Buying in bulk has been a long-standing, popular piece of conventional money saving wisdom. Thanks to that conventional wisdom, the warehouse club circuit maintains a strong presence across the United States today. However, despite commonplace bulk-buying knowledge, how do you know if you are saving big bucks on your bulk buys versus shopping at the local grocer?
Buy what you can use, but what will keep
Things like canned goods and meat are usually money saving buys at warehouse clubs because it is easy to store those items in a freezer or pantry for up to a year -in most cases.
To find the best deal on these items, look at the unit price. The unit price is a smaller number on the price tag, usually highlighted in yellow. Compare the unit prices from your local grocer to the warehouse price tag, and there will be no doubt on where you are getting the best value.
Split it up
Consider splitting items (and their costs) with friends or family to save more money. This is especially beneficial when it comes to perishable items that would go to waste in most average homes. Things like cheese, milk and produce can be great warehouse buys, and stretch further when split up between family and friends.
Don’t just look at the price
Even though price tags on furniture, appliances and electronics at the local warehouse store might seem appealing, it is important to do your homework and know many items could be customized or packaged together for a better deal online, or even when buying from a local competitor. Use the pricing of these warehouse items as a baseline for making a purchasing decision, but not a reason to buy.
Know the policies
Some retailers accept coupons; others offer in store coupons and others only accept certain credit cards. For example, if you are planning to cash in using your cash back Visa at Costco, think again -Costco only accepts American Express, cash or debit cards. Make sure what you have in your wallet is something your warehouse store accepts, and make your warehouse selection based on this information.
Do the math
How much do you have to spend to justify your warehouse membership? If your membership costs $45 a year, and you make that up when you buy four cans of green beans, a case of wine and three cases of pork chops then your savings is justified, but if you only use the membership sparsely, your warehouse club membership is going to waste. Make sure the ends justify the means if you want to make the most out of your membership.
Consider a membership upgrade
If, after doing the math, you find that you spend more than $4,500 a year at a warehouse store, consider membership upgrade options to help maximize your membership. For example, both Costco and BJ’s offer shoppers a two percent cash back rebate program when they upgrade to a $100 a year Executive Membership.
Warehouse memberships are powerful money saving vehicles but only if you know how to use them to your advantage. Now that you do, big savings are in your hands.