Watch Those Wholesale Club Prices

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

While wholesale clubs (bargain bulk warehouses like Sam's Club, Costco and BJ's) can be full of savings, the shopper must be extra savvy while shopping in them.

Know Your Prices

The common misconception is that if it is sold in bulk in a warehouse setting it must be cheaper than shopping in a large chain grocery store. However, many of the items are actually more expensive in the bulk store. Do the math and calculate the price per piece at the bulk stores while comparing the items to your regular grocery prices.

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Where's the Store Brand?

Most wholesale clubs aren't interested in offering generic or store brand products. This could mean higher prices if you're used to generic items at the grocery store. While the wholesale club could offer a great deal on a dozen cans of Green Giant peas, if you're used to purchasing the store brand you'll notice a higher price when buying wholesale.

No Coupons?

Many wholesale clubs do not accept manufacturer's coupons while most frugal shoppers don't hit the stores without them. If you only purchase Cheerios when you have a $1 off two coupon, that means the wholesale club needs to offer a double pack of Cheerios $1 less than the retail store to compete with the prices.

The Price of Joining the Crowd

While some wholesale clubs once offered memberships for $25, some have risen to $45 for a yearly membership. True, for many this cost is justified throughout the year in savings, but if you're a once is awhile shopper it's just not worth it. I recently consolidated my membership with my family. Three of us went in on the price of a membership ($45) and we make a family outing to the club together, allowing the person who holds the membership card to pay for the items in the end. Now I get to spend the afternoon with my family and save money; my two favorite things.

Do I really Want This?

Your last decision when deciding to join the club or not is to ask yourself, "Do I need this in bulk?" Many items have short lived shelf lives, and without proper storage and preservation you're forcing yourself to consume them quickly or waste your money. Focus on those items which store well or are consumed in high quantities. Watch out for bulk packs of cheese and luncheon meats that might be a great deal but won't be used before they expire. In essence, know what you need and what fits your budget and lifestyle.

About The Author: Kelly Ann Butterbaugh is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to a variety of magazines as well as online newsletters. She teaches writing in the public school as well as at the collegiate level. Contact her at Englishteach@rcn.com or visit her website at http://users.rcn.com/wesavedamutt/Writer

July 29, 20060 found this helpful

We generally only get stuff at our Sam's Club that we would buy anyway, like brand-name laundry detergent, "generic" baby wipes and pull-ups, and bottled water (I get it for work).

What has really saved us money with the membership has been the hotel discounts and gas discounts. Most hotel chains have a Sam's Club discount that makes the room rate a lot cheaper. Some Sam's Clubs have gas stations where members can save 2 to 4 cents per gallon. I would imagine other warehouse clubs have similar perks.

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July 29, 20060 found this helpful

Now that my 8 children are grown, I rarely use my Costco membership for food. However clothes for my grandkids are definately cheaper and it's certainly worth it to have membership for the gas discount prices.

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July 29, 20060 found this helpful

Well, I am NOT thrilled, my Costco membership just went up to $50. We called to cancel my card and just have one for my husband, as we always shop together now that we are retired. GET THIS, their story now is...well, one card is free and the other one is $50.!!

We called coporate head office and told them, that this will be our last year.

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