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By the author of What School Should Have Taught You.
So there’s a Sam’s Club or a Costco in your neighborhood. As you drive by, you regularly notice that the parking lot is absolutely packed, and it’s left you wondering whether or not those membership warehouse stores are actually a place where you can save money.
The idea of having to pay for a membership card just to shop at a store slightly nauseates you, but you have to ask: why do so many other people seem to feel like it’s financially worth it? Are they onto something? Let’s take a look…
Are the goods themselves cheaper at membership warehouse stores?
I have noticed that the prices on items at bulk stores can offer significant savings. For example, when I ran my bubblegum machines, Sam’s Club consistently was the best place to buy peanut M&Ms and gumballs.
I couldn’t find anybody else that could compete with their prices (nor could I find anybody else that sold giant boxes of gumballs).
However, I’ve also noticed that you have to be price savvy when you shop at these places. Sometimes you will find that your local grocery store is in fact cheaper for particular items than will be the bulk goods store.
Overall, I would say that you can typically save money on what you’re purchasing at warehouse stores. But, you do need to know what it is that you’re looking at.
Warehouse stores’ gasoline offers amazing savings.
One thing that I think there’s no question on here whatsoever, is that these stores can save you a significant amount of money on gasoline. Oftentimes you can get 30 cents and up off of a gallon of gas with these businesses.
They’re not always the most conveniently placed gas stations for you to make a run to in town, and there is typically a lengthy line to fill up, but that could end up saving you a lot of money if you have a big SUV or truck that would cost you $70-100/tank to fill up otherwise.
Discounted lunches absolutely rock.
Let’s say that you’re out on the road, you didn’t pack a lunch or a cooler with you, it’s lunchtime, and you absolutely have to have something to eat.
I’ve found myself in this situation a couple of times, and when I do, I’m already hangry, but then there’s the added frustration of trying to stay on a budget but knowing I’m going to have to run somewhere to pick up food.
If you don’t want to spend $10 at a fast food joint when this happens, you may be able to get by with picking up a cheap (and unhealthy) lunch at one of the restaurants in your local warehouse stores. Hot dogs and pizzas are typically present inside and are about as cheap as it gets.
You can get some nice savings on gift cards at bulk goods stores.
One of the cool things I’ve discovered about these stores is that you can typically buy gift cards here at a discount. While you may be picking up $150 worth of gift cards, you might only end up spending $130-$140.
It’s not a huge savings, but every little bit that you can keep in your pocket helps. If you’re gearing up for Christmas shopping and are going the gift card route for all of the people on your list, this is a very appealing option to keep in mind.
There are occasionally travel packages that you can buy here at a heavy discount.
Let’s say that your family has had its heart set on traveling to SeaWorld in Orlando. If that’s the case, and you want substantial ticket savings without being suckered into sitting through a stupid timeshare meeting, then you may want to take a look at your local bulk goods store.
They frequently offer travel packages that can save you a good amount of money.
The jewelry selection actually isn’t bad.
I’m not a jewelry guru, but I do know a thing or two about engagement rings and wedding bands. One of the things I’ve discovered is that men’s wedding band prices at warehouse stores actually aren’t half bad. If you’re just now starting out with life on your own, and there’s a wedding in your near future, this may be another potential benefit of a membership to one of these warehouse stores.
You’ll get access to their tire selection.
Where I live, there is one store that consistently has the lowest tire prices in town. The only problem? The guy who runs the place is a Grade-A jerk. I refuse to shop there simply because of that dude. If I’m going to be treated as an inconvenience, then I will refuse to inconvenience you. I’ll spend my money elsewhere.
Like it or not, you’re going to have to buy tires every once in a while. If you have a membership to one of these stores, then you have another potential store that you can shop from to get them.
In my personal experience, the prices are very affordable at these stores. I just haven’t had the best of luck with the employees being able to get them on the car in a timely manner. I think the last time I went to one of these stores for this, I waited in the store for three hours. Yes, I was the weird guy sitting on the display couch watching Lord of the Rings.
Hopefully, you have better employees at your bulk good store tire shop, though. And if that’s indeed the case, you could save a few hundred dollars this way – potentially per year.
So is the cost of a membership worth it?
I think it is. When I take all of the above factors combined, I can’t think of any reasons why it wouldn’t save you money to have one of these memberships to warehouse stores.
But hey, those are just my thoughts.
What are yours? Are there other ways to save money at warehouse stores I didn’t list? Let us know in the comments below.
Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, What School Should Have Taught You, The Faithful Prepper, An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.
8 thoughts on “Can Membership at Warehouse Stores Save You Money? ”
I do not have a membership because I am older and live alone. I simply cannot use up large quantities of stuff. However, a friend of mine frequently takes me and we use her card.
I buy books, really nice quality sweatshirts, cans of baked beans and soups and veggies, and paper goods. That being said, these last me for awhile. I am considering getting an Insta Pot.
I do not see a lot of older people there; it’s mostly middle aged men and women. If I had a large family, I would go there also for a lot of things.
I’ve been a Costco member since 2001 (and Sam’s since 2022), and the memberships are worth it. Funny you mention the cheap lunches. Several years ago, my wife and I (and pre-toddler) were on vacation in Colorado. We stopped off at a Costco on I-25 to tank up. She said, “Wanna go in and get a hot dog?” Sure enough, we bought lunch for a total of three dollars. Or I could have gotten two enormous pieces of an 18″ pizza and a drink for less than five bucks (more than enough for us).
Now that the kids are growing, we make good use of the Costco food court when we travel! Gas is usually 20 cents less per gallon, and the place is a prepper’s paradise.
Of note, we bought our wedding rings through Costco. We also had them create our wedding cakes! Man, I’m thrifty!
I am an older person and there’s just the two of us. I shop irregularly at Costco because it’s the best place to stock up. We are diligent about keeping our food supplies and other often used items like supplements, body maintenance products, and paper goods stocked. They also have freeze-dried products. I keep a running list of items we use, put them on the Costco list and when it’s sufficiently lengthy, I go shopping. So I may go to Costco about every other month or so. The total spent always makes me gasp a bit but averaging it out over the year, it’s definitely a savings.
Price is only part of the decision criteria for making purchases. A long time ago when I created a purchasing operations manual for an oil tool company with a hundred million dollar annual purchasing budget, I had to emphasize that service and quality were the other two pillars of that three part decision process. In the case of Sam’s Club I had to decide whether company dishonesty was a relevant aspect of the service pillar. I had taken a short term temporary job as a sales rep for a Sam’s Club opening in a large city. I brought in some of the most significant local businesses as members. I got to meet and shake hands with Sam Walton for whom I had enormous respect. He promised that the entire sales crew would have a free lifetime membership for access to any Sam’s Club in the country. I kept shopping at Sam’s Club for the few years remaining in Mr. Sam’s life … even though there was a conflict between the company’s claim to be a reliable supplier for small businesses despite again and again I would develop an appreciation for various products from Sam’s Club … after which they would be discontinued. In fact they were operating as a product liquidator instead of a reliable product supplier.
Then sometime after Mr. Sam died … the company lowered the boom. They disavowed Mr. Sam’s lifetime promise of a no-cost membership to that original sales crew. It was announced to me verbally with the sleazy phrase “We just discontinued that class of membership.” Between the highly irritating reliable product supplier lie and the dishonest breaking of Mr. Sam’s membership promise I haven’t been back to any Sam’s Club ever since.
Regarding grocery suppliers I found that Winco (if you have one within reasonable driving distance) is a superb grocery supplier for quantity purchases … with no membership requirement or fee.
We have a large family and shop at Costco frequently. We got the more expensive membership and honestly have only paid for the membership once since our annual “cash back” always covers the next years membership fee plus some. For us it’s been very much worth it because we would be buying large amounts of TP and foodstuff anyway. I make an every other week run to Costco and pretty much all we eat is from there with a few fill ins from a local health food store and Azure. They seem to have better prices and more selection that the Sams that’s a bit closer to us so we chose to only do Costco.
We’ve found that the sizes of items are too large – even when the kids were growing up (Sam’s “Club”). Costco came to the area but IMHO, not worth the drive. Watching sales at other stores works for us. As to tires, been patronizing a locally owned tire shop for almost 40 years. We might pay a few bucks more for a set of tires but they have competent help – help that is also involved in the community.
Always have and always will have no use for “cash back” – there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Instead of a membership to one of the bulk buying warehouse stores, I discovered an online bulk buying service – boxed.com. there are no membership fees, and I do save a great deal of money over shopping at a grocery store in several ways.
1. I am shopping from home, and so I don’t need a list, because I can get up and go see if I need that item. So I reduce the “oops! I have a dozen of that!” And “oops! I meant to get ____”, which might result in another trip to the store.
2. There are a lot fewer incidences of impulse buys of items that look good/interesting on the shelf.
3. I can SEE my total as I am shopping , and so I have better control over how much I’m spending. I can take items out BEFORE I get to the “registers”, or as has occassionally happened, if I find a cheaper (by volume) item later, I can replace my item with the cheaper one.
4. My past purchases are in a “buy again” tab so that it’s super easy to replace items i use frequently.
5. I buy most things in bulk, many purchased at a lower price that the per item cost at the grocery store. Stocking up is one of the recommendations for inflation-proofing one’s budget.
6. I am shopping from home and having it delivered, which means I save a little on the cost of driving to the store and back.
7. While it doesn’t save money, per se, there is something pretty awesome about not having to deal with crowds.
And 8. The online platform is a lot less overwhelming than the massive displays at the in person bulk buying stores.
Since I started buying most of my food through online stores like boxed.com and Misfits, my grocery bill has gone down buy more than a third.
We’ve had a Sam’s membership for over 30 years and it has saved us a ton of money. I’m a bargain shopper (I also shop at Win-co and Aldi) and know who has the best deals. Everything at Sam’s isn’t a good deal, but most things are. We have the premium membership; the cash back pays for the annual fee + some extra. The real savings is on things like RX, over the counter medicine, cheese, toilet paper, peanut butter, water, canned goods, sugar, flour, oil, gift cards, pet food, cat litter and more. You just have to know the prices. And not all Sam’s Clubs have the same prices or exactly the same stock. After biden’s price hikes, one of the Sam’s we frequent has had gas for .25 less per gallon that the next cheapest place.