Do You Save Money at Club Stores Like Costco and Sams Club?
It’s fun to be part of a club – you might get secret passwords, extra perks, and the feeling that you belong. But does joining a shopping club like Sam’s Club or Costco give you all those reasons and help you save money on your grocery bill?
Membership Fees – Are They Worth the Savings?
There is no simple answer to this question – every consumer will have their own needs and circumstances. If you are considering buying into a shopping club, begin by asking yourself a few questions to determine if the membership fees are worth your money.
- How far away is the club store from your home? I have about a 20 minute drive, and almost all of my other shopping needs are located in the same area. You need to consider how much gas and time you’ll be spending to get to the club store.
- How many people do you have living in your household? We are a family of 6, including teenagers (which can be more like a family of 12 with their appetites and their friends hanging out here). Even if you have a smaller household but you own your own business or do a lot of entertaining, the membership can still be worth it.
- Do you prefer to shop with coupons? Most club stores do not honor manufacturers’ coupons – a definite downside for me. Sam’s Club will offer you special discounts if you sign up for another level, and Costco puts out their own store coupons, but nothing beats a great $1.50 off coupon from the local paper.
- Does the club offer other specialty services? Our club has an automotive department where we always find the best deals on tires – enough to make up the membership fee. We also have a gas station that definitely saves, as it is usually at 5 cents or even cheaper than the stations on the same street. When we have 3 drivers in the family, this can add up to a lot of savings.
- What are you going to do with all that stuff? Buying in bulk only saves if you are going to use everything you purchase. It might not be a problem to store 36 rolls of toilet paper under your bathroom sink (and it’s not like it will expire or you’ll stop using it), but you need to make careful decisions when making other bulk purchases, especially when it comes to fresh foods. If you have the room to store the food and you regularly use the product, then it might be a deal for you.
Where Are the Deals in Club Stores?
The deals depend on your needs, but they can be found from the grocery aisle to the office section. Costco usually has great deals on organic produce, and Sam’s marks down their products on clearance like nobody’s business. Here are a few tips for finding the best deals at your local club store.
- If you drink milk, buy it at the club. We save $1 per gallon of milk we purchase, and we are known for buying 8 gallons at a time (we have an extra fridge in the basement and kids who love milk).
- Zip through the back ends of the aisles instead of the front end caps. The back is usually where you will find reduced prices on items.
- Know what you pay retail at other stores. Sometimes bulk prices are hard to decipher, so take notes at your regular store and then even bring a calculator to the club store to easily determine if the price is best.
- Learn the price codes. At Sam’s club the price tags above each product will have a small “C” for clearance, letting me know that this is a reduced price.
- Ask for a one-day pass before you commit to a membership, or look for one in your local paper. This will help you check out prices and compare them against your regular grocery list.