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Member-only warehouses have done a great job branding how they save you a lot of money. How else would stores like Costco convince people that paying for a membership to even step foot in their store is not just acceptable, but actually worth it? For a lot of merchandise, Costco beats out the competition on price. But what about Costco baby items?
Are Costco baby wipes, formula and diapers cheaper than you’d find a regular store?
To find out, I match Costco’s Kirkland formula, diapers and wipes to name brands and other store brands. Specifically, I compare to items you’d find at your local Target to determine who is the winner for the best deals on baby essentials.
Depending on your baby’s needs, a Costco membership may be worth it, but it also might not be!
First, is a Costco membership really required?
Yes and no.
Generally, you need a membership card to physically shop in a Costco store. If you plan to be a regular Costco shopper, buying a membership is likely cost-effective and easier than using a workaround.
Costco memberships cost $60 a year. Occasionally, Groupon or other deal sites will have specials where a Costco membership purchase also gets you a small gift card. It’s worth a quick search online for recent deals before joining.
There are still options for non-members to purchase Costco-brand items. Non-members are able to shop online at Costco.com, with a 5% surcharge per item. Online items are sometimes a little more expensive than in store too.
For example, baby items are an extra buck or two per item generally. Orders under $75 are also subject to shipping charges, and non-members can’t take advantage of Costco-run sales.
There is a loophole for non-members to shop in the physical store by acquiring a Costco gift card. Only members may purchase Costco Shop Cards, but they can be given to non-members for use in store.
Kirkland Baby Formula
As I’ve detailed in my Monthly Baby Spending Reports, we have exclusively bought Kirkland brand formula for our baby and have been very happy with it.
We selected it based on Wirecutter’s formula guide. We wanted a formula that used lactose and not corn syrups as its carbohydrate, unless our baby had a digestive issue that warranted a soy-based or gentle formulation.
Kirkland brand recently changed their formula and we personally did not have any issues changing to the new version. One small change is they changed to a scoop that is no longer opaque, making it a little more difficult to measure half scoops.
We have had no problem mixing up the powdered formula (as is mentioned in a few reviews) when using our Dr. Brown’s mixing pitcher (which we LOVE).
A container of Costco’s formula costs $19.49 in stores (priced in March 2020), and $20.75 online (sold only in 4-packs, price dated March 2020). One container of Costco formula makes approximately 305 oz of formula so the price per fluid oz. of prepared formula is $0.064 when bought in stores and $0.068 when bought online.
For us, 305 oz of formula lasts us about 9 days.
For non-Costco members, there is a 5% surcharge on purchases, which is $4.15 extra per 4-pack of formula. This means each container costs non-members $21.79 (price in March 2020), or $0.071 per fluid oz. of prepared formula.
The following cost comparisons assume a 30-day month and a formula consumption rate of 30oz. per day. Each comparison therefore assumes you’d use about 900 oz. of prepared formula a month.
Cost of Costco Kirkland Baby Formula vs. Similac Pro-Advance
The Kirkland formula says to compare to Similac Pro-Advance on the packaging so I will use that as our name-brand comparison. If you purchase Similac Pro-Advance at Costco, it costs $35 (same price in-store and online, as of March 2020) for one 34oz. container that makes 261 oz of prepared formula.
This yields a price per fluid oz is $0.134.
Purchasing Similac at Target costs $36.99 (as of March 2020) for a 30.8 oz. container which makes 237 oz. of drinkable formula, for a cost of $0.156 per oz.
- A month supply of Similac purchased at Costco would cost roughly $120.60
- A month supply of Similac purchased at Target would cost roughly $140.40
Purchasing name-brand formula through Costco vs. Target would save approximately $19.80 per month. You would pay for your Costco membership in about 3 months of name-brand formula savings.
In a year of formula feeding, you would save $237.60 total purchasing Similac through Costco.
Feeding your baby Kirkland brand formula instead of Similac would offer even greater savings.
As stated above, a month supply of Similac purchased at Costco would cost roughly $120.60
A month supply of Kirkland brand formula would cost roughly $57.60 ($61.20 if purchased online, $63.90 for non-members).
Opting for Costco’s Kirkland brand formula over name-brand Similac approximately halves formula costs, for a rough savings of $63 a month.
This savings would cover the cost of a Costco membership in one month, and save $756 over a year of formula feeding.
Cost of Costco Kirkland Baby Formula vs. Target Up & Up Formula
Comparing Kirkland brand formula to another store-brand is arguably more of an apples to apples comparison.
I will use Target brand as our store brand example as it tends to be a new parents’ favorite, and it is the runner-up in Wirecutter’s formula guide.
A container of Target’s Up & Up Advantage formula costs $19.99 (as of March 2020) and makes approximately 254 of drinkable formula, for a cost of $0.079 per liquid oz.
A month supply of Target’s Up & Up Advantage formula would cost roughly $70.83
A month supply of Kirkland brand formula would cost roughly $57.60
Buying Kirkland brand formula saves about $13.23 a month, or $158.76 over the course of a year.
VERDICT: Costco’s Kirkland brand formula wins and is cheaper than both name brand and other store brands. If you want a name-brand formula, it is also cheaper to buy that at Costco.
Costco sells both scented and unscented baby wipes under their Kirkland brand. A box of Kirkland baby wipes has 9 100-count wipe packs, for a total of 900 wipes.
For this comparison, I will focus on fragrance-free wipes, as many parents prefer to avoid possible irritants. The unscented Costco wipes also tout being hypoallergenic and free of dyes, parabens, alcohols, etc.
A box of wipes costs $18.99 in-store and $19.99 online (as of March 2020), with a cost per wipe of $0.021 and $0.022 respectively. Kirkland baby wipe packs have pop-top lids of plastic making it easier to close and the wipes from drying out.
Cost of Kirkland Baby Wipes vs. Pampers Baby Wipes
You can get Pampers’ sensitive wipes with pop-top lids or sticker type lids. The sticker lids don’t stick well towards the end of the pack, leaving the wipes at risk of drying out.
Sticker lids use less plastic though, so there is an environment advantage for opting for sticker tops.
Target sells Pampers’ sensitive wipes in packs ranging from 56 wipes to 504 wipes. The smaller packs are slightly more expensive per wipe (about a cent more), so we’ll use the big pack our calculations.
A 504-pack of Pampers’ wipes at Target costs 14.99 (as of March 2020), for $0.029/wipe.
900 Pampers’ wipes (the same number in a Costco baby wipes box) would cost $26.77 (as of March 2020), which is $7.78 more expensive than baby wipes at Costco.
Cost of Kirkland Baby Wipes vs. Target Up & Up Wipes
Target sells their house Up&Up wipes in packs as big as 500. Their lids have flip tops, making for easier closing and less drying out. Flip tops do though have more plastic waste than non-flip containers.
A small pack of Up&Up wipes contain 72 wipes at a cost of roughly $0.019 a wipe. When bought in a 500-pack, the cost drops to $0.017 a wipe ($8.69/box)
If you were buying 900 wipes at Target, you pay $15.64, saving $3.35 compared to Costco.
VERDICT: Target Up&Up baby wipes are cheaper than Costco’s Kirkland baby wipes. Even when bought in a small pack, Target wipes are still cheaper per wipe and don’t require you to store a huge box of baby wipes.
Costco sells their Kirkland Diapers in jumbo packs. According to a due date group I am in (and double checked with some online sources), Kirkland brand diapers wear very similarly to Huggies brand.
For these comparisons, I’ll use size 3 diapers as our reference diaper. With its wide weight range, baby’s tend to stay in size 3 diapers longer than other sizes.
A box of size 3 Kirkland diapers costs $35.99 (as of March 2020) and has 198 diapers in it, for a per diaper cost of $0.18 per diaper.
Cost of Kirkland Diapers vs. Huggies
The only other brand of diaper Costco carries currently is Huggies. Because of this, I’ll use Huggies as our name brand example for diapers.
If you were buying Huggies at Costco, a jumbo box would cost you $45.99 (March 2020) for 198 diapers. This totals to $0.23 per diaper, and $10 more expensive per box than Kirkland diapers.
Buying Huggies at Target runs $39.99 (March 2020) for a box of 136 diapers. This makes Huggies bought at Target $0.29 a diaper. If you bought 198 Huggies diapers at Target (the size of the Costco box), you would spend $58.22 compared to Costco’s $45.99
Cost of Kirkland Diapers vs. Target Up&Up Diapers
I am sticking with Target-brand as our store brand example for consistency. I want to note that I personally have not had great luck with Target diapers after their recent redesign.
An economy plus size box of Up&Up size 3 diapers costs 29.99 (March 2020) and has 228 diapers in it. This gives a cost per diaper of $0.13. Even in the smaller sized packages, which are $4.99 for 32 diapers, each diaper only costs $0.156, cheaper than the jumbo Kirkland brand diaper.
If you were buy 198 Up&Up diapers (the size of the Costco box), you’d save $9.94 buying at Target instead of Costco per box.
VERDICT: Target Up&Up diapers are cheaper than Costco’s Kirkland brand diapers, even if you are buying the smallest sized pack. If you are using name brand Huggies, you’ll save $12.23 per box if you pick them up at Costco.
Conclusion: the value of Costco baby items is mixed.
Where Costco really shines for baby savings is its Kirkland formula. Kirkland formula is less than half the cost of name brand Similac and substantially cheaper than the other store brand, Target Up&Up Advantage formula.
Even with the cost of the Costco membership, you’ll come out saving a lot using Kirkland brand formula.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, Costco has less to offer you on price savings. You are better off buying baby wipes at Target, whose wipes are a couple bucks cheaper and don’t require you to store a million wipes somewhere in your house.
For diapers, if you are good with store-brand, Target diapers are about $10 cheaper than buying Kirkland diapers. If you are a Huggies family, you’ll come out ahead buying them at Costco than you would buying them at Target (saving ~$12 a box).
The bulk sizing at Costco could be a plus or a minus depending on your living situation. If storage isn’t an issue, you may find stocking up at Costco has an added benefit of cutting down the number of trips you have to take to the store in the newborn days.