Shopping At Warehouse Clubs And Overspending

I was reading an article on Warehouse Clubs in a back issue of Consumer Reports and one thing I found interesting is they say that while the clubs CAN be great savings, often they don’t work out that way.

First it said, “Consumers will see a deal and buy too much and wind up throwing it away.” Or “they will simply eat more than they want, and wind up eating more and returning to purchase more.”

Second, it said, “Consumers will buy things soley because it’s a bargain and if in a traditional retailer would not buy it. They even have a tendency to buy things they don’t need.”

Third, “Because consumers have to pay a fee, they will return to the club, with the rationalization, ‘I paid for this so I have to get the most use out of it,’ this results in more overspending.”

And the list goes on.

Now to be fair, Consumer Reports does make it clear that warehouse clubs do have a good purpose IF one uses them correctly. The article does say most people simply don’t use them correctly

It goes on to say the best savings at Warehouse Clubs are

Milk, eggs, butter, flour
Prescription and OTC drugs
Wine and beer
Household cleaning products

My question to you, who have an account is, do you think your warehouse club is worth it? Do you see yourself doing any of the above?

What is the best buys you get at warehouse clubs on a regular basis (not a one time thing like a stereo), and what is the BEST one time thing you picked up at one. (Like in this case a stereo)

I have never belonged to one as I have a small place and no car so I have no wear to put anything, and frankly I’m the type of person who if he has food in the house will eat it. It keeps me thin to just no have the food in the house :slight_smile:

CostCo has cases of that organic chicken broth that comes in boxes. They keep for quite a while, and I always end up using the last one right before the expiration date.

That was my experience as well. I always felt like I HAD to buy 24 rolls of paper towels (a 2-3 year supply for me) to make the membership worth while. Unless you have a huge empty basement to use as a warehouse, it doesn’t make sense. And going there for a few marginally good deals like six pounds of butter for 99¢ a pound just wasn’t a good use of half an afternoon for me. I’d much rather spend 50¢ more at the local food mart and be done in a quarter of the time.

I can see how these places might make sense if you’ve got three generations living in the same house and ten kids to clothe and feed.

Me and my husband use Costco for laundry supplies, paper goods and some food items - for example, I can get a 2.5 lb brick of Tillamook sharp cheddar for the same price I’d pay at the Tillamook factory.

Having a freezer helps - we’ll buy the pre-made sirloin burgers and buns to freeze for later meals - and knowing what items you tend to go through a lot of helps as well. We both like to pack fruit in our lunches for work so twice a year we’ll pick up a case of applesauce cups and a case of peach/mandarin orange cups.
You can also find books and DVDs cheaper than anywhere else, even beating Amazon prices at times.

We save a shitload of money on those canned green teas and Monster drinks that my girlfriend likes. Those green teas cost like a fourth of the price that they do at the Oriental market. They’re also great for dishwasher soap and laundry detergent. So what if I only have to buy garbage bags once every two years. It’s not like they go bad.

The trick, for me, is to only buy things that I know I’m going to use. I only go about twice a year. Things which I typically buy are: boxed mac-n-cheese, canned goods, office supplies, tires.

I wouldn’t really know what my ‘best deal ever’ was.

I go to Grocery Outlet- lower prices, no insane quantities.

We get half and half at Costco, a lot of half and half. We are kind of junkies. We will pick up some meat - but its often in bigger quantities than I like and most of my meat comes from a local “small farm” farmer in the “grass fed, name the cows” sort of farm. I almost never buy vegetables there - quantities too large. But I’ll get rice and eggs and sugar (not flour, I don’t have room to store it), cleaning supplies, paper goods and canned goods, cheese. Also pharmacy items - like Advil - prescriptions are filled at our much closer Target. For us, its more of a once a month stop.

And it is easy to spend too much.

We did get our treadmill from Costco and feel like we got a good deal on it.

I sometimes use my free temporary pass before Christmas to buy things like hot cocoa packets, coffee, trail mix, granola bars, and such for Christmas presents. My friend had very wealthy parents and she gave them bales of toilet paper, trash bags, paper towels and such at Christmas - much appreciated, and useful! And those places have wonderful frozen appetizers and gift baskets and such that you really can’t find in an ordinary grocery store.

I suppose I’m overspending when I pick up t.p. and paper towels and such on a weekly basis at the Dollar Store which is nearby, instead of splurging on the Costco annual purchase. But it’s only a couple dollars a week and that stuff is cheaper than the grocery store.

We go to the $100 Club (aka Sam’s Club) about every two months, and we save a lot on breakfast cereal in the three bag boxes. Canned tomato products (sauce, diced, paste) are also cheaper in quantity, and have a long shelf life. We also buy large packages of pork chops, hamburger patties and chicken breasts. My Foodsaver vacuum sealer and my chest freezer were the best investments I ever made.

My family also uses Costco for stocking up on certain items, but after looking at the prices compared to a normal grocery store. With the Costco coupons there are many cleaning items that are cheaper and the bulk size helps to keep those things stocked in our house. Meat and cheese are much the same way. We will buy big blocks of cheese and break that down to use for individual meals. Buying an inexpensive block of cheese for your homemade pizza can save some money. Some meat is lower priced, and we use the ziploc vacum bags to freeze and store.

BUT - not all items are cheaper at Costco. We have found that diapers are a wash, but the bigger box is move conveient. Milk and ground beef are more expensive at Costco than at our local grocery store. The benefits of having multiple chains trying to win the market. Gas is also more expensive, as the grocery store gives us dsicounts based on what we spend there.

When I was still married, we had to go to Costco weekly just to keep my husband supplied with Gatorade (later G2). And carrots–big bags of carrots for the golden retrievers who ate carrots for lunch everyday. And we bought his bowflex and excercise bike there, which I gues would be my best deals if he had used them.

Now I live with my 2 adult daughters and my grandson. I still buy tp, paper towels, dog food, meat, OTC meds, batteries, canned and dried goods, kids clothes, bedding, all kinds of stuff.

I have an “executive” membership. Costs $100 a year but I get enough back at renewal time to pay for at least half of it, making that a better deal than the basic $50 membership.

I don’t over buy; we usually buy stuff we know we like. The only mistake so far was some soup I didn’t like. That kind of problem is easily solved by throwing stuff on the “take this, I hate it counter” at work.

I think I’m going to Costco today.

It can be easy to overspend, but it’s perfect to stock up on some things.

I try to be aware of my prices in general, and grab things we know we’ll use a lot of (Tomatoes, certain meats, canned veggies). If you’re aware of what you need and your prices it’s not so bad, we tend to go once every two-three months for a good stock up and about once a month or so for meat for the freezer.

Honestly, Sam’s Club is our lifeline. We go about once a month for the essentials. There are five of us to shop for, and we do a heck of a lot of comparison shopping: when we go into Sam’s, we know the prices of our items at the regular grocery stores and compare prices ounce per ounce. We don’t overspend, because we don’t have the money to overspend. But we absolutely adore Sam’s.

I do love Costco. Books, CDs, DVDs. Office supplies. A big thing of chicken breasts. My glasses and contacts. My husband’s junk food. Bigger ticket items, too, like electronics. But it’s rare to not spend between $100-$300 at a time.

I’m a fairly new COSTCO customer. We use it mostly for supermarket-type items.

My (purely anecdotal) obesrvation is that in general that for items that both COSTCO and my local (large) supermarket sell in the same quantities the prices are similar. The same goes for electronics sold at both COSTCO and Best Buy. After all, they’re all large companies with pretty good bargaining power over their suppliers.

The bargains seem to be on those items which COSTCO sells in larger quantities than their competitors do. Five pound bags of frozen broccoli florets or mixed vegetables are a lot cheaper than the equivalent amount sold in smaller bags at my local supermarket, for example, as are the large bags of frozen chicken breasts and salmon. We have a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer, and its freezer section is pretty much full of stuff from COSTCO.

And, of course, we have a closet full of COSTCO-purchased toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, Splenda, hot chocolate mix, etc, all purchased in ridiculously large quantities that we will use up eventually.

I’m told that you also occasionally see one-time items that COSTCO manages to purchase at a good discount and passes those savings along. My only experience with this is golf balls - I’ve purchased a couple of 24-packs of Titleist golf balls for $29/24-pack that my golf buddies tell me are a discontinued product. (I’m a lousy golfer, so as a practical matter it would have probably been more practical for me to have continued to purchase the 15-packs of Top-Flite golf balls for $12/15-pack at Kmart instead, so this was probably a dumb purchase on my part - but look at me, I’m playing Titleists!!!.)

The biggest problem that I’ve found is that often when you see something interesting you have to take a flyer on a large quantity of it. For example, I had to purchase a box of eight personal-size chicken pot pies to see if we liked them (fortunately we did).

Are those the Marie Callendar pot pies? With top and bottom crusts? We love those, and buy them every time we go to Sam’s club.

I love Costco. They are especially good value on bundled things, such as a PS3 or Wii bundled with two controllers, and two games. I also got a great deal on a Canon D50 SLR bundle. I got a second lens that retailed for over $200 AND a really nice bag that fit everything in snugly, for about the price that the local stores were charging for just the camera and basic lens.

Their opthamalogist charges $75 for eye exams, which beats the local LensCrafters by $25. And their contact lenses are way lower than LensCrafters, plus I always ask if there is a current rebate for buying x boxes (there are always ongoing promos) and always qualify for a $25-50 rebate. My daughter’s prescription changed within a year and they accepted all the old, unopened boxes back without question.

I signed up for Credit Monitoring through Costco and save $5 off per month ($7.49 a month with the Executive Membership).

Costco also gives the best discount on rental cars in Hawaii PLUS gives you one free additional driver, which saves me about $12/day.

Can’t beat DVD and book prices. Or their bags of chips, which are double the size and less than what you pay at the grocery store for the normal size.

Their sheet cakes with mousse filling are less than half the cost of what the local baker charges.

They offer a one year extended warranty on electronics, beyond what the manufacturer offers.

The downside is that if you are an impulse shopper, you will overspend. I’ve really tried to reign in my spending on things that aren’t on my list.

I love Costco.

(After sneaking a quick peek into the freezer) yes, they are.


Some items like strong 55 gallon trash bags or bagel chips are not stocked at other stores.

To figure out if it’s worth it you have to calculate the savings rate and divide that into the subscription rate to see if it’s worth it. Example: if you are saving 8% and it costs $40 a year then $40/.08 is $500. You must spend at least $500 to break even.

A note to single people. You can bring another person in on your card and split the difference which makes it more affordable.