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?
Swap Savers is a social network for frugal folks who love freebies, coupons & rewards. Check it out!
the only thing I buy at BJs is baby formula (the Berkley & Jensen brand)…its has saved soooo much! other than that, the prices arne’t worthwhile if you are a sale shopper & couponer.
I am single, but Sam’s Club is within 5 minutes of my house and in an area I am frequently at for shopping. My aunt also lives as close and has a family of 6, so we split the membership – $20 each/year. Even though I’m single, I’ve found it’s great! I buy my milk, cereal, paper towels, toilet paper, dish & laundry detergent, baking supplies, non perishables, and some freezer items like frozen chicken, and appetizer/meat/cheese items when I’m having a party. I also buy my chips there – they’re a lot cheaper than the store. I like the fact that they have a gas station there – it’s always the cheapest – or the nearby gas stations match their price, but it’s never cheaper elsewhere.
I’ve also found great deals on dishes, bedding, clothes for kids in the family, books, dvd’s, camping and other outdoor gear, coffee, etc.
Some things are not cheaper, but if you keep a careful eye, you can save money even with the cost of membership!
I use my parents card and just buy DIAPERS there…
brandy´s last blog post..FREE KFC
I love my Costco membership. I use the pharmacy there and it is great. I also buy tons of books. I think it definitely pays off but as you said, I live less than 5 minutes away.
I share a Sam’s membership with my mother. Which makes the membership very affordable. We are there probably every other week picking up things. We do save a lot of money shopping there just on the grocery items.
I think if you are a household with babies, the diapers are a great deal. Formula is also a good deal at Sam’s. Given you can watch sales and use coupons and get things cheaper. But you can’t always get what you need on sale.
The only downside to Sam’s — they don’t accept coupons. :( They will accept checks from the formula companies but not coupons.
I have a Sam’s club membership and I buy Cat litter there. It is like getting 10 or more pounds free. even with a dollar off coupon I can’t beat this. However, it is the only thing I consistantly buy. I get impulse stuff and the produce is always nicer than the store but how much fresh produce can you eat before it goes bad. If I could get a great deal on cat litter I would stop buying a membership.
Addicted to the coupons Anna in MI
I shop at BJ’s and think their gas prices are worth the price of the membership. We are a family of four(2 sons) and the formula was also way cheaper than on the outside. I may not buy a bunch in bulk but gas (sometimes 20-30 cents cheaper!) and formula more than paid for the membership, imo.
We have a membership to Costco (I have 3 kids and a forth on the way). We use our membership to purchase things like Kirkland bottled water because we have well water and nasty well water at that. I also buy Tariyaki Sauce and Soy Sauce in the large containers. Peanut butter and jelly is nice in the large things to because my kids prefer to have sandwitches when they dont have school. I also use my membership to buy books for the kids… last summer I bought 30 (3 sets of 10) of the step up books for $10 each…it was a great steal and perfect birthday gifts for my kids. I also use it to purchase gas I have the executive membership and get 2% of everything back in a giftcard every year.
MILK! Our family uses 5 gallons a week. The grocery store on the corner sells a gallon of skim for $3.74; Costco sells is for $2.25. I go once a week for my milk, eggs, and avocados!
Mendy´s last blog post..Kenna’s Vocab
Shelly the Chic Crafty Chick
We have found our Sam’s club membership helpful on big ticket purchases such as tires for our vehicles.
For bigger family get togethers for birthdays, their bakery cakes are a great deal. Bigger cakes that taste better and are a better deal than Wal Mart or the local grocery stores.
Shelly the Chic Crafty Chick´s last blog post..Two Tip Tuesday Cinco de Mayo Style
Hi! We have Costco and BJs membership. We considered not renewing this year but we kept both.
We purchase gas at Costco and the savings for gas is anywhere from 5 – 25 cents per gallon! We have two babies and BJs has terrific prices on diapers. We calculated that the amount we save at both clubs either pays for or exceeds the membership fee!
Mikki´s last blog post..Great Gift for Tech-Savvy Moms!
I go to Costco for gas, cheese and free snacks. My mom pays otherwise I would not have their card. I occasionally buy other things when they are a good deal but they generally compare to either grocery outlet or sale prices. Spices are a good deal. I’ve found that strawberries were riper their than grocery stores and sale price at Safeway is better.
I heart Costco
Great article Cheryl! I def. agree with the distance portion – if there isn’t one close, it’s def. not worth it!
I calculated at the beginning of the year that I make more money just buying my milk at BJ’s – it makes the membership fee worth it.
Bargain Becky´s last blog post..Free Chicken at KFC! (Thanks Oprah!)
I have never been a member. It seems like a big expense for a small discount. I don’t live close to one either.
Denise´s last blog post..Home Depot – Do it Herself Workshop
Since I have discovered Winco, a great store near me with lots of stuff available cheap in bulk bins, I have let my Costco membership lapse. Winco beats most of their prices, and they take coupons! Everything else I buy on sale with double coupons at other grocery stores.
Betsy Bargain´s last blog post..Don’t Throw It – Grow It!
i just purchased a SAM’S membership after resisting for a number of years.
We liked the resin shed they had there for $998 so I got the membership – THEN I found it also at Sear’s, and they we willing to price match Sam’s + 10% of the difference. Shopping online thru Ebates and with the price match difference it basically paid for the Sam’s membership which I had to prove I had,…
BUT I have now remembered why I didn’t want a Sam’s membership,…I have no self control shopping there and always buy more than I intended,….huge scallops for dinner?? sure,..why not lol,…
I don’t know if a warehouse club membership is a good idea for my household,..
I just canceled my Sam’s Club membership the other day. $40.00 a year is a lot to me. We buy the same stuff that’s available in other chain of stores, and if I would brouse Valassis or Smart Source every Sunday, I still can manage to save. By the way, Customer Service said I still can use the card to get into the store but I cannot use it to pay my purchases, naturally, it’s canceled! One of you mentioned of an “upcharge” for non-members at Sam’s. This, I have to check out before my next shopping. As always, any of my friends welcome me to come hitch along on their shopping at Sam’s.
I have shopped at these places a few times with friends or trial memberships. I don’t think the deals are that great, often I can do better at the supermarket with a double coupon combined with a sale and buy smaller amounts. Buying in bulk often isn’t cheaper. I just resent PAYING to shop somewhere. You spend way more than you expect to at these places because of the large items. I really don’t want to spend $20 at one shot for toilet paper. The places near us do not sell gas, if they did I might consider joining. Whoever came up with the concept is a marketing genius……..make people pay to shop here and only sell big quantities so everyone THINKS they are getting a bargain………….
We live about 10 minutes away, so travel isn’t a consideration. I am keeping my membership because in our area, the produce is better value for the quality than local grocery stores. I also think they sometimes have better prices on meats than other stores, as well. Since I’ve started couponing, I use Sam’s less because of the amount of money I save.