at Wal-Mart). I am a very picky eater. I can tell no difference between these brands and the national brands. I estimate I saved about $9 buying these items at Aldi's as opposed to buying them at Dillon's or even Wal-Mart. The difference isn't in flavor, it's in how much the company is spending on marketing.

On to Sam's Club....
I found a few items which were less expensive at Sam's. The Kaiser rolls were $1.87 for 12 buns. The snap peas were $3.47. A much smaller package normally sells for about $2.99 at other stores. Whole milk was $3.14 a gallon. Milk is selling for $3.50-$3.75 (was $3.37 at Wal-Mart on same day). However, milk is often on sale at other stores for around a dollar for half a gallon. When on sale, milk prices will be significantly lower than Sam's price. When not on sale, buy at Sam's.
The paper coffee cups with lids (perfect for camping) cost $7.86 for 50 cups. At Wal-Mart, similar cups cost 26 cups for $4.37. So, if you could buy 50 cups at Wal-Mart, they would cost $8.40. I saved 54 cents. Think about it....you will have to buy 80 items in which you save 50 cents per item before you recoup your $40 membership fee.
Here's what I found which I thought was significantly lower. Equal sells at Sam's for $9.88 for 800 packages. At Wal-Mart, equal sells for $4.98 for 250 packages. The same amount of equal purchased at Wal-Mart would cost about $6 more. Trash bags sell at Sam's for $9.68 for 150 bags. Wal-Mart sells similar trash bags for $11.57 for 88 bags. It takes a lot of math to compare prices. Stores are gambling we are bad at math (a pretty good gamble).
Items are not sold in the same quantities. To compare, you must figure out the price per number of items in the container. In this comparison, Sam's trash bags cost .0695 per bag and Wal-Mart is charging .1314 per bag. To buy 150 bags at Wal-Mart (not sold in this quantity) would cost $19.71. I saved about $10 buying these trash bags at Sam's. I estimate I "saved" around $18 on this trip as opposed to buying at Wal-Mart. It will actually take at least three similar trips to Sam's before I "save" anything since  I haven't saved enough to recoup my membership fee yet.
But not everything is cheaper is Sam's....

This Wolf Chili is being sold for $7.69 a case (I think 6 cans). Last week this chili was on sale at Dillon's for $1 a can. After double coupons, you could purchase it for just 20 cents a can.
At Sam's you can purchase 48 cans of cat food for $21.98. At Wal-Mart, you can purchase 24 cans of Friskies cat food for $10.98 (or two 24 can cases for $21.96). Two cents cheaper at Wal-Mart and you didn't have to purchase a membership. Ah yes, I'm starting to remember why I resisted buying a membership for so long. That, and the fact that I get really freaked out when I must spend something like $100 to buy 7 items. Do you really want to buy everything in bulk?
Club crackers, two boxes for $4.48. These crackers are frequently on sale for $1.99 a box at other stores or have coupons.
Here's what made me craziest while shopping at Sam's. I went on my smart phone to look up a comparison price at another store. Each time I connected to the Internet, it took me straight to an advertisement for AT&T phone service which I could purchase at Sam's!!!!! This is downright dirty. I felt like my phone was being held hostage. I was very mad.
So like every other store, Sam's is cheaper on some items and the same or even more expensive on others. Always compare prices.  I will continue to let you know what I find cheaper at Sam's and what is more expensive. Please tell me what items you have found less expensive at Sam's. 


  1. Good read. So is Aldi's cheaper than Sam's?

  2. Aldi is cheaper on things they sell if you don't mind off brand items mostly however Sam can kick their ass on TP, batteries, baked goods , health & beauty etc

  3. You do realize that you can use those same coupons at Sams right? They will take competitor coupons. I saved $50 in one trip just buying a 1tb external hard drive for my computer. Things you can buy in bulk like bottled water, soda, chips, cereal are consistently cheaper at Sams club. I feel like my $45 membership was well worth it especially considering I got my membership off groupon which came with a $20 Sams gift card, and $250 in coupons.

  4. I agree, Sam's club isn't a great bargain. A few items are indeed bargains, like the the rotisseried chicken for $4.99/ chicken, and the gas, which is usually 5 to 25 cents per gallon less than your average gas station.

  5. Check out the price of Emerald Dry Roasted Almonds, 100 calorie packs, at both Sam's Club and Walmart online. Both show a box which contains 7 individual packs. Walmart has a price MUCH cheaper than Sam's Club. I can buy them at Kroger a lot cheaper than the Sam's Club price, and Kroger's price on these is high. :-O So be careful what you buy at Sam's and compare prices!