We’ve all done it. At one time or other most of us have taken the bulk buying plunge, vowing to set our family on a new path to saving mega bucks!
Brimming with excitement and armed with good intentions, reusable bags and even a list, we’ve loaded up the kids and headed over to the local warehouse club determined to conquer the grocery game, thinking “Yep, this is the day things change around here”! We stepped inside the store and something happened. Before we knew what hit us, we got gleamy-eyed because it’s all so shiny and pretty, sooo different from my grocery store, and wait – are those angels I hear singing? Our mind says, “WE NEED IT ALL”! “Kids! Get another buggy, we’re gonna save a bundle today!” Right? Who’s been there? Well ~ maybe not to this degree but at one level or another most of us have fallen into the trap of thinking bulk is better.
The truth is that buying in bulk may not always be the smartest option. Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly what IS the cheapest at those stores as well as the items you should steer clear of? We’ve got the inside scoop to help you avoid common pitfalls like the above scenario and make you the Smartest Shopper out there!
Basic Rules of Warehouse Club Shopping ~ Know Before You Go:
1. Saving with “bulk buying” is a myth
While it’s true there are some savings to be found by purchasing in bulk, that principle does not apply across the board. A common mistake is to “stock up” on all the things you like (and more than a few things that just looked good) and by the time you get to the checkout line with your full cart(s), the total can easily be upwards of $300 or even more. The fact is, when you calculate the per-item cost, and compare it to the sale price paired with a coupon at the grocery store, the warehouse club will lose almost every time!
2. The membership fee
There are 3 national warehouse stores ~ Costco, Sam’s & BJ’s. Costco and Sam’s clubs both offer Savings Books that have Store-Only coupons off of their already low prices. Topping them all is BJ’s for allowing “Stacking” of their Store Coupons along with Manufacturer coupons!
In terms of overall savings the cost of an annual basic membership must be considered. Costo’s Gold Star fee is $55, Sam’s Club Savings is $45, and BJ’s Inner Circle is $75. If you are patient, they regularly have 30 and 60 day free guest passes so you can check them out and decide if membership is right for you! You can also keep an eye out on our website for membership deals from LivingSocial, Groupon and AmazonLocal.
3. There are ALWAYS and NEVER items to buy
ALWAYS Warehouse: Meat, Dairy & Batteries. If you do not have a good meat market where you can get quality meat at exceptional prices, then your best bet would be Costco, Sam’s or BJ’s. (We often feature great meat deals at Good Earth Foods). Butter and Heavy Creamer are always 50¢ cheaper than the grocery store sales, but milk & cheese are the same price as grocery store sales, so you can buy it when you need it, instead of purchasing ONLY when on sale. Batteries are consistently priced the lowest at warehouse clubs. They just are.
NEVER Warehouse: Razors, Toothpaste & Paper Goods. No more buying those warehouse razor refills at $30 a pop! Razors and toothpaste are consistently free or cheap at other stores when there are deals and you use coupons on top of that. If you do not require a specific brand of these, then you can easily stock up for low prices at the grocery or drug stores. (Remember, unless you have a reason to need a specific brand, giving up brand loyalties is listed in the second rule of couponing ~ click here to see them all). Paper towels and bath tissue are not cheaper at warehouse clubs. Even the generic is not cheaper than Walmart! You wanna know the best place to stock up on these items? Amazon. They offer a Subscribe & Save option that will save you a bonus 5%, and regularly even have a digital coupon to clip. Better yet, they’ll ship it right to your door ~ usually for free!
4. Know what you can store and how much you will use
Let’s face it, 48 rolls of paper towels and 12 boxes of cereal take up valuable pantry real estate! Overcrowding the home with our stockpile can quickly become clutter. Did you know that leaders in the field of psychology say the connection between clutter and depression is real and more common than we may think? Clutter is distracting, overwhelming and over-stimulating, leading to feelings of guilt and even embarrassment. Add the issue of waste and to see how that’s another reason we recommend buying only what we need and just enough to share at the stock-up price, employing the first rule of TrueCouponing.
5. Stick to your list
Ultimately, the most effective way to save at the warehouse stores (and really any store) is to exercise willpower. Armed with the Do’s and Don’ts of warehouse shopping, make a list and stick with it. There are loads of tempting distractions inside. Just know that and don’t give in! You can ignore the angelic choirs singing over the bright and shiny pretties! Your bank account, your pantry, your family and ultimately your peace of mind will be thankful you did!
The Bottom Line? All of the warehouses’ prices are very similar. If you are a couponer and live near BJ’s, then that would be your clear choice. Otherwise, wait patiently till the next trial membership for a Sam’s or Costco near you to become available, then check it out using the above 5 rules of warehouse shopping. For the rest of your grocery needs, shop the sale circulars and check out our coupon match-ups from your local grocery store!
Bless your family tomorrow by learning the Do’s and Don’ts of warehouse shopping today!
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What’s the hardest thing for you to AVOID buying at the Warehouse Club?
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