Where to Find the Lowest Price

Source from AARP, by Jeff Yeager, AARP

There is no one best place to buy everything, even though that’s what most stores would like you to believe. But it’s possible to find good deals by knowing which type of stores generally have fair everyday prices. Here’s what I’ve found by comparing prices in the D.C. metro area when it comes to the best/worst shopping venues for these everyday items:

Reading Glasses

Best buy: Dollar stores

My ophthalmologist says that cheap reading glasses are perfectly fine from a medical perspective, although the frames may not be as comfortable, fashionable or sturdy. At the rate I lose reading glasses, I always buy them for a dollar a pair at the dollar store. A three-pack of nice-looking readers from the membership warehouse store comes in second-best at $18.

Laundry Detergent

Best buy: Membership warehouse stores

Even with special sale prices at the grocery store and coupons, it’s hard to beat the everyday low prices on laundry detergent at membership warehouse stores. The trade-off is buying a larger quantity, but brand-name detergents at membership warehouse stores come in around 8 cents per ounce (170-ounce container). A recent sale on the same brand at the grocery store worked out to 11 cents per ounce (100-ounce container). Both options beat the drugstore, which wanted nearly double what the membership warehouse charged. The dollar store no-name detergent averaged 13 cents per ounce.

Soft Drinks

Best buy: Grocery store sales

Soft drinks are a common loss-leader sale item at grocery stores, so it’s hard to beat those frequent sale prices that often reduce the cost of a 12-ounce can of soda to 25 cents or less when purchased in on-sale 12-packs. You’ll pay about 30 cents per can if you buy a case at the membership warehouse store, and closer to 50 cents per can at a drugstore if it’s not on sale. Dollar stores rarely sell multipacks of soft drinks in 12-ounce cans, although the one-liter bottles they typically sell for a buck translates into about 30 cents for 12 ounces.

Greeting Cards

Best buy: Dollar stores

Greeting cards usually sell for a mere 50 cents each at the dollar store. Sure, the quality of the paper and envelopes may be a little chintzy, but the verses inside are just as cheesy as the cards you’ll likely pay $4 or more for at other stores.

Printer/Copier Paper

Best buy: Membership warehouse stores

It’s hard to beat the prices at membership warehouse stores for office supplies. Be prepared to buy larger quantities and deal with a limited selection compared with office supply stores. Plain printer paper (500-sheet package) costs just about a penny per sheet at the membership warehouse store, compared with 1.2 cents at the dollar store, 1.5 cents at the grocery and 1.7 cents at the drugstore.


Best buy: Dollar stores for off-brands; drugstore sale for brand name

If you’re not picky about hair-care products, buying these from the dollar store will definitely get the job done and easily save you two to five times (or more) the cost of the same 15-ounce size bottle elsewhere. If you’re looking for brand names, drugstores frequently use selected hair care products as loss-leader specials, often allowing additional discounts for coupons or store loyalty programs.

Paper Napkins

Best buy: Grocery store sales

Our grocery store’s house brand matches the dollar store’s deal on napkins, both offering 120 super-thin paper napkins for $1. But at the same store, a 240-pack of brand-name napkins was on sale for $1.80, making it the lowest-priced option and offering superior quality. Membership warehouses are often higher on a per-unit basis, in part because the napkins they sell are often “entertainment quality.” A spot check at the drugstore found the cheapest napkins selling for nearly double the per-unit cost of comparable napkins at the grocery store.


Best buy: Dollar store

A number of studies, including one by DealNews.com, found that brand-name alkaline AA batteries don’t last longer than generic ones. A 48-pack of brand-name AA alkaline batteries at the membership warehouse store reduces the cost to about 38 cents per battery. The grocery store and drugstore charged about $1.20 per battery for the same batteries sold in four-packs. At the dollar store, you’ll sometimes find four-packs of generic alkaline batteries for a buck for the best savings.

Artificial Sweetener

Best Buy: Membership warehouse stores

I stock up on those little blue packets at the membership warehouse store, where an 800-packet box costs just $10, or about 1.25 cents per packet. That’s a huge savings compared with grocery and drugstore prices, which charge about 2.8 cents per packet in a 125-packet box. Even the generic blue packet sweetener at the dollar store costs more (2 cents per packet per 50-packet boxes).

Household Cleaners

Best buy: No clear winner

Most household cleaners don’t list their ingredients on the label, since they’re not required to do so by law and the ingredients are considered trade secrets. That means you never really know what you’re buying, or how effective the product is. From that perspective, the least-expensive option is the dollar store, where they are about 25 percent cheaper. For me, the cheapest solution is to make your own cleaning products from inexpensive ingredients you know and trust, such as baking soda, vinegar, borax and plain old water.