Can you save enough money at Sam’s Club, compared to Wal-Mart, to justify the $45 annual membership fee? I did the research and compared the pricing on over 100 everyday items at both retailers. The price tags were very similar on the majority of the items I examined. But interestingly, I did find 12 commonly-used products that had a fairly drastic price difference at one retailer compared to the other.
If you purchase any of these items frequently, it might make the difference in choosing a preferred retailer. Below are the products that offer the biggest savings when comparing Sam’s pricing to that of Wal-Mart’s.
1. Over-the-Counter Medications (Winner: Sam’s Club)
Sam’s Club is the clear winner when it comes to over-the-counter medications. A great example is 10mg Zyrtec Allergy tablets. At Sam’s you can get a 100-count package for $29.98, while you’ll have to pay $34.94 at Wal-Mart for only 70 tablets. The same holds true for Benadryl Allergy, where a 48-count box at Sam’s goes for $4.89; you’ll have to pay $6.48 for the same at Wal-Mart. The price differences extend way beyond allergy medications, as well. For example, Advil tablets at Sam’s cost $16.39 for a 360-count bottle, while a 300-count bottle at Wal-Mart sells for $18.48.
2. Alcohol (Winner: Sam’s Club)
If you buy alcohol on a regular basis, a Sam’s membership will easily pay for itself in terms of savings. For example, Jack Daniels Whiskey sells for $0.55 an ounce at Sam’s compared to $0.66 at your local Wal-Mart. In general, this holds true for other spirits as well, including wine and beer. Note that non-members can also buy booze from Sam’s Club (and other membership warehouse stores such as Costco).
Read next: These States Have the Craziest Liquor Laws
3. Sports Drinks (Winner: Sam’s Club)
If you have kids that play sports and consume Gatorade or PowerAde during games and practices, you’ll want to stock up at Sam’s Club and save money. For example, Sam’s sells a 28-pack of 12oz Gatorades for $10.48, or $0.03 an ounce. In contrast, Wal-Mart sells an 18-pack of the same size bottles for $8.68, or $0.04 an ounce. Over the course of a sports season, the savings is significant, especially if you’re assigned a game to bring snacks and drinks for the entire team.
4. Breakfast Cereal (Winner: Sam’s Club)
If breakfast cereal is eaten in your home most mornings, you’ll want to stock up at Sam’s Club and save. At Sam’s, you can buy a two-pack of Cheerios (41 ounces in total) for $5.68, or an affordable $0.13 an ounce. Compare that with Wal-Mart, who sells an 18oz box for $3.68, and you’ll end up paying a hefty $0.20 an ounce for Cheerios. Cheerios not your thing? Not a problem, as you’ll find similar savings at Sam’s on favorites like Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Raisin Bran, to name a few.
5. Frozen Pizza (Winner: Sam’s Club)
When it comes to a delicious frozen pizza, Sam’s is where you’ll save the most money. For example, a DiGiorno Rising Crust Pepperoni Pizza at Sam’s costs $4.66 compared to $5.47 at Wal-Mart. Also, it should be pointed out that while Sam’s only offers a three-pack of pizzas, you can buy them individually at Wal-Mart. But if you have the freezer space, buying the three-pack for an affordable $13.98 is the best way to go.
6. Peanut Butter (Winner: Sam’s Club)
I found this price battle interesting as both Wal-Mart and Sam’s stock the Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter pack of two jars, 40 ounces each. The Sam’s price is $9.18, while Wal-Mart is over a dollar and a half more at $10.78. Sam’s is also cheaper for JIF peanut butter, but the savings is not as significant as it is with Skippy for some reason.
7. Diapers (Winner: Sam’s Club)
If diapers are currently on your shopping list, you’re well served buying them at Sam’s. For example, a 162-count box of Pampers (size 2) at Sam’s runs $33.98, or $0.21 each, while the same size at Wal-Mart will cost you over $0.25 each. Four cents might not seem like much until you start adding up how many diapers you’ll need before you can potty-train. Similar savings can be found on Huggies and Luvs as well, in all sizes.
8. Laundry Detergent (Winner: Sam’s Club)
While Sam’s Club sells larger sizes than Wal-Mart, Sam’s beats them in price across the board when it comes to laundry detergent. For example, Sam’s has Tide Original Liquid Detergent for $0.095 an ounce while Wal-Mart comes in at almost $0.12 an ounce. Also, All Stainlifter detergent sells for $.071 per ounce at Wal-Mart compared to the cheaper version at Sam’s which sells for $0.06 an ounce. While the savings seems small in terms of ounces, it really adds up over the course of a year, especially if you’re doing laundry for a large family.
9. Shampoo and Conditioner (Winner: Sam’s Club)
When buying shampoo and conditioner, Sam’s is clearly the place to shop. They currently sell a 40oz bottle of Pantene Pro-V shampoo for $5.88 while Wal-Mart sells a smaller 29oz bottle for a more expensive $6.42. The same can be said for Nexxus Therappe shampoo which Sam’s sells for $0.40 an ounce, compared to $0.45 at Wal-Mart. I couldn’t find a single example where Wal-Mart had a better per unit price, compared to Sam’s, on shampoo or conditioner.
10. Hot Dogs/Sausage (Winner: Wal-Mart)
I’m not sure exactly why, but you’ll almost always score a better deal on hot dogs and sausages at Wal-Mart compared to Sam’s Club prices. For example, you can buy a 16-count package of Ball Park franks at Wal-Mart for $0.37 each, while you’ll have to buy a 24-count package at Sam’s and pay close to $0.40 each.
11. Frozen Fish (Winner: Wal-Mart)
When it comes to frozen fish, the prices at Wal-Mart are an easy catch when compared to Sam’s. At Wal-Mart, wild salmon fillets in a two-pound bag sell for $9.86, which comes out to $0.31 an ounce. If you head over to Sam’s, you’ll find that they carry farmed Atlantic salmon, in a three-pound bag, which goes for $22.47, or $0.47 an ounce. Doing some quick math, Wal-Mart is approximately 30% cheaper than Sam’s. If salmon is not your thing, you’ll find similar savings at Wal-Mart on tilapia and even the tasty fish stick.
12. Blank Media (Winner: Wal-Mart)
In particular, I’m talking about blank CDs and DVDs and Wal-Mart is cheaper across the board. For example, the Verbatim DVD-R 100-pack sells for a low $20.40 on Wal-Mart, compared to $22.48 at Sam’s. The same can be said for blank CDs; Wal-Mart sells the Verbatim 100-pack for $16.99, whereas Sam’s has the same product for $17.97.
Sam’s Club clearly won my pricing challenge by a score of nine to three, making a Sam’s membership worth the $45 annual fee in many cases. This is especially true if you’re accustomed to buying in bulk for a large family, because most of the packaging at Sam’s is bigger in size and will last longer. That’s a good problem to have, assuming you have the storage space, as it means fewer trips to the store and more money in your wallet at the end of the month.
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