Personal Finance 

How to Really Save Money at Warehouse Clubs

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Costco WarehouseApple does it, Walmart does it, and even the auto manufacturers do it: They buy in bulk. The more you buy the more you save and when the idea of the warehouse store was invented, consumers flocked to these stores hoping to get the same volume discounts as the larger companies. For those who remember the early days of these warehouse stores, the prices on these items were well worth the cost of the membership but over time, that has changed.

Today, warehouse stores still offer great prices but only on some items. The warehouse shopper now has to be savvier in order to cash in on the great deals. Here are a few of the secrets that best warehouse shoppers know.

Split a Membership

The price of the yearly membership causes you to start your warehouse club shopping year at a loss. Before you start saving any money, you have to pay yourself back for the price of membership. First, pick one warehouse club instead of purchasing multiple memberships. If the average yearly membership costs $50, multiple memberships can add up fast.

Next, consider splitting the membership with another family member. Sam’s Club will give you two membership cards for $40. Some people split the membership with out of town family members since the membership can be used at any Sam’s Club.

Calculate Price Per Unit

The total price of an item tells you very little about the value. The real price you want to look at is the price per unit. It’s often printed in much smaller type but that’s the only place to find the real values. Before you shop at a warehouse club, look at the unit price of the same item at a grocery store.

When you buy in bulk you’re taking the risk that the item will spoil or expire, you or your family won’t like the taste of the product, and it may go on sale later on where you could have purchased it for an even lower price. The unit price at the warehouse store should represent a substantial savings over the grocery store. If it doesn’t, you may not be saving as much as you thought once you factor in the risks you’re taking by buying in large quantities.

Use the Extras

Does your local warehouse club sell gas? How about tires or other car care? Do they have a cafeteria? If you’re not taking advantage of the extra perks that come with your membership, you may be missing out on some of the best deals. Gas isn’t always a bargain compared to other gas stations but often, a set of tires will save you a considerable amount. When it comes time to get some work done on the car, don’t forget about your local club.

Don’t Get Emotional

There’s just something about entering one of these warehouse clubs and seeing pallets full of Cheerios or a huge bag of rice. Don’t be pulled in by the massive size and the potential of saving a lot of money by purchasing items in bulk. It’s true that warehouse clubs can offer substantial discounts but unless you have a large family or use certain items for your business, the savings may not be large enough to warrant filling your home with these bulk items. Do the math before making the purchase. Make sure the money you save is significant enough to warrant buy in such quantities.

(Photo: greenwenvy)

{ 6 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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6 Responses to “How to Really Save Money at Warehouse Clubs”

  1. rlaw100 says:

    Even without a membership, you can buy beer and liquor at a warehouse store.

  2. aidenscott says:

    I have even a better idea regarding saving on membership fee’s; my wife and I usually accompany my parents which usually go at least once a week. Yes, we piggy-back on their membership of course we pay for our own purchases.

  3. cvargo says:

    When my wife and I first got married 2 years ago we fell into this trap of buying too much bulk at costco. We don’t have kids and it was causing us to throw away alot of bad food. We still have our membership but we buy only our meats, cereal, vitamins, detergent, and movies/books, AND of course gas. Other items such as fruits and veggies even though they are a good price the 2 of us didn’t go through them quick enough.

  4. Dave says:

    If you have small kids, the savings on diapers and baby wipes alone is probably worth 4 or 5 times the cost of membership… Yes, I know you can use cloth diapers and wash them, but that just isn’t going to happen in my family. 🙂

  5. Scott says:

    Another option for avoiding membership fees is to have a friend with a membership buy you some $20 Costco gift cards. Whenever you need something from Costco, use the gift card to get in and pay for the item. Cover the difference with cash or debit. I haven’t tried this, but it seems like it will work.

  6. Dennis says:

    Membership Clubs are good if: as stated you have a small or mid-size retail business or large family. For years I bought tires at a considerable savings at Costco/Sams , in comparison to the actual tire vendors stores(Goodyear, Firestone,B.F. Goodrich).

    However, after retiring with children on their own; I recently priced tires at Sams,Costco Stores. My memberships had lapsed. Pay attention to the comprehensive tire package (ie. road hazard guarantee, lifetime balances, tire mileage warranties, tire stems valve “kits”. This is an additional charge over and above the price of each tire. These are good to protect yourself from defective units and keep proper maintenance on the tires. Properly balanced and aligned tires will prolong your tire use!

    If you are currently a member now, wanting to buy tires, then let the membership lapse; you will void the road hazard and lifetime balances, tread ware warranty portion of your purchase. When I calculated the cost over 4 years, just to keep the tire package warranties, it would cost me an additional $200.00 . Check with each Retail box stores as to what you must do if you buy tires then no longer keep a membership….it’s a bad deal !

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