One of the first things my wife and I did when we started living on our own was buy a Sam’s Club membership. Everyone always told us, “You know, you save a lot of money buying in bulk! That membership card is a life saver!”
Well, we use our membership card. A lot. But are we actually saving money shopping with our warehouse club membership as opposed to shopping at a regular grocery store? Well, I analyzed my spending habits and budget over the last year to see whether or not we were really saving money when we made bulk purchases.
What are the pros of warehouse club memberships?
Sometimes they stack deals.
When you shop at Sam’s Club, Costco or even make some bulk orders on Amazon, you can sometimes “stack” deals. Stacking deals means that you’re getting their products on sale and bundling coupons with it for a sort of “super deal.” I’ve used coupons successfully during shopping trips, which has saved me a good amount of money on my bulk purchases.
The stores sometimes send out ads with their “End of Season Savings” and temporary price drops, which can bring some incredible deals for you! I’ve used them for discounts on holiday-themed food storage containers, frozen food and more. You can also use cash-saving apps like ibotta and Checkout51 to stack even more deals on top of your purchases!
You can stretch out purchases instead of making them weekly or monthly.
I like to buy paper goods and cleaning supplies in bulk. This extends the amount of time between purchases, which I think is a good investment.
I find that it’s much cheaper to buy paper towels and toilet paper this way. I’m saving a couple of dollars each time I purchase one of those items, and it’s two less things to throw in my shopping cart every couple of weeks!
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You can save yourself time going to the grocery store.
How often are you going to the grocery store? Every other week, every week or even every day? You can cut back on this and save some precious time by buying in bulk.
By buying multiple of the same item that you find you’re regularly going to the store for, you don’t have to take time after work to go to the store. This is time you can spend with family or doing something in your downtime. After all, they say that time is money!
What are the cons of warehouse club memberships?
Sometimes you cannot use all of the food you buy.
It’s nice to save money and buy more than enough groceries, but sometimes you simply can’t use it all. 32 boxes of macaroni and cheese for $12 might seem like a great deal, but if you don’t use most of them, you’re still wasting money at the end of the day.
For freezer food, if you don’t have a way to track what food is in there, meat and other frozen items can easily go bad. More often than not, I’ve seen food go to waste that was bought in bulk simply because it was “cheaper” or a “better deal.” It’s not a deal if your money ends up in the trash!
Sometimes you don’t have enough proper storage for the purchase.
There have been plenty of times when we bought a lot of something and came to find out that we didn’t have enough storage for it when we got home.
While you might have a lot of condiments, cans of food or cleaning supplies that you bought for a low price, you may not have room in your pantry or storage cabinet for all of them. Suddenly it’s a couple of months in, and re-sealable plastic storage bags and paper towels are falling out of every cabinet in your house!
There are so many cans of vegetables and boxed side dishes that you can’t close your pantry. Your freezer is packed to the brim with food that is a “really great deal.” This isn’t your house anymore. This house now belongs to the groceries.
Yeah, that’s really, really dramatic, but there is such a thing as too many groceries. Just because you can buy everything in bulk doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.
It costs lots of money up front, which impacts your budget.
I have no clue what your budget looks like, but mine is pretty set in stone. I try not to go overboard on my grocery shopping often since it impacts how much I’ll save for that pay period.
For me, regular shopping trips to Sam’s Club come with a hefty price tag. Getting every single thing on your shopping list may cause you to spend a couple hundred dollars just for bulk packages of groceries. Then you’ll ultimately be back later that week because you forgot to add something to your shopping list.
I found that it was a pretty hefty cost each shopping trip, which means I had to allocate my budget in different ways. Plus, I could never get everything on my shopping list there, so I had to make extra shopping trips.
What are some other options instead of buying in bulk?
Shop the local sales ads for meat.
Trying to buy meat on a budget can seem like a pretty daunting task. Thankfully, there is a LOT you can do to save money on that part of your groceries. I always suggest shopping your local supermarkets first.
Find out what day their weekly sales ads come out, and check them on that day. For me, Rouses and Carter’s ads come out on Wednesday. I jump on their websites during my lunch break to see what deals they’re advertising. I also take note of the lowest prices of each type of meat so that I know whether or not it’s a good deal.
Shop local supermarkets or famer’s markets for fresh produce.
For produce, I recommend shopping at local supermarkets and buying the seasonal produce or going to your local farmer’s market. The farmer’s market is usually going to have the best deals, and you’ll be supporting local farmers as well!
I find that you will also get more interesting produce from the local farmer’s market, whereas the fruits and vegetables at the supermarket are usually picked through for “perfection.” Who cares if the carrots are ugly? You’ll be cooking it anyway, right?
Who is a warehouse membership good for?
Warehouse memberships may be right if you have a larger family.
For now, it’s just my wife and me, so it doesn’t make sense for us financially to keep the warehouse membership. However, if we had a larger family to buy for, I would definitely recommend getting one at your local Costco or Sam’s Club.
Seeing as you need to keep stock of more since you have extra people to provide for, less would go to waste, and you’d be able to take advantage of the convenience and savings provided by warehouse memberships.
Warehouse memberships are great for people who “grocery share.”
Grocery sharing is as if you lived with a roommate and split the cost of the groceries each shopping trip. Only instead of a roommate, it’s another family.
Multiple families have started taking advantage of “super bulk buying” items from warehouse stores and splitting the groceries and the cost, bringing their price per item down way below the normal prices. They find some family or friends, save their receipts and split up the cost of all the goods. They then request or send payment to each other, and that’s it.
If you’re a smaller family who grocery shares, then warehouse memberships may be good for you.
Warehouse memberships are a good idea for people who want more free time.
If you don’t mind spending a little extra when you go to the store and are determined to go shopping less, then warehouse memberships may be just the thing you need!
It’s a great feeling to only go to the store once a week, every two weeks or even once a month. You spend less time in the store and more time at home. After all, time spent with family is time you can’t put a price on, right?
Is a warehouse membership worth the money?
The answer? It depends on how you use it and what you use it for.
If you’re trying to use it to replace shopping at a grocery store and you don’t have a large family, this may not be the right choice for you. If you have a larger number of family members or you grocery share, then by all means, get a warehouse membership.
While it is great for household items and cleaning supplies, it’s hard for my wife and me to justify a $45 yearly membership fee to what amounts to a couple of dollars’ worth of savings. I’ll be honest—we end up buying a lot of stuff we don’t need when we have a warehouse membership.
Look over the pros and cons and decide for yourself. Is this something that could save you money, or would it have a negative impact on your budget overall?
Do you save money with a warehouse membership? Let us know in the comments!
Lover of writing, learning and teaching others about new things. Proud foodie. Sometimes I mix all of these subjects together.