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Should You Join a Warehouse Club?
Warehouse clubs such as Costco and Sam’s Club offer discounts to shoppers who pay around $50 per year for a membership. But are the discounts deep enough to justify the membership costs?
It depends. The discounts are there, and are often significant, on a number of items ranging from shampoo to produce to couches. According to a study quoted by msnbc, prices are, on average, 29 percent lower at BJs, 30 percent lower at Costco and 33 percent lower at Sam’s Club than they are at the big supermarket chains.
In addition, most warehouse clubs offer discounts on things you might not expect, such as gas, prescriptions, eye exams and glasses, car repairs, etc. For example, many warehouse clubs offer a discount of 5 cents to 10 cents a gallon on gas. If you drive a lot, this can add up in a hurry.
However, there are disadvantages to shopping at a warehouse club, including:
The bottom line, most experts agree, is that warehouse clubs can save you money, but only if you use them wisely and often.
- You are pretty much on your own; there usually are not people to help you find things or carry them out to your car.
- Most warehouse clubs take very few credit cards; you might have to use cash or a debit card.
- One of the ways the clubs achieve their low prices is by bulk packaging. For example, they might package several kinds of breakfast cereal together. However, the price is low only if you want to buy all the kinds of cereal.
- In addition, bulk packaging only makes sense if you have somewhere to store the extra items – whether it is soup, toilet paper, batteries, etc. – until you need it.
- Fresh foods such as produce and meat also are sold in large quantities. If you cannot eat the food before it spoils, you are wasting your money.
- You should be prepared to wait in long lines and to bag or box your own purchases.
In order to make it worth the cost of your membership, you need to shop fairly regularly. If you decide to join, keep track of your visits so you can decide whether to re-up at the end of your membership.
Have at least a general idea of how much you would spend for an item somewhere else. For example, if you want to buy milk or paper towel or printer ink, know what you would have to pay for those items at a supermarket or office supply store – where you would not have to pay dues. Warehouse clubs do not always offer the best prices.
Especially for big purchases, such as a camera or a television, shop around before you buy. Those items are often on sale at more traditional retailers.
Finally, don’t go crazy in the warehouse club. Warehouse clubs are full of jewelry, apparel, gifts and other items designed to encourage you to make an impulse purchase. Saving money on things you do need does not give you free rein to spend money on things you don’t need.