Warehouse Club Stores Are a Double-Edged Sword
Warehouse clubs can save you money . . . if you don't fall victim to their traps.
When I was single, I never understood the hype behind big warehouse club stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. But things began to change when I got married. With two people in our household, buying in larger quantities seemed as though it could save us money on groceries. So my wife and I went out and explored our local Sam’s Club. Here’s what we’ve learned:
How Warehouse Club Stores Can Save You Money
Sam’s Club and other warehouse club stores can save you a significant amount of money if you know where to look. That said, they need to save you more than the cost of the annual membership fee in order to really save you money. At first, we weren’t sure if we would save more than the $45 annual fee, but we quickly learned that it was fairly easy.
Personally, we ended up saving most of our money with just a few items. After comparing prices to our local grocery stores, we found that Sam’s Club usually has the best prices on many of the meats we eat on a regular basis, such as chicken breast. We also found they had the best prices on frozen vegetables like broccoli florets and corn. And the store offers significant savings in their tire and battery center, too. Both my wife and I have gotten new batteries and tires for our cars at Sam’s Club and easily saved more than our membership cost with just these purchases alone.
In addition to what I’ve listed so far, Sam’s Club has a food court that has saved us money. Instead of going out to a restaurant for lunch or dinner, we occasionally stop by Sam’s Club and get some of their inexpensive dining options, such as a slice of pizza or a hot dog. We can have a meal for two for about $5 instead of spending $15 at a typical fast food restaurant. While you don’t have to be a member to eat at the food court in many warehouse club stores, we would never have known about it if we hadn’t become members.
You Can Easily Spend More Money, Too
So far, it seems like getting a warehouse club membership should be a good deal for anyone. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. My wife and I have found ourselves spending more money than we had initially anticipated.
Sam’s Club and other warehouse clubs know what they’re doing. The price points for their items are usually higher because you’re buying in bulk, so getting you to buy just a few more items will significantly help the store’s business. For that reason, you almost always see free samples for various foods, as well as demonstrations for other products while you’re shopping in the club. We’ve fallen victim to these samples and purchased additional items that we hadn’t originally planned on buying.
Plus, warehouse clubs want you to think that everything you buy is a good deal because you’re buying in bulk.
That definitely isn’t the case. If you look closely, you’ll find that many items at warehouse clubs like Sam’s are actually more expensive than if you bought them in regular sizes at your local Walmart or grocery store. For instance, Sam’s Club often sells bulk packages of brand-name cereal, but in many cases, those bulk packages cost more per ounce than switching to a generic brand at your local grocery store.
Sam’s Club has also trapped us with the common belief that more is better. Sometimes we’ll buy an item in bulk, only to find that we can’t use it all before it expires. We end up throwing out a significant amount of the item we bought, which essentially makes it more expensive than buying a smaller quantity at a higher per-unit price.
After we learned what to watch out for at warehouse club stores, we found they save us a decent amount of money. An added bonus? They usually have products with superior quality.
- Always shop with a list when you go to a warehouse club store.
- Avoid free samples unless you’re an expert at saying no.
- Research items you regularly buy to make sure that you can’t get a better price at other stores like Walmart and Target.
- Never buy an item in bulk if you can’t use it all before it expires.
- Reevaluate your membership every year to make sure that you’re actually saving money.
Pro Tip: You can also save money on groceries by using coupon-clipping apps like Ibotta.
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