Is getting a Costco or Sam’s Club membership worth it? Does a wholesale club membership really save money?
It’s not as cut and dry as you might think.
For some people a wholesale club membership is a no-brainer, but for others it’s a huge waste of money.
How about for YOU? Is a Sam’s Club, Costco or BJ’s club membership worth it to you? Here are some ways to figure out for yourself if it will save you money or be a waste of money.
Do the math
It’s easy to get tricked into thinking that buying in bulk is a better deal if you don’t do the math. My Sam’s Club makes it really easy to compare prices by putting the price per unit (per oz, per item, etc) right on the price sign.
As you compare the club prices with traditional grocery stores (or stores like Winco and Aldi), you’ll see that some items are in fact a great deal, while others are much more expensive than what you would otherwise pay.
I am careful to buy only the items I know are actually a deal at Sam’s Club. I get almost everything else at Winco, which has lower prices on most items. If you want to shop at one store and get everything you need, you’ll probably spend more at a wholesale club store.
Beware of impulse buys
Impulse shopping is extra dangerous somewhere like Sam’s Club or Costco. You need to control your impulse shopping so that you’re not spending all the money you should be saving by getting a great bulk deal.
If you’re craving chocolate as you’re cruising through the store, you can’t just grab a little bag of M&Ms. You either get a box with 50 little bags or a giant 5lb bag, both which have a much higher price tag than the little treat you would have grabbed at the regular grocery store.
Impulse buys at the Target dollar spot or the Walmart clearance section are much easier on the wallet than spontaneously springing for a new patio set.
If you find yourself buying things you would not have purchased at a regular store, things that weren’t even on your list, then having a wholesale club membership might not be a good idea for you.
Watch the expiration
Buying in bulk may not be a good investment for your family if the product would go bad before you could consume it.
At Costco, milk is sold in two gallon bundles. If you won’t drink two gallons before it will go bad, then it’s not worth the savings (unless you get familiar with my tips for what to do with milk that is about to expire)!
If a club membership is worth it to you in other regards, there are ways to avoid wasting food. For example, when I open a huge can of pineapple tidbits, I use what I need then freeze what’s left in a couple of quart size freezer bags. Knowing what you can freeze and how to not let your produce go bad will solve a lot of your problems!
Consider the cost of a wholesale club membership
Be sure to take into consideration the price of the membership when figuring out if it’s a good investment for you.
Here’s how I look at it:
We have a membership at Sam’s Club which costs $45 per year (If you’re new you can get a $20 Sam’s Club gift card when you join).
That’s roughly $4 a month. I need to save more than $4 over what I would pay at traditional grocery stores to make the membership worth it.
We more than pay for our membership just in the savings on milk. Where I live, milk at Sam’s Club is around a dollar less per gallon than it is at regular grocery stores. The savings on milk alone is enough to cover the cost of the membership. The 16 oz container of fresh baby spinach is also at least a dollar less than I find anywhere else. The cheese, string cheese, sour cream, and cottage cheese are all much cheaper too.
I like to pay for our membership out of our regular grocery budget just to remind us that there is a price to the savings we get with our membership. Plus, it’s what makes the most sense for us since we most often use our membership to buy groceries.
Get a deal on a wholesale membership club if you can
Obviously, the better the price you can get on the price of a wholesale club membership, the more likely it is to be valuable to you.
If you’re a new member (or your membership expired more than 6 months ago), you can sometimes find great deals on Groupon, Zulily and Living Social . I’ll keep this post up-to-date with the current deals available for Sam’s Club and Costco.
Here’s the current best deal:
- Get a $20 Sam’s Club gift card when you sign up for a membership and the regular membership is only $45! That makes the membership essentially $25, when you take into consideration the gift card.
So will a club membership save you money?
The only one who can know if a membership club will really save you money is you. Don’t make assumptions based on what friends, family, or even well-intentioned bloggers choose to do.
Whether or not a club membership is worth it to you or not may change depending on your season in life. We have not always had a membership, but right now it really makes sense for us.
Taking everything into consideration, if a wholesale membership club is worth it to you, don’t be afraid to go for it!
If it doesn’t make sense for you at this point in your life, don’t feel like you’re missing out.
How about you?
- Is a wholesale membership club worth it to you? Why or why not?
- What club membership do you have? What makes it worth it to you?
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