bulk vs. budget
Prices and availability are subject to change.
Prices and availability are subject to change.
It frankly doesn't matter what kind of storage container you're looking for: When even Costco's bare-bones garage storage option starts at more than $2, just about anything with a snap-on lid at Dollar Tree is going to go easier on the wallet.
Costco often has less-expensive dishware in the warehouse, but this $42.99 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 four extra Dollar Tree glasses just for breaking.
Sure, Costco will give you a three-pack of Foster Grants in any style for $18.49, 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.
It doesn't matter that they're restaurant grade (unless, of course, you own a restaurant or plan on opening one): Costco carries just three forms of food storage containers and they start at three times more expensive than dollar store versions. Dollar Tree not only undercuts Costco's price, but offers a far broader array of options.
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.
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.
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.
You'd spend $13.99 on 600 Curad blue fabric bandages just to pay nearly double the amount on Dollar Tree Assurance-brand sheer fabric bandages. While neither are the only bandages each seller has in stock, they’re the lowest unit price in each store.
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 $18.49 eight-pack from Oral B, it seemed wiser to compare those Costco offerings with a $1 three-pack of Colgate brushes instead.
Costco and Dollar Tree offer generic brands — Kirkland and Strong and Soft, respectively — that are cost-effective, but Dollar Tree gets the edge by offering up 106.7-square-foot four-packs of tissue paper for just $1, narrowly beating Costco's $18.99, 1,593.7-square-foot 30 packs.
Costco offers a 32-ounce spray bottle of Windex and a 176-ounce jug of refills for just $12.99. But buy two 32-ounce spray bottles of Dollar Tree's Home Store glass cleaner and two 67.7-ounce refill jugs, and you'd get more spray and two sprayers for a third of the cost of Costco's offering.
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
Costco's Kirkland-brand soap goes for $9.29 for 135 fluid ounces, and is billed as an “environmentally responsible” alternative to other dish soap. Dollar Tree's Home Store house brand charges $1 for 30 ounces, though even Dollar Tree's name-brand Ajax would outperform Costco at just 6.2 cents per fluid ounce.
What if you forgo the sponge and get just the scour? On the one hand, Costco offers 20-packs of Scotch-Brite pads for $7.49. That gives it a better price than what Dollar Tree asks for two-packs of Brillo (50 cents each). But its Scrub Buddies pads are beloved by reviewers and almost indistinguishable from Scotch Brites once they're out of their packaging.
Even at 1,875 swabs for $10.49, Costco's Q-Tips couldn't beat Dollar Tree's $1 cost for 250 of its Assured brand swabs. If you're willing to throw a bunch of plastic into the waste stream, a set of 350 plastic-stick swabs costs just $1 at Dollar Tree, dropping the unit price to roughly 0.3 cents per swab.
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 $23.99. Though Dollar Tree offers only 5 ounces of Colgate baking soda and peroxide toothpaste for $1, that's less than a third of the per-ounce price of the Costco version.
Costco has a blinding array of Post-It products that Dollar Tree can't compete with. But the best deal at Costco is for 1,620 Post-its in 18 pads of 90 notes, while Dollar Tree offers 200 notes per $1 pad, trying to offset in quantity whatever it may lack in quality.
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.
Granted, the Dollar Store lights aren't going to give you a lantern in the handle, a red glow, or an emergency flasher like the Costco version. But for Costco's price, the Dollar Store will give you LED flashlights, a head lamp,a camping light, and batteries for all of them.
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.
They're cheaper, but the Dollar Tree brand's value all depends on the size of the puppy. If it's a little one, a 22- by 22-inch pad should do fine. If it's a larger or an aging dog, Costco's pads are a wee bit larger at 30-by-23. Dollar Tree's next largest size is bigger than Costco's, but is also 25 cents a pad.
The bad news is that generic batteries from just about anywhere don't hold their power for very long. The good news is that this puts Costco and Dollar Tree on level footing, with AA four-packs of Panasonic batteries selling for just $1 apiece. The deal gets even better for AAA batteries, which go for more than 30 cents apieceat Costco while selling in the same $1 four-packs at Dollar Tree.
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.
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.