Depending on how you shop, wholesale clubs can save you money or cost you money. These huge warehouse stores sell items in bulk quantities, usually at a good discount from your local supermarket. However, there’s a snag: they all require a membership fee of around $50 per year. While that isn’t a huge cost, before you sign up, you have to ask yourself –is it really worth it?
What are my wholesale club options?
In the U.S., you’ll find first tier club memberships starting at:
All three retailers accept Visa cards—and a bulk-buying shopping trip is a great way to rack up reward points with a PenFed Rewards Credit Card—but Costco doesn’t accept MasterCard, Discover, or American Express, while BJ’s and Sam’s do. Keep this in mind when you pick a wholesale club, because if they don’t accept your regular card, you’re only complicating your finances—and missing out on reward points!
Do wholesale stores have what you need?
Before deciding on a membership, be sure to browse the wholesaler’s website to see if they stock the brands you want. Wholesale clubs stock a wide range of groceries and household products, including clothes and furniture. However, the variety of brands is usually limited, so if you’re picky about having a specific brand, going wholesale may not be the best choice. This limited selection also means that you’ll still need to make a regular grocery store trip to pick up items your local wholesaler may not stock—or items you just don’t want to buy in large quantities.
These wholesalers stock far more than everyday groceries: they also often sell gasoline, tires, electronics, prescription drugs, and even vacations—all at good prices. If you’re likely to make use of low-cost goods beyond the grocery department, there are even more opportunities to save.
Is the wholesale club conveniently located?
Before you consider getting a membership, consider where the nearest wholesale club is located. Is it convenient to get to or would it be a long trek across town? If a club is conveniently located, it’s easy to stop by to pick up your groceries (or refill your gas tank)—but if it’s out of the way, you’re more likely to hit up your local supermarket, wasting the cost of your membership.
Bulk buying for savings
Buying in bulk often means big savings, but wholesale clubs make it all too easy to buy items in bulk that you won’t use in bulk—which can mean overspending and waste. To save while buying in bulk, keep these questions in mind:
- Is this something you’ll really use? It’s all too easy to pick something up because the price is great, but if you find you don’t like it, you may be stuck with a lot of something you don’t want.
- Will you use this item before it goes bad? Wasted food can quickly negate your savings. Check expiration dates and consider how long it will take for food to spoil. Items that you’ll go through quickly, can be frozen for later, or have a long shelf life, are your best buys. If you plan on getting anything that spoils quickly, like fresh produce, you’ll want to have a plan to cook it or freeze it so it doesn’t go to waste.
- Do you have space to store it? Buying in bulk leaves you with the problem of storing in bulk. It doesn’t matter how much you save if you don’t have enough pantry space to keep your haul of wholesale groceries.
With care, you can certainly save by buying in bulk—but be careful that you aren’t going overboard.
Stack your savings
Like any store; wholesale clubs have sales and coupons (though they don’t typically accept manufacturer’s coupons). A sale combined with a low warehouse price can be a real steal—but, as mentioned above, only if it’s a product you’ll actually use.
Don’t forget to cost compare
While there are plenty of wholesale steals, not everything at a wholesale club is a bargain. Be sure you compare costs before you buy, especially with big ticket items.