I fondly remember the Dollar Store opening up its doors for business on the Main Street in Parkesburg, pop. 3,373. I was in my early teens, and so coming to this store with a few dollars of allowance was like hitting the jackpot! Suddenly, my money went a lot further than it had ever gone before, and I had an umpteen variety of choices and goods I could devote my precious few dollars to.
What are some of the things I bought with my allowance? For a few years I was into these canvas white shoes with laces, and so I bought them (probably for about $5 each) every six months or so after each pair was too stained from walking around our farm. I have always had a fascination with Tupperware and all things organization, so I started a collection of Rubbermaid containers. I would imagine the things that my future would need—say a pitcher for iced-tea, various rectangular storage bins, canisters for sugar/flour/coffee—and I would purchase them one by one and put them in my hope chest for when I was an adult (for the record, that stuff really came in handy a few years ago!). When barrettes with animals came into fashion for a stint as a freshman in high school, I was able to purchase mine for next to nothing. I also dallied in stationary, photo frames, and the occasional lip gloss. Everything was pretty much a dollar to two dollars. I had an internal warning alarm that went off if I spent over $2.75 on an item.
I follow the sales ads of several stores each week, and I have begun to pay special attention to the Dollar Store/Dollar General sales ads versus the drugstore sales ads. Now it seems like the average cost at Dollar Stores is between $3.00 and $7.00 per item! Of course inflation must be factored in over the past ten years, and these stores do offer a much larger number of brand name items than before, but it still seems a bit expensive (apparently Dollar in Dollar Store now stands for more than $1; imagine how high the Dollar in the store name will represent in 30 years!).
I want to make sure that even though there are very few “dollar” items within the Dollar Store anymore, that the store still offers a comparable amount of savings in proportion to what can be found at other stores. To do this, I looked at the sales flyers from five separate weeks in the last two months and made direct comparisons of the same products (where the ounce size or pill count was different, I calculated the per-pill cost, or per-load cost). Also, please note that I could only compare like products, so if a product was on sale in the Dollar Store for a certain week, but not on sale in either of the other stores, then I could not do a comparison. I did not take coupons into consideration. Finally, if any Extracare Bucks, or Register Reward dollars (both of which you can use like real money in CVS and Walgreens’ respectively) were part of the deal, I subtracted that from the price before calculating the cost per unit.
Take a look at what I found (the lowest cost item is in bold):
|Energizer Batters||$3.50 4 pk. AA/AAA ($0.88 per battery)||$9.99 16 pk. AA/AAA ($0.62 per battery)||$5.99 8 pk. AA/AAA ($0.75 per battery)|
|Pull-ups Jumbo Pack||$9||$8.99|
|Charmin||$4.50, 9 rolls ($0.50 per roll)||$3.49, 6 rolls ($0.58 per roll)|
|Coca Cola, in a can||$1.50, 6-pack ($0.25 per can)||4 12-pks. for $12 plus $3 ECBs ($0.19 per can)|
|Ritz Crackers||$2, 9-12 oz.||$2.00, 10-16 oz.|
|Serenity Pads||$4.00, 20-30 count||$10.99 + $2 ECBs, 20-30 count|
|Advil||$6.00, 50 count tablets ($0.12 per pill)||$9.99, 150 count tablets ($0.06 per pill)|
|Lay’s Potato Chips||$2.00, 7.75-11.125 oz.||$2.99, 10.5-12 oz.|
|Candy Canes,||10 for $10, or $1 each, 10 count ($0.10 per cane)||$0.88, 10 count ($0.088 per cane)||$1.99 24 pk. ($0.08 per cane)|
|Energizer Batteries,||$3.50, 4 pk. AA/AAA ($0.87 per battery)||$7.99, 16 pk. AA/AAA ($0.50 per battery)||$7.99 16 pk. AA/AAA ($0.50 per battery)|
|Ritz Crackers||$2.00, 8-12 oz.||5 for $10 + $3 in Register Rewards, 9.5-16 oz. ($1.40 each box)|
|Tide Liquid Detergent 2X||$9.00, 75 oz. ($0.12 per oz.)||$5.97, 40 oz. ($0.15 per oz.)|
|Downy Liquid Fabric Softener||$5.00, 60 loads ($0.08 per load)||$3.99, 40 loads ($0.10 per load)|
|Nestle Chocolate Morsels||$2.35, 12 oz.||$1.78, 12 oz.|
|Febreze||$2.50, 9.7 oz.||$2.50, 9.7 oz.|
|Scope Original Mouthwash||$3.75, 1 liter||$4.49, 1 liter|
|Prilosec||$9.50, 14 ct. ($0.68 per pill)||$24.99 + $5 ECBs, 42 ct. ($0.48 per pill)|
|2 liter Coke,||$1.00||$1.33||$0.79, Randall’s|
|Wrapping Paper||$3.00, 60 square feet ($0.05 per square foot)||$4.99, 125 Square Feet ($0.0399 per square foot)||$1.99, 50 Square Feet ($0.0395 per square foot)|
|Prevacid 24 Hour||$11.00, 14 count ($0.785 per pill)||$25.99 + earn $3 Extracare Bucks, 45 count (after ECBs, $0.51/pill)||$25.99, 42 count ($0.62 per pill)|
|Folgers Classic||$6.00, 33.9 oz||$6.99, 33.9 oz|
While the Dollar Store had lower prices on a few items (Folger’s coffee, serenity pads, Charmin toilet paper, etc.), it appears that if you are looking to buy brand name items, you are better off shopping the sales at drugstores.
Who would have thought that? This is what I have been suspecting in recent years, so I am glad that I did this comparison in order to confirm it. I just hope that people who are truly struggling are aware that the name of a store can be deceiving.