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PX shopping vs local supermarket
Old 05-31-2011, 06:44 PM   #1
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PX shopping vs local supermarket

My mother shops once a month at the Great Lakes PX. She says she spend around $400, mostly on meat, canned and frozen goods - normal supermarket shopping. It's a tough ride - 45 miles each way on Chicago highways, with lots of trucks, and the weather is often a problem. One of my brothers and I have noticed some changes in her that lead us to feel this drive is not worth it. Too physically demanding and too risky, for her and others.

We will discuss this with her, looking for a way to help reduce her need to drive long distances. But I am sure the subject of PX savings will come up, and I was wondering if anyone could help size the potential savings. On a $400 budget it can't be much; even less when considering the cost of the trip. Added food cost would not have any financial impact, as her income more than covers it. Her frugal nature, however, will be an obstacle we need to prepare for.

My guess is savings would be between $50-$75 after considering travel costs of $20-$25.
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Old 05-31-2011, 07:01 PM   #2
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If she has Costco and Walmart closer I doubt that she is saving even that. Both are located very close to Sub Base Bangor (which has a PX) and have a lot of military customers.

At one time PXs had a corner of quantity purchases and a top notch distribution system. Costco and Walmart have them now too. Costco, at least, doesn't drive suppliers crazy.
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Old 05-31-2011, 07:24 PM   #3
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First off, are you sure it is a PX? The items you mentioned are usually found in the Commissary. There is a huge difference! The PX, IMHO, is not a good deal. It is like a department store, and the have some high valued items and some cheaper products. A lot of named brands. However, I have never found a really good deal in the PX. In fact WalMart will normally beat their prices. The Commissary, on the other hand, is suppose to put items on the shelve at their cost and add a 2% service charge at checkout.

There is neither near us. Would I drive 45 miles to go to the Px, absolutely not! Would I drive 45 miles to go to the Commissary, Yes. Would I go once a month, most likely not. However, there is another factor. We spent 20 years in the military. When on an Air Force base we fell a little bit of home, so we like to go. So there may be a little emotion for your Mother going shopping 'On Base'.
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Old 05-31-2011, 08:51 PM   #4
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Yes, it's a commissary there at Great Lakes. I've been there, and to the PX as well. That was back in my Wisconsin days. I didn't see any food in the PX, besides the usual few items you might find on a couple of shelves like candy, chips, sodas etc. I'm pretty sure it's the commissary where she's doing her shopping. However, that really doesn't matter. My wife uses the commissary at Barksdale AFB once a week, and it definitely saves us some $$. I expect shopping once a month at the commissary might save a few bucks, but as said, once you factor in the gas, and the hazards of the road, for an older person, it might not be worth it. We'll most likely retire within an easy drive of a military base, so will probably always shop the commissary. Maybe the OP could take turns with the other siblings driving mom to the commissary every month. I think Rustic23's last couple of sentences might play a big part in her wanting to go to the base every now & then.
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Old 05-31-2011, 09:40 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelB View Post
My mother shops once a month at the Great Lakes PX. She says she spend around $400, mostly on meat, canned and frozen goods - normal supermarket shopping. It's a tough ride - 45 miles each way on Chicago highways, with lots of trucks, and the weather is often a problem.
But I am sure the subject of PX savings will come up, and I was wondering if anyone could help size the potential savings. On a $400 budget it can't be much; even less when considering the cost of the trip. Added food cost would not have any financial impact, as her income more than covers it. Her frugal nature, however, will be an obstacle we need to prepare for.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brat View Post
If she has Costco and Walmart closer I doubt that she is saving even that. Both are located very close to Sub Base Bangor (which has a PX) and have a lot of military customers.
I don't know if DeCA charges the same fees nationwide, but here in Hawaii it's cost +5% and no sales tax. Since Oahu's general excise tax is 4.5%, the commissary wins over every single supermarket chain on the island-- let alone niche markets like Whole Foods.

The commissary is frequently a dead heat with our local Costco. We use the commissary for smaller quantities of perishables (fresh fruit) and Costco for larger quantities of staples (4.5 pounds of chocolate chips). Any Costco sale will beat the commissary so they must be loss leaders. Our local Costco is also one of Oahu's largest sellers of gasoline and their food court makes a darn fine veggie pizza, so we make weekly trips to each.

You and your brother might want to start a price book for your mother. Dollar Stretcher and Amy Dacyczyn talk about them-- an 8"x11" spiral-bound notebook with a page for each item, separate columns for each store, and the date/price on each line. After a few trips with you to gather data while she shops, you guys will have enough information to determine whether it's worth the risk.

It's possible that your mother gets far more entertainment value (and quality son time) out of the trip than she'd ever save in actual cash. Maybe if you found some other local shopping venue, or some other way to spend more time with her, then she'd be willing to give up the long drive.
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Old 05-31-2011, 10:00 PM   #6
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I agree that this may be as much an emotional attachment as a cost saving activity.
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Old 06-01-2011, 11:49 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brat View Post
If she has Costco and Walmart closer I doubt that she is saving even that. Both are located very close to Sub Base Bangor (which has a PX) and have a lot of military customers.
I know thereís a Costco nearby. She objects to the membership fee and the large quantities but it is an option that needs to be considered.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rustic23 View Post
First off, are you sure it is a PX? The items you mentioned are usually found in the Commissary. There is a huge difference! The PX, IMHO, is not a good deal. It is like a department store, and the have some high valued items and some cheaper products. A lot of named brands. However, I have never found a really good deal in the PX. In fact WalMart will normally beat their prices. The Commissary, on the other hand, is suppose to put items on the shelve at their cost and add a 2% service charge at checkout.

There is neither near us. Would I drive 45 miles to go to the Px, absolutely not! Would I drive 45 miles to go to the Commissary, Yes. Would I go once a month, most likely not. However, there is another factor. We spent 20 years in the military. When on an Air Force base we fell a little bit of home, so we like to go. So there may be a little emotion for your Mother going shopping 'On Base'.
Yes, itís a commissary. And I have no doubt there is an emotional aspect to her shopping there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
I don't know if DeCA charges the same fees nationwide, but here in Hawaii it's cost +5% and no sales tax. Since Oahu's general excise tax is 4.5%, the commissary wins over every single supermarket chain on the island-- let alone niche markets like Whole Foods.
The surcharge is either +3% or +5%. Itís far less than the sales tax on local purchases.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post

You and your brother might want to start a price book for your mother. Dollar Stretcher and Amy Dacyczyn talk about them-- an 8"x11" spiral-bound notebook with a page for each item, separate columns for each store, and the date/price on each line. After a few trips with you to gather data while she shops, you guys will have enough information to determine whether it's worth the risk.
I suspect the answer is right before our eyes but some hard data might make it easier to address some of her potential objections.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
It's possible that your mother gets far more entertainment value (and quality son time) out of the trip than she'd ever save in actual cash. Maybe if you found some other local shopping venue, or some other way to spend more time with her, then she'd be willing to give up the long drive.
Even though she is quite active and doesnít really need an excuse to get behind the wheel, this still may be a factor. Her frugal nature plays a role. Like many here, she really has a hard time paying a higher price for something when she knows (or believes) it can be had for less elsewhere.

Iím going to join her on the next trip to the commissary. Then, a few weeks later, weíll go to the local Costco. We also need to explore other shopping options nearby.
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Old 06-01-2011, 05:03 PM   #8
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The surcharge is either +3% or +5%. Itís far less than the sales tax on local purchases.
Is a random grocery store in IN, MI, or WI closer or an easier drive? The food items you mentioned are exempt from sales tax in those states. IL and HI are two of the few states that impose transaction taxes on food purchases. Technically she should self-assess use tax upon consumption in IL...I may be incorrectly assuming she is in IL.

Regardless, it seems to me it wouldn't be worth the savings if there is any potential safety issues at all.
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