Does Walmart or Sam's Club have the better deals?

The enmity between Sam's Club and Walmart is legendary, but who has the better deals? Sam's Club is subscription based, but it might not make up for the price difference.

Sarah Conard/Reuters/File
The Sam's Club logo is seen at a store in Bentonville, Arkansas in this file photo taken June 2, 2011.

Can you save enough money at Sam's Club, compared to Walmart, to justify the $45 annual membership fee? I did the research and compared the pricing on over 100 everyday items at both retailers. The price tags were very similar on the majority of the items I examined. But interestingly, I did find 12 commonly-used products that had a fairly drastic price difference at one retailer compared to the other.

If you purchase any of these items frequently, it might make the difference in choosing a preferred retailer. Below are the products that offer the biggest savings when comparing Sam's pricing to that of Walmart's.

1. Over-the-Counter Medications (Winner: Sam's Club)

Sam's Club is the clear winner when it comes to over-the-counter medications. A great example is 10mg Zyrtec Allergy tablets. At Sam's you can get a 100-count package for $29.98, while you'll have to pay $34.94 at Walmart for only 70 tablets. The same holds true for Benadryl Allergy, where a 48-count box at Sam's goes for $4.89; you'll have to pay $6.48 for the same at Walmart. The price differences extend way beyond allergy medications, as well. For example, Advil tablets at Sam's cost $16.39 for a 360-count bottle, while a 300-count bottle at Walmart sells for $18.48.

2. Alcohol (Winner: Sam's Club)

If you buy alcohol on a regular basis, a Sam's membership will easily pay for itself in terms of savings. For example, Jack Daniels Whiskey sells for $0.55 an ounce at Sam's compared to $0.66 at your local Walmart. In general, this holds true for other spirits as well, including wine and beer. Note that non-members can also buy booze from Sam's Club (and other membership warehouse stores such as Costco).

3. Sports Drinks (Winner: Sam's Club)

If you have kids that play sports and consume Gatorade or PowerAde during games and practices, you'll want to stock up at Sam's Club and save money. For example, Sam's sells a 28-pack of 12oz Gatorades for $10.48, or $0.03 an ounce. In contrast, Walmart sells an 18-pack of the same size bottles for $8.68, or $0.04 an ounce. Over the course of a sports season, the savings is significant, especially if you're assigned a game to bring snacks and drinks for the entire team.

4. Breakfast Cereal (Winner: Sam's Club)

If breakfast cereal is eaten in your home most mornings, you'll want to stock up at Sam's Club and save. At Sam's, you can buy a two-pack of Cheerios (41 ounces in total) for $5.68, or an affordable $0.13 an ounce. Compare that with Walmart, who sells an 18oz box for $3.68, and you'll end up paying a hefty $0.20 an ounce for Cheerios. Cheerios not your thing? Not a problem, as you'll find similar savings at Sam's on favorites like Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Raisin Bran, to name a few.

5. Frozen Pizza (Winner: Sam's Club)

When it comes to a delicious frozen pizza, Sam's is where you'll save the most money. For example, a DiGiorno Rising Crust Pepperoni Pizza at Sam's costs $4.66 compared to $5.47 at Walmart. Also, it should be pointed out that while Sam's only offers a three-pack of pizzas, you can buy them individually at Walmart. But if you have the freezer space, buying the three-pack for an affordable $13.98 is the best way to go.

6. Peanut Butter (Winner: Sam's Club)

I found this price battle interesting as both Walmart and Sam's stock the Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter pack of two jars, 40 ounces each. The Sam's price is $9.18, while Walmart is over a dollar and a half more at $10.78. Sam's is also cheaper for JIF peanut butter, but the savings is not as significant as it is with Skippy for some reason.

7. Diapers (Winner: Sam's Club)

If diapers are currently on your shopping list, you're well served buying them at Sam's. For example, a 162-count box of Pampers (size 2) at Sam's runs $33.98, or $0.21 each, while the same size at Walmart will cost you over $0.25 each. Four cents might not seem like much until you start adding up how many diapers you'll need before you can potty-train. Similar savings can be found on Huggies and Luvs as well, in all sizes.

8. Laundry Detergent (Winner: Sam's Club)

While Sam's Club sells larger sizes than Walmart, Sam's beats them in price across the board when it comes to laundry detergent. For example, Sam's has Tide Original Liquid Detergent for $0.095 an ounce while Walmart comes in at almost $0.12 an ounce. Also, All Stainlifter detergent sells for $.071 per ounce at Walmart compared to the cheaper version at Sam's which sells for $0.06 an ounce. While the savings seems small in terms of ounces, it really adds up over the course of a year, especially if you're doing laundry for a large family.

9. Shampoo and Conditioner (Winner: Sam's Club)

When buying shampoo and conditioner, Sam's is clearly the place to shop. They currently sell a 40oz bottle of Pantene Pro-V shampoo for $5.88 while Walmart sells a smaller 29oz bottle for a more expensive $6.42. The same can be said for Nexxus Therappe shampoo which Sam's sells for $0.40 an ounce, compared to $0.45 at Walmart. I couldn't find a single example where Walmart had a better per unit price, compared to Sam's, on shampoo or conditioner.

10. Hot Dogs/Sausage (Winner: Walmart)

I'm not sure exactly why, but you'll almost always score a better deal on hot dogs and sausages at Walmart compared to Sam's Club prices. For example, you can buy a 16-count package of Ball Park franks at Walmart for $0.37 each, while you'll have to buy a 24-count package at Sam's and pay close to $0.40 each.

11. Frozen Fish (Winner: Walmart)

When it comes to frozen fish, the prices at Walmart are an easy catch when compared to Sam's. At Walmart, wild salmon fillets in a two-pound bag sell for $9.86, which comes out to $0.31 an ounce. If you head over to Sam's, you'll find that they carry farmed Atlantic salmon, in a three-pound bag, which goes for $22.47, or $0.47 an ounce. Doing some quick math, Walmart is approximately 30% cheaper than Sam's. If salmon is not your thing, you'll find similar savings at Walmart on tilapia and even the tasty fish stick.

12. Blank Media (Winner: Walmart)

In particular, I'm talking about blank CDs and DVDs and Walmart is cheaper across the board. For example, the Verbatim DVD-R 100-pack sells for a low $20.40 on Walmart, compared to $22.48 at Sam's. The same can be said for blank CDs; Walmart sells the Verbatim 100-pack for $16.99, whereas Sam's has the same product for $17.97.

Sam's Club clearly won my pricing challenge by a score of nine to three, making a Sam's membership worth the $45 annual fee in many cases. This is especially true if you're accustomed to buying in bulk for a large family, because most of the packaging at Sam's is bigger in size and will last longer. That's a good problem to have, assuming you have the storage space, as it means fewer trips to the store and more money in your wallet at the end of the month.

This article is from Kyle James of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website.

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