“Are warehouse memberships worth it?” This is a frequent question that comes up when I am teaching my coupon classes. The short answer is, “It depends!” I wish it were a simple “yes” or “no” but there are a lot of factors to consider if a warehouse club membership is going to be worth it for your family. Here’s a short list of things to think about.
- Membership Fees – All of the Big Three warehouse chains – Sam’s Club, Costco, and BJ’s – have an annual membership fee that ranges from $40 to $55. There are also “premium memberships” that run about $100 per year, which offer special cash-back deals for high volume shoppers. If you have a small business, you purchase a business membership and deduct your dues as an expense. So, before you start calculating your warehouse club savings, you’ll need to make up for that annual fee.
- Coupons – Not all warehouse clubs take manufacturer coupons. Sam’s Club and Costco do not accept manufacturer coupons but do offer some store coupons to members. BJ’s has the best coupon policy of the warehouse stores, accepting both manufacturer coupons and store coupons that can be used together for extra savings.
- Family Size – The larger your family, the more likely you are to save money at a warehouse club. Because it’s just my husband and me in our household, we do not need 6 huge jars of peanut butter. They would spoil before we could use them! However, if you have four kids who love peanut butter, you may very well find your best price per ounce at a warehouse club. Buying bulk will only save you money if your family will use the food before it expires.
- Meat & Produce – After polling my Facebook fans and fellow coupon queens, it came to light that warehouse clubs have some great deals on meat and produce. An overwhelming majority said that Sam’s Club meat prices are consistently lower than their local grocery stores. Coupons for meat and fresh veggies are far and few between, so this may be worth checking out. Drugstore items such as vitamins and over–the-counter medications were also mentioned as good deals to snag.
- Check It Out – Most warehouse clubs will allow you to check out the store prices before you decide to join. Call your local club to see how you can do that or tag along with a friend or family member who has a membership. Take a pad of paper or snap pictures on your phone of deals so you can calculate the price per unit and compare it with your grocery store deals before plunking down the membership fee.
- Fringe Benefits – Most warehouse clubs have other products and services at good prices, such as tires for your vehicle, furniture, office supplies, contact lenses, clothes, books, and toys. So, when you go to check out your local warehouse club, be sure to look into these items as well. Most clubs also have a clearance section, so don’t miss it.
Now it’s time to consider if a warehouse club is right for your individual situation. Personally, I do not shop at one. I used to have a Sam’s Club membership through my previous employer. It seemed that whenever I would go there, I’d wander around for an hour and only come out with one or two items. Plus, it’s a bummer that they don’t take manufacturer coupons. With only two people in my family, we don’t need to buy too much in bulk. I’m already getting great prices on my produce through my local food co-op. However, I am intrigued with good prices on meat… So, maybe I will go and give Sam’s Club another look sometime soon.