Boxed Wholesale vs Costco Prices: Which Is Cheaper?

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING I MAY RECEIVE A SMALL COMPENSATION IF YOU CLICK ON ONE OF THEM. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO COST TO YOU FOR CLICKING ON THESE LINKS. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE SEE MY PRIVACY AND DISCLOSURE PAGE.

boxed app vs costco
Boxed wholesale vs Costco prices. Have you ever wondered if Boxed is cheaper than Costco, or vice versa?

I have two reasons for writing this this blog post on Boxed wholesale vs Costco. First, I recently moved. After living for years with two Costco locations an easy drive away–and getting used to wholesale shopping at Costco–we moved to a place where the nearest Costco store is 35 minutes away.

The second reason I decided to write this blog post? The PR folks from Boxed.com reached out to me. To be honest I wasn’t familiar with Boxed. Therefore, I had never considered it as a replacement for my Costco warehouse club membership. Hearing from them gave me a good excuse to reflect on the value of my wholesale club membership fee, plus educate myself–and my readers–on possible alternatives.

My Costco connection

First, full disclosure: Costco is actually a client of mine. If you have a Costco membership, then you’ve likely seen their magazine. It’s called Costco Connection. I write for that magazine. In fact, this year I’ll have had three articles published in the magazine, including two cover stories.

Also, full disclosure: I have had a Costco membership for four years. Even with the distance to the nearest Costco store, I’m going into the writing of this blog post believing that Costco is one of the best warehouse clubs out there.

Next, one big reason I think Costco is the best warehouse club: Costco is the top seller of organic foods in the United States. Costco sells more than even Whole Foods. That’s a brand you automatically associate with certified organic food.

Our family likes to eat organic whenever possible. Thanks to Costco, we’ve been able to enjoy a lot of organic products. This ranges from fresh fruit and vegetables to dairy products to strawberry preserves and peanut butter.

Finally, you can never get a Costco membership discount. Until now.

Join Costco today. Get a $20 Costco Shop Card as a new Executive Member. Or, get a $10 Costco Shop Card as a new Gold Star Member.

(Note: Valid only for nonmembers for their first year of membership. Limit one per household. Nontransferable and may not be combined with any other promotion. You must join in person with a Costco representative. New members will receive their Costco Shop Card by mail in 4 to 6 weeks. Costco Shop Cards are not redeemable for cash, except where required by law. A Costco membership is $60 a year. An Executive Membership is an additional $60 upgrade fee a year. Each membership includes one free Household Card. May be subject to sales tax. Costco accepts all Visa® cards, as well as cash, checks, debit/ATM cards, EBT and Costco Shop Cards. Departments and product selection may vary.)

What is a warehouse club?

Before I get into the details of Boxed wholesale vs Costco, let’s step back and provide the definition of a warehouse club or a wholesale club. Those phrases are often used synonymously or interchangeably. Think of this as a warehouse club review.

Warehouse and wholesale clubs emerged in the late 20th century as a way to allow Americans to buy in bulk. So the term warehouse or wholesale was more about the quantity of the products you could buy at once, not necessarily that you were paying wholesale prices. It was a way for everyday consumers to go wholesale shopping and buy large quantities of items for their home or office without having to have a corporate account.

You may recall one of the earliest warehouse/wholesale options–Price Club. Turns out Price Club and Costco actually merged in the 1990s.

Which wholesale club is best?

As I mentioned earlier I may be a bit biased in saying that I believe that Costco is the best warehouse club. It’s not only because they are my client. I do believe that my wholesale club membership fee is worth it, because Costco actually gives it back to me each year.

What do I mean by that?

It’s not like I have an official Costco membership discount. However, I did sign up for an executive membership, and that membership has privileges.

The biggest privilege is the fact that I earn money back on my purchases and get a rewards certificate at the end of the year. My membership fee ends up being a wash in that I’m earning back what I’ve spent to join Costco each year–sometimes even making a profit, if you will.

But back to the question of which wholesale club is best? Well, I believe the answer is the that the best wholesale club is the one you use and which membership you get your money’s worth paying for.

Costco vs Sam’s vs BJ’s

For years when the nearest Costco store was not very near at all, we joined other wholesale or warehouse clubs that were closer by. This included Sam’s Club and BJ’s.

One of the benefits to a BJ’s warehouse club membership is that you could use coupons to save on purchases. I know at Costco you cannot use coupons, though Costco does offer in-store discounts from time to time. But I loved being able to use coupons whenever possible to save, and so when we had our BJ’s membership, I did enjoy that benefit.

Let me give one more plug for BJ’s Wholesale Club–if neither Costco or Boxed is right for you.

Here are additional benefits to a BJ’s membership:

  • Savings of more than 30% off supermarket prices
  • Acceptance of ALL manufacturers’ coupons, plus BJ’s own digital coupons accessible on the BJ’s App
  • Convenient one-stop shopping
  • Huge assortment of product categories for home and business
  • Thousands more products online at BJs.com
  • Convenient Buy Online and Pick up In-Club with orders ready in 2 hours
  • Same Day Delivery at everyday club prices. Groceries delivered to you in as little as an hour

I had no idea that you could shop online and have groceries delivered to you with your BJ’s Wholesale Club membership. Wow!

What is Boxed wholesale?

So what is Boxed wholesale? Boxed.com enables customers to buy wholesale goods online at Boxed.com or from its Boxed app on any iOS or Android device. The company gives users access to deals typically found at warehouse retailers and allows them to do wholesale shopping without an annual membership fee, long lines at checkout or lugging home bulk goods.

Boxed’s goal is to take the hassle out of warehouse club shopping by delivering big-sized favorites to homes and offices. Boxed provides a curated selection of everything from children’s snacks and cleaning supplies to household staples and health and beauty products to groceries and green products. Boxed carries mainstream favorites along with a wide range of carefully selected premium and up-and-coming brands.

Boxed vs Costco

As I mentioned the whole reason I decided to write this blog post was to compare Boxed vs Costco. So when the PR people from Boxed reached out to me and challenged me to compare Boxed vs Costco, I jumped at the opportunity.

That challenge started with them sending me a shipment from Boxed. It included many of the items I would normally buy at Costco, such as toilet paper and paper towels. The shipment also included snacks that are available at Costco but which weren’t on my regular shopping list. Those were items like Cheez-Its, and Halloween candy bundles from Mars and Hershey.

Now that I had my Boxed samples, I wanted to compare Boxed vs Costco prices. I wanted to answer the question, “Is Boxed cheaper than Costco?” So that meant a field trip to one of the Costco locations I’d found near where we’d moved. I brought the Boxed.com packing slip with me so I could look at the Boxed prices and compare them with the Costco prices in the store.

Boxed wholesale vs Costco prices

When I visited the nearest Costco store, I determined that of the two dozen or so items that the Boxed PR people had sent to me, I could find fewer than 10 of the items in person at Costco. I wanted to do an apples-to-apples comparison, if you will, so unless the brand was the exact same or the quantity was nearly the same, I didn’t compare prices.

Here are the three items I found exactly, and their respective Boxed prices vs Costco:

Item Boxed Price Costco Price
La Croix Variety Pack $10.99 for 24 cans $7.89 for 24 cans
Milanos $9.39 for 20 count $8.99 for 30 count
Cheez-Its $11.99 for 44 pack $10.99 for 45 pack

This was amazing. Costco was so much cheaper than Boxed. Plus in two of the three instances above, you got more items and paid less for them at Costco.

Savings on Halloween candy

In addition, in my Boxed shipment, I received two gigantic bags of snack-sized candy–perfect for Halloween. This included a bag of Mars chocolate favorites, which was $17.99 for 135 pieces in an almost 70-ounce bag, and a Hershey’s all-time greats, which was $16.99 for 105 pieces in an about 40-ounce bag.

Costco did not have the exact same Mars-Hershey combination but a close enough comparison. At Costco I could have gotten a 92-ounce bag of Mars candy for $13.99 and an 80-ounce bag of Hershey candy for $14.99.

Once again Costco beats out Boxed on size of package and the price for the product. You can get so much more Halloween candy for less money at Costco.

Finally, you can never get a Costco membership discount. Until now. 

Join Costco today. Get a $20 Costco Shop Card as a new Executive Member. Or, get a $10 Costco Shop Card as a new Gold Star Member.

(Note: Valid only for nonmembers for their first year of membership. Limit one per household. Nontransferable and may not be combined with any other promotion. You must join in person with a Costco representative. New members will receive their Costco Shop Card by mail in 4 to 6 weeks. Costco Shop Cards are not redeemable for cash, except where required by law. A Costco membership is $60 a year. An Executive Membership is an additional $60 upgrade fee a year. Each membership includes one free Household Card. May be subject to sales tax. Costco accepts all Visa® cards, as well as cash, checks, debit/ATM cards, EBT and Costco Shop Cards. Departments and product selection may vary.)

Toilet paper and paper towels are the same

Like Costco Boxed seems to have its own brand or generic version of products. Because I normally stock up on toilet paper and paper towels at Costco, I was interested to see how the Boxed prices and quantities stacked up. And the result? On paper products, the price was pretty much a wash.

Whereas 30 rolls of the Boxed brand (Prince and Spring aka P&S) toilet paper was $16.99, the Costco brand Kirkland 30 rolls of toilet paper was also $16.99. Nearly the same thing with the paper towels. P&S paper towels from Boxed came with 12 rolls for $16.99; at Costco it was 12 rolls for $15.99.

Costco in-store pricing versus online

Now keep in mind that my apples-to-apples comparison of brands was from an in-person visit to the nearest Costco store. So the prices represented above aren’t 100 percent apples to apples in that they are online versus in store.

So what happens when I shop on Costco.com? Did you even know you could shop on Costco.com? Yep. However, you do need your Costco membership to do so and not incur a 5 percent, non-member fee.

There is no Costco membership discount for just shopping online. That means you’re looking at a fixed, annual cost of at least $60 for a household membership. My Executive Membership costs double that. But, like I said, I get two percent back on my purchases. I more than make up the $60 extra I’ve spent for that level of membership.

Costco vs Boxed

So let’s take a look at some of the items that I comparison-shopped in person. Let’s compare the prices on the Costco website. This should answer the questions, “Is Boxed cheaper than Costco?”

Item Boxed Price Costco Online Price
La Croix Variety Pack $10.99 for 24 cans $7.89 $9.49 for 24 cans
Milanos $9.39 for 20 count $8.99 $10.79 for 30 count
Cheez-Its $11.99 for 44 pack $10.99 $11.99 for 45 pack

So how does Costco vs Boxed end up above? In two of the three instances, the prices flip flop. One time Costco is cheaper than Boxed. The other time Boxed is cheaper than Costco, but you’re getting less for your money. In the third instance, the price is the same, with Costco offering a slightly larger package. 

Pros of Boxed

When you sign up with Boxed, you won’t have to pay a wholesale club membership fee. Also, you get free shipping on your first order. Boxed says most orders arrive within two days. I think Amazon has primed us all to expect this kind of fast shipping.

Boxed runs sales from time to time. Plus, you can purchase alcohol via Boxed, if you live in the “right” states. Sometimes sales focus on liquor purchases, too.

Cons of Boxed

On every order after your first order, you can earn free shipping but you’ll need to spend $49. If you don’t mind meeting this threshold when shopping, then it’s no big deal.

You can never shop in person with Boxed. And you can’t get fresh groceries delivered with Boxed.

Pros of shopping Costco online

You can now shop online for groceries and other fresh items on Costco.com via Instacart. Costco says there are about 2,000 grocery items that qualify for the Instacart delivery.

That’s definitely a pro. But there are some cost drawbacks, which I’ve outlined in the “cons” section below.

Also, if you have a Costco executive membership like I do and use your Costco VISA card to pay, you’ll be earning two percent back just like you would have in the warehouse. So if you use it often, you’ll easy get back whatever membership fee you’d paid to join Costco.

Like Boxed Costco does run sales from time to time. It’s just like the sales that you’ll see when you visit one of their warehouse clubs. Usually is $2 or so knocked off the price of something popular.

Finally, given the expansion of items available on Costco.com, now you can shop on Costco anytime. That means even if no Costco locations are near you and if you want to shop outside of regular Costco business hours. That’s super convenient in my book.

Cons of shopping Costco online

While that Instacart grocery shopping option is a great addition, you will pay more for using it.

Here’s what the Costco site had to say about that:

All Groceries Including Fresh & Household Supplies
Delivery in Most Metropolitan Areas
Prices are higher than your local warehouse & include service & delivery. The order minimum is $35.

Keep in mind that if you use Instacart with other grocery retailers, you will likely be paying a delivery fee of some kind or a tip. So to be fair to Costco, using Instacart overall comes with its own fixed costs.

It’s all speculation for me anyway. When I recently tried to place an order via Instacart for groceries from Costco, my order was rejected. I live too far away for Instacart to deliver. So I guess unless you live within a specific radius of Costco, you can’t take advantage of Instacart.

Even as a Costco member, I paid shipping when I recently placed an order on Costco.com. Because I did not spend $75, I paid $15 for shipping.

Also, keep in mind that these were the prices I found as a logged-in Costco member. If you shop on the site without a membership, add five percent to all of the prices.

Only members can request two-day shipping or delivery. Everyone else gets their order when it gets there.

Finally, the Costco.com website simply isn’t as nice to work with as Boxed.com. If shopping online is all about the user experience, you’ll definitely have a better experience on Boxed.

Final Thoughts on Boxed Wholesale vs Costco

The whole reason for writing the Real Sophisticated Consumer blog is to help you get the most value for your time and money. Sometimes that doesn’t mean simply going for the lowest price. However, if you can pay less for good quality products that will last a long time–and don’t take a lot of your time to acquire–then I’m all for it.

On the non-perishable front, with Boxed wholesale vs Costco, well, it’s a toss up. If you’re using your Costco membership just for paper products or other items of a similar value–and you’re going online to shop anyway–then shopping through Boxed might make sense. But if you’re going to Costco anyway, why bother ordering from Boxed, you know?

As I mentioned earlier Costco is the largest seller of organic products in the United States. If eating clean and green is important to you, then you’ll make the trek to Costco. On a recent trip to my nearest Costco store, I purchased organic honey crisp apples, organic salad greens, organic milk and organic strawberry jam.

Time really is money

Time really is money. Shopping online is convenient. If that’s how you’re already doing your grocery shopping–maybe using Amazon Fresh through your Amazon Prime membership–you might want to give Costco with Instacart a try

One last thing: if you’ve gotten this far and you still don’t have a Costco membership–or you had one but you’ve let it lapse–now is a great time to sign up for a Gold Star or Executive Membership.

OK, really, one last thing: Costco is one of the places where you can go each year for a cheap or free flu shot. 

3 thoughts on “Boxed Wholesale vs Costco Prices: Which Is Cheaper?”

  1. Hi. I picked up your Suddenly Frugal book yesterday. I noticed a slight mathematical error in chapter 2. I see you did the same thing here.
    On the cheese you bought, you did not save $3. You actually saved $10 since you got double the cheese. $3 off that trip and you didn’t have to buy the next package.
    If you are going to be exact be exact. 16 oz of shredded cheese would be $14. 16 oz of block cheese was $4.
    Since you only needed 8 oz, you saved $7 on a future trip.

    Today, you said the Milanos were higher at Costco. Yes, initially but not with the quantity. Boxed was 4.6 cents each while Costco was 3.5 cents each.
    If you don’t have the extra dollar then Boxed is less money out of pocket but you also get 33% less.

    Interesting article but I am at least 300 miles from Costco or BJ. I only have Sam’s.
    In my area some people commute 70 to 90 miles or more to work. That is one way.

    Reply
  2. Hi, I realize this article was written a while back. The costco toilet paper offers about 1500+ sq ft of toilet paper and the P &S offers 600+ sqft. Both have 30 rolls. You are obviously getting a waaaaay better deal from Costco. I believe the paper towels are also a better deal. Many people don’t read the square footage or price per unit. I really want to try Boxed, I just need to see a bigger benefit than me not having to drive to Costco. Interesting article!

    Reply
    • Thanks for your reply! Clearly you are a very smart, sophisticated shopper. I like the math and agree with it wholeheartedly. Thanks again.

      Leah

      Reply

Leave a Comment