Sep 26

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Should I shop at the warehouse store? Will I save money?

This is a common question when it comes coupons: does shopping at a warehouse club store like Sam’s or Costco really save money? When I first started really couponing so I could stay home full-time, my mom (an avid Costco shopper) and I sat down to price out lots of common items. What we saw surprised both of us I think! Here’s what you need to be aware of when it comes to the big ole’ warehouses!

  • You need to factor in what a yearly membership costs and what it provides you. (Does it include a gas discount like at some Sam’s? How much will this discount be each fill up?) How far will you drive to shop at the store? How large is your family? How quickly/slowly would you go through the bulk products? How much time will it take you to shop and navigate the store? How realistic is that time estimate – are you including taking your kids with you? How does that time estimate compare to shopping at a couple of smaller stores?
  • You need to price compare items by ounce not just by item because the sizes can vary greatly when you’re buying bulk. A very common myth is that you will save more money buying in bulk and it’s usually not true. A box of cereal can run $4-$5 at warehouse stores. I could get that cereal at Meijer for only $1. So even if I am buying two smaller boxes at Meijer, I am still paying half for the same amount at a warehouse. Buying in bulk isn’t always a deal.
  • Some of the worst items to buy at warehouse stores are personal care items like razors, tooth paste and brushes. You can get these for free with sales and coupons. Stay away from the paper products too! You will pay through the nose at a warehouse club!
  • When you are getting an item in bulk there are two things to keep in mind. You have a potential for waste if your family doesn’t finish the products as quickly as you think. The second is the opposite: you may use an item even quicker because you have more of it. For example: you purchase a more expensive item like whip cream and while you save money on the purchase, because you have the item on hand, you may use it more than normal therefore costing you more in the long run.
  • SO! What items can you save on? Some organic veggies and fruit are good to save on. Vanilla, honey, and beans are also great items to save on at warehouse clubs.
  • One last “danger” to keep in mind: put your blinders on before shopping! There are so many items you can pick up at these stores, it can be easy for many “extras” to end up in your cart. (I find this can be true of just about any store though!) 🙂

Overall, for our family I found that warehouse clubs weren’t the answer to major savings. Once I factored in the yearly membership, the drive time (Sam’s is across town, Costco is an hour away) and the prices on items, it just isn’t worth it. There aren’t enough items that I could save on to be worth it in the long run.

What about your family? Does it save money for you or do you stay away from the warehouse clubs?

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