The following is a guest post from Cheryl at Swap Savers.
In order to purchase items at warehouse clubs (i.e. BJ's, Costco, Sam's Club) you have to pay a membership fee usually around $40-$50 a year. Before you pay the price for admission ask yourself these questions to figure out if it is worth it.
How far away do you live? Similar to a gym membership, if you live far away (20 minutes or more) from the warehouse club, the chances of you using it on a regular basis decrease significantly. If you live close by (5 minutes or less) and you are able to purchase milk and other staple items, the prices are considerably less then other stores. Also these staple items rarely go on sale at most grocery or other stores so the prices will always be less at the warehouse clubs.
Will you use the entire product? Most items sold at warehouse clubs are sold in bulk. If you have a large family or business, your odds of using up the entire food product before it goes bad increases. However if you have an average size family buying in bulk might equate to throwing away a lot of food.
How do the prices compare to nearby stores? This requires some research, but in the long run you will save either the price of the membership or you will save money from purchasing less expensive items at the warehouse club. If you already have a price log of items you purchase on a regular basis, bring it with you to the warehouse club you are considering and compare prices. You will need to do some math to figure out the price per unit for the bulk items. If you don't have a price log create one for a few weeks making sure you write down the prices of items you purchase especially when the items are on sale since the sale prices can be noticeably lower then warehouse prices. Also keep in mind most grocery stores double coupons and warehouse clubs do not.
Does the warehouse offer a free trial membership? Before purchasing the membership, ask if you can do a month or more free trial membership (without the surcharge fees). BJ's usually offers a free three month holiday membership in October. Obviously if you can try it for free first, you have more time to use the above questions to figure out if it is worth paying for the rest of the year.
Deal Seeking Mom here: I've talked before about some of my favorite items to purchase at warehouse clubs. Buying in bulk makes sense for some of the items that our large family uses; however, smaller families might choose to pair up to share the savings. What are your favorite items to purchase at warehouse clubs?
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