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Money & Finance
Articles: Money

Wholesale Club Shopping

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Introduction

Just what is the big deal these days with wholesale shopping? It seems like everyone has jumped onto the bandwagon and I have to wonder why. Are the deals that much better at the wholesale clubs or are people really going there for the convenience of buying in bulk?

We have been a member of a wholesale club for about three years now and in the beginning I did the majority of my shopping there. This was a time when we had a lot more money in our bank then we do now and I did not take the time to do the pricing research. I now buy items at the wholesale club, but my approach to it is a little different then it once was. I am now an educated consumer so I know what is a good deal and what is not. Not so surprising is the fact that I was buying a lot of things thinking bigger meant cheaper. This is what the wholesale market would have you believe as well, but bigger does not necessarily mean cheaper- so it is important that you too are an educated consumer before you step into the wholesale clubs.

Defining Wholesale Clubs

First off, just what is a wholesale club? Wholesale clubs offer to their member's items that you can buy in bulk at a "reduced cost." There are three major competitors in the wholesale market that you can choose from- Sam's Club, B.J.'s and Costco. Most of these clubs along with offering items in bulk also offer other services such as pharmaceuticals, film development, optical services, books, and clothing items.

In exchange for allowing you to buy these items in bulk at a reduced cost, they require that you pay a yearly membership fee to be able to make these purchases.

I will break down the membership fees and special deals that are offered for each club so that you can see whether or not gaining a membership to these clubs is worth it for you.

First, I will begin with some money-saving tips for wholesale shoppers.

Tips

  1. Wholesale shopping is truly used to its advantage for people who have large freezers. A good portion of the deals in this store is in the frozen foods section and in the meat department. If you don't have a deep chest freezer, it is highly recommended in order for you to take full advantage of your membership.
  2. Bring your calculator with you when you shop there. One mother shared with me that she noticed that most of the items in the wholesale stores do not offer a price per unit so that you can figure out what each unit costs and to see if it is a good deal or not. Usually instead of a cost per unit, they offer information such as a cost per pallet, which is invaluable to you as a consumer. Record this information into your price book and do price comparisons to ensure that you are getting the best deals for your family. As stated above, buying bigger isn't always better especially if you have a very detailed price book that tells you if your local grocery stores offer lower prices on the items.
  3. Don't buy in bulk if your family is not going to eat all of it. Buying in bulk can be a good deal, but if you end up throwing it out because the items have gone stale or moldy then it isn't really saving you any money. I usually do not buy things that go bad because with only three people in our house we often cannot finish these items. Things that I do buy are paper products and items that can be stored in our freezer.
  4. Don't get sidetracked while you are shopping. This seems like a no-brainer, but I guarantee that when you first walk into that warehouse, you will be quickly lured over to the areas that you had not anticipated spending money. It will not save money for your family if you end up spending it on impulse items. Trust me on this one!
  5. Call your local wholesale club and ask about one day passes to their clubs. Many will offer you a one-time opportunity to check the prices on the items and some clubs offer visitor days where you can purchase items. I often see these advertisements on the back of our Walmart fliers so always keep your eyes peeled for these types of opportunities.
  6. Want to take advantage of the wholesale club membership, but don't have the funds to purchase one? Be more creative about your purchasing. One good way to do this is to split the cost of membership with a friend. Club members can bring one guest with them into the club and if you do your shopping together you can save on the cost of the membership and get in some gab time as an added bonus. You can also split items with your friend if you don't feel that your family can eat all of it. The important thing to remember is that if you are the "guest" on the card then you need to remember to bring cash to pay for your purchases because many clubs will not accept guest checks.
  7. Most clubs will only accept checks, cash, and one credit card that they have a relationship with. Usually the card of choice is American Express or Discover, not the cards that all people carry. If you are fortunate to have one of these cards like Discover, use the card for your purchases. Discover offers a cash back rewards program and you can use the cash back to pay for the next year's membership. Be careful with the credit cards though or you will end up needing to visit our article on getting out of debt.
  8. Your local wholesale store is the best place to hit for lunches on a budget. Most of these places have pizza by the slice and large drinks for less than $2.50. The slices are the equivalent of two large slices and the drinks have free refills. Hot dogs are also big sellers at these locations and as with everything in the wholesale club- they are big. Keep this in mind if you are in need of a day off from cooking. This is one of my son's favorite places to eat and it is a cheap date for both of us.

Now we can begin breaking down the benefits of each club. If you have a membership to these clubs and want to share with us a particularly great deal that you got at the club, email us so that we can share this deal with our own MomAdvice club members.