Part of the appeal of warehouse clubs is that by paying $50 to $110 a year, you get deals on everything. But are you really making the most of those offerings? Joining a warehouse club such as Sam’s Club or Costco can save you money, but only if you maximize your membership. Here are a few ways to get the most from being a warehouse club member.
1. Keep comparison shopping.
Clubs offer discount prices on lots of items, but they’ll also price some products higher. For example, food and batteries can cost half as much as what you’d pay at a regular grocery store, but appliances and some electronics can cost as much as 20 percent more. The bottom line: Don’t assume everything at your warehouse club will be cheaper. Do your research, shop around and figure out exactly what you should buy there.
2. Use your membership to get deals.
With all the tangible goods warehouse clubs offer, it’s easy to forget about the other, intangible savings you can find. Whether you need a break on movie tickets, car rentals, eye care, banking or travel, your warehouse club probably has a deal for you.
3. Make sure your spending justifies your membership level.
Top-level memberships cost more than $100 but get you money back on most of your purchases. In general, you need to spend about $2,600 at a warehouse club yearly to break even after paying that membership cost. If you’re single, you can find a friend or relative to split the cost with, but decide how you’ll divide the rebates.
4. Use your perishables.
Toothpaste, deodorant and laundry detergent last seemingly forever. Not so for fresh fruit, cheese and the like. If you’re buying bulk food only to end up tossing a lot of it when it spoils, you’re better off saving your money and buying at a regular grocery store.
5. Bypass impulse buys.
Impulse buys can be killer. It’s hard to say no when you see glittering TV screens and iPads, even if you’re at the club only for groceries. If you really want something, write down what it is and its price. Put the note somewhere visible. If you still want it 30 days later, then, and only then, should you seriously consider it.
6. Get a membership only if the club is convenient to you.
The savings that a warehouse club brings you unravel if you have to drive 45 miles every week to get there, especially when gas prices are so high. Opt instead for a store closer to you.