Sunday, September 25, 2011

Which Has Lower Prices: Costco or BJ’s?

Where do we save more $$$?
The first week of September was gray with rain, rain, and more rain.  According to Weather Bureau statistics in the Washington Post, our area had 4.76 inches of precipitation that week.  Average is 0.84 inches.  We had so much rain for so many days in a row that I thought I should probably start calling the Tomato Patch our Watercress Patch.  I imagined that even the stink bugs were wearing Scuba gear.  So what to do?

Why not compare prices at the two big nearby membership “wholesale” stores, Costco and BJ’s Wholesale Club.  I’ve been wanting to do that for months.  We used to stock up once a month or so at BJ’s, but when Costco opened a few years ago, we switched to the new arrival for what we thought to be greater selection and slightly better prices.  Since then BJ’s has renovated and changed inventory significantly.  Should we consider changing allegiances again?

So exiled from lawn and garden on a rainy morning, I visited both stores and with a list of 17 items we often buy at the big boxes, I wandered the aisles and wrote down prices.  Which store do you think came out being the bigger money-saver?

Costco and BJ’s had identical prices on four items: Campari tomatoes (2 lbs), Ocean Spray Original Craisins (48 oz), Dove bath soap (14 bars), and HP #75XL printer cartridges (2 pack).

BJ’s had lower prices on three items: hummus singles (12), Diet Dr. Pepper (36 pack), and Multi Vitamins Mature or 50+.  If we purchased those three items at BJ’s, we would save $1.30.

Costco had lower prices on Morning Star Chipotle Black Bean Burgers (12); dried, chopped onion (large bottle); dried plums; nut clusters; multi-vitamins (500); Gillette Mach 3 razor blades; Charmin Supersoft toilet paper; HP #74 X printer cartridges (2); Cetaphil moisturizing cream(20 oz); and Loratadine tablets (300). If we purchased those 10 items at Costco, we would save $16.89.

I think both stores have their strong points.  BJ’s stocks some items we always buy but Costco doesn’t sell: Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Raisin Bread, raisin medley, and select-a-size paper towels.  Many of BJ’s items come in smaller sizes that this two-person household appreciates, such as smaller clamshell boxes of fresh grapes.  BJ’s accepts manufacturers’ coupons, and Costco doesn’t.  I can use the credit card of my choice at BJ’s, not just those on Costco’s restricted list.  Costco, however, has a greater selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, prepared foods, and electronics, and it has a gas station that saves us at least 5 cents a gallon.  Our local BJ’s doesn’t sell gas.

Bottom line: Both local stores are good places to save money, but we’ll save more at Costco.  We’ll keep our membership there.  And we’ll shop for sale items at our local Giant Food store, where special prices often are just as attractive as those at the big box discounters.

Of course, if your shopping list is different, your savings at the two stores might be different too.

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