5 Reasons I've Traded Sam's Club for Costco

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  • Costco tends to offer lower prices and a wider selection of health-conscious products.
  • The brand of generic items a store carries matters.

After some back and forth, I've decided Costco is the right warehouse store for me.

Honestly, Sam's Club and Costco have always struck me as interchangeable. Historically, I would join whichever happened to be closer to my house. And while convenience is important, I recently decided to drive a bit farther down the road to get to Costco. I allowed my Sam's Club membership to expire and became a Costco member. Here's why.

1. Less time spent mulling around

I do not enjoy SIRL (shopping in real life). For me, a trip to a store means, "get in, get out, and get home to put things away." From my experience, Costco shopping takes less time, and I recently learned why: Costco carries fewer products than Sam's Club.

SKU stands for stock-keeping units, representing how many different items a store carries. According to a great blog called Frugal Rules, Costco has around 4,000 SKUs, while Sam's Club carries between 6,000 to 7,000 SKUs.

If you're someone who enjoys a leisurely stroll through a big box store to discover what's new, Sam's may be a better fit for you. Costco works for me as someone who loathes spending more time than necessary shopping.

2. Better deals

Simply put, I spend less at Costco, even though I pick up the same number of basics. While the difference isn't significant, it's enough to remind me that Costco's overall prices tend to be lower. Every dollar counts.

Say I pick up items at Costco once a week, saving $5 each trip. If I were to invest that $5 in a product with an average annual return of 7%, it would be worth nearly $3,500 in 10 years. While $3,500 won't make me rich, it's money that can be reinvested or plump up my emergency savings account.

3. A preference for Kirkland

One reason warehouse stores can afford to keep prices low is that they carry fewer name-brand products than traditional stores. For example, Sam's (and its parent company, Walmart) carries Member's Mark. Costco carries the Kirkland brand. From pain relievers to coffee, I prefer Kirkland.

Quick caveat: One exception is Member's Mark honey roasted peanuts. Never have I experienced a better-tasting honey-roasted nut. In fact, I've been known to make a trip to Walmart or Sam's just to pick up peanuts.

4. Healthier options

I sometimes long for the days when I could pick up groceries without worrying about how many preservatives were in a package. Today, it's always on my mind. I don't always eat healthily, but I find myself trying to more often than not. And that means stocking up on healthy options.

In my observation, Costco makes eating healthy simpler than Sam's Club. This may be due to Costco carrying fewer items, but the store also appears to carry higher-quality food. I find it easier to find organic, cage-free, preservative-free options at Costco.

Don't get me wrong; I can't go into a warehouse store without buying dark chocolate-covered pretzels. Still, I'd prefer to have healthier food options in the house too.

5. General vibe

I may be imagining it, but Costco always feels slightly less oppressive to me than Sam's Club. That may have to do with other factors, like how crowded the store is, how much shopping I have to do, and whether anyone with me is prone to wandering off. Still, I like the vibe in Costco more.

I also appreciate that Costco pays its employees more than Sam's Club pays its employees. According to Indeed.com, the hourly wage for Costco employees ranges from $13 to just shy of $39. More importantly, 83% of Costco employees surveyed believe they're paid fairly.

The average hourly pay for a Sam's Club employee ranges from $10.50 to nearly $22. I think the big difference is this: Only 54% of Sam's Club employees believe they're paid fairly.

The older I get, the more I gravitate toward companies that treat employees well. I don't know enough about Sam's Club to say its employees aren't treated well, but I like shopping at a store that tends to make its employees happy.

With time, it's possible that Sam's Club will once again become my warehouse store of choice. In the meantime, I'm taking advantage of the savings and healthier options available at Costco.

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