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Are Dollar Stores Cheaper Than Other Stores?

2012 April 6
by Aaron

aaronA few weeks ago I visited a dollar store near my mother’s hometown and the thought struck me like a lightening-bolt, “it would really be interesting to compare prices at a dollar store to those at another grocery or discount store..” Now, I doubt I’m the only finance blogger to have thought of such a thing. But the idea intrigued me. So, I got out the iPhone and jotted some prices down.

I then visited a nearby grocery store and a well-known discount store (you’ve all been there I’m sure). And I have to say – what I found out was not what I had anticipated.

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My method

What I did was priced two food items and two non-food items at the dollar store. I made sure I got the price per unit – not just the price of the product, in case there were size discrepancies between the stores.

I repeated this at the grocery and discount stores. I was initially gonna price out 5 items – but had to disqualify one of the products because it was too inconsistent. I made sure all these products were the same at each store: brand name, etc.

The results

Now, this was by no means a “scientific” study. Far from it. I probably should have had about 10 food items checked and 10 non-food items. But, this is what you get for free. ;)

Here are the products I price compared:

  • Tide 40 oz.
  • GE Soft White Light Bulb – 60W
  • Kraft Mac and Cheese 7.25 oz.
  • Kelloggs Corn Pops 12.5 oz.

And, the results:

Store Kraft Mac Ge Bulbs Tide Corn Pops
Dollar $1.00 $0.46 / each $0.15 per oz. $3
Discount 1.52 1.99 / each 0.15 per oz. 3.14
Grocery 1.58 0.65 / each 0.15 per oz. 3.8

 

On almost ever item, the dollar store beat the others stores, hands down. Remember, these were compared based on the same brand and size.

Now, I don’t know about you – but I do not shop the dollar stores perhaps as much as I should. For me, it’s a convenience factor. Dollar stores aren’t known for selling meat and dairy – so I’d have to make several trips if I shopped them consistently.

(BTW: Dollar stores are a great place to find knick-knacky stuff you can find for Easter celebrations! Hint-hint.)

Have you found the dollar stores to be cheaper on most items as well?

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Aaron

Helped start Three Thrifty Guys with his friends Charlie and Mark after being inspired by how they lived their lives “on the thrift”. A designer by day, Aaron was once $40k in debt. After 5 years – he dug himself out and lives to tell about it. Aaron also blogs at the StarTribune

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12 Responses
  1. Allison permalink
    April 6, 2012

    Discount stores have sales and sometimes double their coupons, so they tend to be less expensive. Garden seeds are cheaper at the dollar sale, limited selection but still worth the visit.

  2. April 6, 2012

    Interesting comparison. I guess they have a lot of pressure on them to maintain very low prices. I don’t go to the dollar store much, but I guess I should. My problem is that the dollar store near me is in a mall. So if I go there, I’d be lucky to leave without getting some damn fruit smoothy or some other impulse food item.

    • Aaron permalink*
      April 6, 2012

      @Alison This is true – and something I didn’t really account for. Grocery stores too. I have also found the dollar stores also have coupons – ie, Dollar General, etc.
      @Jeremy Haha.. I’ll bet the dollar store is in cahoots with those fruit smoothie shops..

  3. Rosanna permalink
    April 6, 2012

    Thunder-bolts don’t actually exist…but I’m sure you meant Lightening Bolt :-P

    • Aaron permalink*
      April 6, 2012

      Ah – good catch! Thx :)

  4. April 6, 2012

    Verrrrrrry interesting. I always assumed that there wasn’t much of a price difference, but based on this oh-so-”scientific” study, I would have to admit I was wrong. Like you said, there is not a HUGE price difference, but over time those few cents you save can really add up. Good to know!

    • Aaron permalink*
      April 6, 2012

      True, not much but if you were to do a lot of your shopping there, could certainly add up.

  5. April 9, 2012

    I think I have always found Dollar Stores to be cheaper unless I happen to find a coupon to use at a regular grocery store, then sometimes I end up getting an item for “free”. I don’t use Tide, but at my local dollar store they have a detergent that does 42 loads for a dollar by L.A. Awesome, I have allergies and this is almost the only detergent that doesn’t break me out in a rash and it gets my clothes super clean. It’s much cheaper than Dreft. Also, my local dollar store has an automotive section where I can get Armor All interior cleaner and fuel injection cleaner and octane boost all for a $1, which beats everyone else’s prices. Pet toys and other care items are a great deal as well as toothbrushes and personal care items. Occasionally I will find great hardcover books there, recently I picked up a copy of one book that is currently sellign for $26 at Wal-Mart.

    • Aaron permalink*
      April 9, 2012

      Great ideas Lyn! The book you found was a $1? That’s quite the savings..

  6. April 9, 2012

    I did a very large study of Aldi’s vs Kroger on my blog and I found that there are some items that are better, but overall people overplay discounted stores a lot.

    • Aaron permalink*
      April 9, 2012

      I’ll have to check out that article. Thx

  7. April 10, 2012

    As a self-proclaimed expert on Dollar Stores I have to say that their prices are much lower than other stores. Am I a little biased? Yes. But I’m not saying anything that isn’t true here. While I do work for builds dollar stores across the country for people every week, I know the margins and what our stores are selling products for. It depends on the dollar store you visit whether or not you get quality products at the dollar price point. The cost per item our owners have is less than what Dollar General or even Dollar Tree pay – and the products are just as good. I eat the BBQ chips and love them better than Lays. Cleaning products are awesome, my wife replaced this $30 makeup remover cream stuff with one that costs $1 and I LOVE THAT. Take a look at these videos from Dollar Store owners all over the country: http://www.youtube.com/dollarstoreservices

    If you have ever considered opening your own business the company I work for has opened over 2,500 of them across the country FYI. I am the creative director there and I’ve made hundreds of testimonial videos and the owners really love owning their stores. If you want to go into a business in this economy, the dollar store is the way to go and the company I work for Dollar Store Services is the company to use. Check out http://www.dollarstoreservices.com if you want to see more info.

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