Bulk Vs. Budget
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35 Bulk Buys That Are Cheaper at the Dollar Store Than Costco

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Bulk Vs. Budget
RiverNorthPhotography/istockphoto

Bulk vs. Budget

Do you always get a better deal in bulk, or is it worth picking through the $1 offerings for the best deals? Costco built its business on the belief that there are better bargains to be found in bulk, but stores such as Dollar Tree and Dollar General buy in bulk as well, often breaking out their lots into $1 offerings with a lower unit price than what can be found at bulk warehouse stores. We went comparison shopping and found that paper towels, toothpaste, Post-its, and other bulk staples aren't always the bargain they appear to be.

Prices and availability are subject to change.

Hand Towels
Dollar Tree
Storage Containers
Dollar Tree
Drinking Glasses
Dollar Tree

Drinking Glasses

Costco: $4.62 per glass
Dollar Tree: $1 per glass
Costco often has less-expensive dishware in the warehouse, but this $36.99 set of double-walled glasses is the cheapest set of 12-ounce glasses they're willing to advertise. That's fine, but for that per-glass price, you can buy three extra Dollar Tree glasses just for breaking.

Notebooks
Dollar Tree

Notebooks

Costco: $1.33 per notebook
Dollar Tree:$1 per notebook
They're both 8-by-10-inches, they both have 70 sheets of paper, and they both come in a variety of colors. One has “Mead” on the cover and the other doesn't. Guess which.

Composition Books
Dollar Tree

Composition Books

Costco: $2.17 per book
Dollar Tree: $1 per book
No, switching over to the hard-bound, speckle-covered composition books won't save you money at Costco either. A $12.99 six-pack gives you composition books that are more than double the price of Dollar Tree's offerings.

Reading Glasses
Dollar Tree

Reading Glasses

Costco: $6.33 per pair
Dollar Tree:$1 per pair
Sure, Costco will give you a three-pack of Foster Grants in any style for $18.99, but that isn't incredibly helpful when Dollar Tree will give you any style and strength of reading glasses for just $1. Reading glasses are one of the dollar store's key draws.

Pregnancy Test
Dollar Tree

Pregnancy Tests

Costco: $4.25 per test
Dollar Tree: $1 per test
The tests have the same degree of accuracy, so this shouldn't boil down to not trusting the “cheap” test. Even if you're trying and need to stockpile pregnancy tests, you could buy 17 at the dollar store for the cost of a four-pack at Costco.

Tote Bags
Dollar Tree

Tote Bags

Costco: $43 per tote
Dollar Tree: $1 per tote
We'll grant there's a big difference here: Costco's is a crocheted everyday bag, while Dollar Tree bags are a woven-polyester or laminated step up from reusable grocery bags. If you prize function over form, Dollar Tree is the better deal.

Coffee Mugs
Dollar Tree

Coffee Mugs

Costco: $8.33 per mug
Dollar Tree:$1 per mug
Costco has housewares, but will typically give you coffee mugs only in a set of dishware. Its double-walled J.A. Henckels glass mugs — six for $49.99 — isn't a helpful offer when Dollar Tree offers an array of stoneware, ceramic, and glass mugs for $1 apiece.

Plates And Bowls
Dollar Tree

Plates and Bowls

Costco: $2.50 per piece
Dollar Tree: $1 per piece
At Costco, you have to buy the least-expensive dinnerware set — a Mikasa 16-piece of bowls, mugs, salad plates, and dinner plates — to get to a per-piece price more than double the many pieces and platters at Dollar Tree for $1.

Shampoo and Conditioner
Dollar Tree

Shampoo

Costco: 31 cents per fluid ounce
Dollar Tree: 3 cents per fluid ounce
Granted, you're getting 38.2 fluid ounces of Pantene for the $11.99 you'll spend at Costco, but it's hard to beat paying $1 for 32 ounces of Silkience at Dollar Tree. Even if you upgrade to $1 bottles of Alberto VO5 (7 cents an ounce), Daily Defense (6 cents an ounce), or Salon Selectives (4 cents and ounce), you're getting a better deal than Costco can offer even from its warehouse-only brands.

All Purpose Cleaner
Dollar Tree

All-Purpose Cleaner

Costco: 12 cents per ounce
Dollar Tree: 6 cents per ounce
We compared an 11.6-pound, $21.99 box of OxiClean at Costco to a $1 pound of L.A.'s Totally Awesome Power Oxygen to keep this a fair fight. If consumers wanted to, they could buy a 2-pound tub of L.A.'s Totally Awesome Orange Oxygen for the same price and pay just a quarter of Costco's per-ounce price.

Bandages
Dollar Tree

Bandages

Costco: 9 cents per bandage
Dollar Tree: 1.2 cents per bandage
You'd spend $15.99 on 188 Curad assorted bandages just to pay nearly eight times the amount on Dollar Tree Assurance-brand sheer bandages. 

Toothbrushes
Dollar Tree

Toothbrushes

Costco: $2.06 per brush
Dollar Tree: 33 cents per brush
In fairness to Dollar Tree, it offers four-packs of generic brushes that would reduce the cost per brush to 25 cents. But since the brushes are going up against an $16.49 eight-pack from Oral B, it seemed wiser to compare those Costco offerings with a $1 three-pack of Colgate brushes instead.

Glass Cleaner
Dollar Tree
Laundry Detergent
Dollar Tree

Laundry Detergent

Costco: 5.2 cents per fluid ounce
Dollar Tree: 1.6 cents per fluid ounce
A $12.99, a 250-fluid-ounce jug of Arm & Hammer with OxiClean is one of the best deals Costco offers. But since it takes a long time for most families to go through that much detergent, spending $1 on 64 ounces of Dollar Tree's L.A.'s Totally Awesome oxygen alternative can help limit upfront spending while ensuring detergent retains its stain-fighting power.

Related:The Best Washing Machines for Your Budget

Dish Soap
Dollar Tree
Sponges
Dollar Tree
Cotton Swabs
Dollar Tree

Cotton Swabs

Costco: 0.53 cents per swab
Dollar Tree0.4 cents per swab
Even at 1,875 swabs for $9.99, Costco's Q-Tips couldn't beat Dollar Tree's $1 cost for 250 of its Assured brand swabs. 

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Dollar Tree

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Costco: $3.08 per tablet
Dollar Tree: $1 per tablet
Costco sells a six-pack of Clorox tablets for $18.49, which may work out just fine if you have only one toilet to bleach. If you have more, cutting the cost of a bleach or “bleach and blue” tablet by nearly a third may be tempting.

Toothpaste
Dollar Tree

Toothpaste

Costco: 55 cents per ounce
Dollar Tree: 20 cents per ounce
There was a time Costco gave you five 8-ounce tubes of Colgate Total for less than $25. Today, it's five 6.5-ounce tubes for $17.49. Though Dollar Tree offers only 5 ounces of Colgate baking soda and peroxide toothpaste for $1, that's less than half the per-ounce price of the Costco version.

Dental Floss
Dollar Tree
Sticky Notes
Dollar Tree
Soft White Led Light Bulbs
Dollar Tree

Soft White Led Light Bulbs

Costco:$2.50 per bulb
Dollar Tree: $1 per bulb
To get everyone off incandescent bulbs and on to LED technology, the bulbs are going to have to be inoffensive and incredibly inexpensive. Selling 24 for $60 as Costco does is a step in the right direction. Selling them for $1 apiece doesn't hurt, either.

Flashlights
Dollar Tree
Tampons
Dollar Tree

Tampons

Costco: 17 cents per tampon
Dollar Tree:12.5 cents per tampon
By brand, Dollar Tree loses: Tampax go three for $1, nearly twice as costly as Costco's price. But Costco gets there by offering 96 tampons for $17.99. Dollar Tree pulls ahead by offering eight-packs of Femtex and Safe and Soft brands for just $1 apiece.

Paper Clips
Dollar Tree
Teasing Brushes
Dollar Tree

Teasing Brushes

Costco: $12.50 per brush
Dollar Tree: 50 cents per brush
Unless your hair is so fragile it needs boar bristles to part and add volume, you don't need to buy a two-pack of brushes for $25. Some durable, nonbiodegradable plastic will get you there.

Dentastix Dog Treats
Dollar Tree

DentaStix Dog Treats

Costco: 33.8 cents per stick
Dollar Tree:20 cents per stick
Folks may question the quality of pet food at dollar stores, but this is a brand sold at Costco and Dollar Tree. What does Costco have that Dollar Tree doesn't? A few more flavors and claims of additional tooth-whitening power.

AA Batteries
Dollar Tree

AA Batteries

Costco: 31 cents per battery
Dollar Tree: 25 cents per battery
Generic batteries from just about anywhere don't hold their power for very long, which makes Dollar Tree's brand-name Panasonic batteries vis a vis Costco's Kirkland brand an even sweeter deal. 

Napkins
Dollar Tree

Napkins

Costco: 0.96 cents per napkin
Dollar Tree: 0.66 cents per napkin
When you're seeking the most savings, every fraction of a cent counts. Costco's $9.99 four-packs of 1,040 napkins are a bargain, but they aren't the best deal in town as long as Dollar Tree sells packs of 150 napkins for $1.

Water Balloons
Dollar Tree

Water Balloons

Costco: 4.7 cents per balloon
Dollar Tree:4 cents per balloon
Water balloons are just latex balloons with water in them, but Costco sells 420 of them for $19.99 with the promise that they can be filled in 35-balloon bunches and seal on their own. Any kid who's been hard up for cash knows how to fill and tie budget water balloons quickly, making the savings all the more sweet as you pelt neighborhood kids and laugh at their parents' Costco membership.

Socks
Dollar Tree

Socks

Costco: $1 per pair
Dollar Tree: $1 per pair and less
Out of fairness to Costco, this is one type of sock — K. Bell no-show women's socks — offered at a compelling price. Dollar Tree not only has multiple types of socks at that price, but similar socks sold in two-packs that reduce their price to 50 cents a pair.

highlighter
Dollar Tree

Highlighters

Costco: 62 cents per highlighter
Dollar Tree: 33 cents per highlighter
Not only are Dollar Tree's highlighters nearly half the price of Costco's, but you get them in three colors instead of having to choose a 24-count of the same color.

Air Freshener
Dollar Tree

Air Fresheners

Costco: $4.25 per bottle 
Dollar Tree: $1 per bottle 
Sure, you get more variety in Costco's air fresheners with four different scents, but it's worth keeping in mind that the Dollar Tree's Air Wick brand gets nothing but five-star reviews from buyers.