Walking into a big box wholesale club store like Sam’s Club or Costco can seem like a thrifter’s paradise. After all, these stores can offer great deals on everything from gasoline to televisions and pastries to alcohol. However, as Yahoo Finance recently highlighted, there are some tricks involved in determining what’s a good buy and what’s a big waste.
Consider the membership fee
Alas nothing good is ever free and warehouse clubs are no exception. In order to join these clubs you must first purchase an annual membership (or receive a card as part of a corporate account which may be a nice perk at your job). Typically these memberships range between $45-$60 a year and simply entitles you to shop in the store. Alternatively some clubs may offer small business memberships for the same price that include special privileges for business owners, such as early shopping hours.
On top of the basic memberships many clubs also offer store-specific credit cards that entitle shoppers to cash back rewards on both purchases made at that location as well as at other retailers. If you’re really wanting to dive headfirst into the world of wholesale club shopping this may be a good option for you. On the other hand some shoppers may not make it to the store often or save enough on their purchases to cover even the basic annual fee. In these cases your attempt to save money could actually backfire.
Will you use it in time?
Most of the time the discounts associated with warehouse clubs come when buying in bulk. For those with large families or individuals who don’t mind repetitive diets this may not be a problem as you’ll likely be able to use all of the items. The problem is that often times consumers will buy the bulk packages but cannot use up the entire serving before it expires. Because of this be sure to pay close attention to when the items expire so that you can determine if it’s a good idea. Additionally it helps to have weekly menus in mind so that you can figure out if buying a particular item in bulk makes sense for you.
Generic brands can save you a ton
Just as not being brand loyal can save you money at the regular grocery store, that sentiment goes double for warehouse club shopping. In many cases the quality of these generic or “house brands” is equal to the name brand but the cost is significantly less. This is why Kirkland Signature has actually become the brand of choice for many Costco enthusiasts, while Member’s Mark and subsidiaries like Daily Chef are go-tos for Sam’s Club cardholders. If you do decide to become a club shopper be sure to give these off brands a chance in order to maximize your savings and help offset your membership dues.
When used to their full potential warehouse club memberships can definitely be worth investing in. That being said it can take a considerable amount of research and attention to detail in order for shoppers to get the most out of their memberships. If you aren’t sure if wholesale club shopping is right for you, you may want to ask a friend who’s a member to let you tag along on one of their trips and run some comparisons with your local supermarket. Additionally, if you’re lucky enough to have more than one club in your area, be sure to compare them both and determine which has the better offerings for you.