I want to be very honest right from the start. The main reason to have a membership to a wholesale/warehouse club is NOT for the savings but the convenience. By purchasing items in bulk, you shop less frequently which is a HUGE time saver, but are the savings enough to validate paying for a membership?
Can you save money at a wholesale club?
Yes, but… This is not a simple answer. You really have to consider a few things:
How often do you plan to shop? If you are going to just go once a year, then it would be best for you to wait for an open house event where everyone is welcome. However, if you plan to shop once a month, your likelihood of recovering your membership fee in savings is much more probable.
Where is the club located? If you are having to drive a great distance to shop, your savings will be eaten away in gas mileage. However, if you are planning to run other errands in the area at the same time, you could balance your savings better.
Can you stick to a list? Wholesale clubs are packed with odds and ends that make you want to look. If you are an impulse shopper, this could be a killer for your budget.
What do you plan to buy? The vast majority of grocery-related items in a warehouse store are not a good deal. You can purchase food for much less from a drugstore or grocery store by stacking coupons on a rock-bottom sale price. Most warehouse clubs do not accept coupons and sales are nonexistent.
What should you buy at a warehouse store?
Coffee ~ Specialty coffees and individual serving coffee cups are a much better value from a wholesale club.
Paper products ~ Our family purchases paper plates, coffee filters, and toilet paper (store brand) from Sam’s Club and our savings are significant.
Baking basics ~ Flour, sugar, and other baking items are available in bulk quantities but are a fabulous buy when you calculate the price per unit.
Rice ~ Just like baking basics, rice is a fabulous purchase but it will come in a huge quantity and required proper storage.
Specialty baking items ~ Chocolate chips, nuts, and dried fruits are an excellent buy.
Spices ~ If there is a particular seasoning that you use frequently, you will find the prices much cheaper than at grocery stores. However, if you will not use the spice within 6 to 12 months, skip it.
Special snacks ~ Deals in my area on animal crackers and goldfish are hard to find, so I pick these up at Sam’s. However, I will maneuver right past the Cheez-Its, Nilla wafers, graham crackers, OREOs, and more because a sale plus a coupon at a grocery store yields the better deal.
Some dairy items ~ When coupons have not been available for cheese, a five pound bag of shredded cheddar and logs of cream cheese can be a good buy but watch the prices on milk, eggs, butter, and yogurt.
Organic produce ~ The variety of organics at wholesale clubs is increasing but keep in mind that if you are not going to use or freeze the produce before it spoils, your savings will be wasted.
Liquor ~ If you are purchasing alcoholic beverages, you will save 20% to 30%.
Designer clothing ~ You best prices on clothing will always be found on off-season clearance racks but some wholesale warehouse clubs offer designer clothing at 75% off.
Household items ~ A few of the household items are a great deal. For instance, we pick up our Brita filters and air conditioner filters at Sam’s Club. Just know your prices.
Printer ink ~ Not all computer ink is priced equally but some brands have an excellent price point compared to other retailers. Do your research.
What should you avoid purchasing at a wholesale store?
Just as I mentioned before, some of the items that will tempt you are more about convenience than savings. For instance, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, and deodorant can often be purchased for pennies by using coupons. Cereal, condiments, and soft drinks are way over-priced at a wholesale club as are most of the frozen foods.
The most important rule… be a smart shopper. Know your price per unit on the items you buy and compare those to the stockpile prices you find at your regular stores.
Do you have a membership to a warehouse club?
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