Are Warehouse Memberships Worth It?

February 19, 2013 | Posted By: Christine Luken

“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.

Cash Back Resources


Additional Resources

Sam's Club Coupons
BJ's Coupons
Walmart Coupons
Peapod Coupons
Amazon Coupons
Walgreens Coupons
CVS Coupons
Is Couponing Worth It?
Coupon Shopping in 2013: 6 Tips to Get You Started
6 Tips To Keep You From Committing Coupon Fraud
Mistakes Coupon Newbies Make
Real Men Use Coupons!

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February 19, 2013 | Posted By: PhattyPatty
Sometimes the savings on one single product that you purchase regularly can justify the cost of the the membership. For example say you use Newman’s Own Organics Special Blend Extra Bold Coffee K-Cup and you normally pay about 66.5¢ per cup. At Sam's Club you pay only 46¢ per cup. While you're only saving 20¢ per k-cup, if you drink a cup a day your savings will be equal to the cost of the membership after a little over six months.

Active and retired Military as well as students (with ID and .edu e-mail) receive a $15 gift card when joining Sam's Club.
February 19, 2013 | Posted By: fwbuckeye
We don't shop a lot at Costco. The membership does come with the AMEX card though. I use that a lot and with the various AMEX promotions I usually come out ahead in savings then the cost of the membership. Also when I do buy something at Costco (i.e TV etc) its nice to get the extra warranty for free (essentially 2 years).
February 19, 2013 | Posted By: thebigred67
No one should shop at Sam's Club. They treat employees like dirt and use government welfare like a perks system.
February 19, 2013 | Posted By: drblevins
If you are buying Tires, milk or Fuel, the savings realized will more than off-set the cost... If your buying in bulk then much of it is value add. If your single, dont buy in volume, and dont live close to one then dont waste your money.
February 19, 2013 | Posted By: vcarpio
We live in a rural place with few department stores. Sam's Club sells department store stuff so we need to be a member to increase our family's shopping alternatives. I guess that makes the membership fee "not worth" for us as we don't do our groceries there, only the occasional merchandise like sneakers, disposable plates, pool chemicals, etc.
February 19, 2013 | Posted By: kristalsebay
When I shop at grocery stores, I buy store brand or off-brand items, which save a lot of $$. I've found that Warehouse type stores sell specific name brands: like only Colgate toothpaste, or only Schick razors, or only A-1 brand steak sauce. Yes, you might get those name brands a bit cheaper by buying them in bulk, but I still save a LOT more by buying the same items, just in an off-brand, at a non-warehouse store.
February 19, 2013 | Posted By: gh77027
Sam's Club and Costco have great prices on personalized business checks. But so does Walmart. The problem with buying the big packages of food, cleaners, etc. at the warehouse stores is not just that they will spoil before you use them, it is where do you have room to store these things in your house. The multipack of 1 liter bottles of mouthwash, the 12 or 24 pack of paper towels, and the giant boxes of soap powder take up lots of room. If you have the room and are going to use it, it can be a great buy, but you have to check the prices carefully because sometimes they are not much better than at Walmart.
February 19, 2013 | Posted By: timx
I live in a competitive market (Chicago suburbs) If you shop the sales at the grocery stores (or even sales based stores like Target or Kmart) you can beat Sams Club and Walmart every time... My town has Sams and Walmart in the same parking lot and sometimes I find the Walmart price is cheaper.
February 19, 2013 | Posted By: roborankfrank
Who has ever seen a 6 pack of peanut butter? Blogger does not know the stores!

You look at the whole package, not just one part.
February 19, 2013 | Posted By: workingschmo
Like anything else - you need to do your homework. The average total purchase at most of these clubs is approx. $300. That likely means that you are picking up some good deals on some stuff and not-so-great on others - especially on impulse items. The other key discussion point is - brands. If you are a die hard major national brand person you might do better at the clubs. However, thanks to the anemic economy - the major brands have been heavily promoting and issuing tons of coupons so it would appear that being a smart shopper would negate the benefits of the clubs. And finally - related to brands - private label brands have come a long way and are certainly good alternatives to the major labels. So, in summary, if you can live with store brands, use coupons and do your homework (via Fatwallet or other deal sites) you will beat not only the clubs but discounters like Walmart and Target as well.
February 20, 2013 | Posted By: MarsdenFubar
I tend to use a lot of store brands, and coupons so I don't think I would see much savings using a warehouse club. If you are a very brand centric person, and have a large family, I can see the appeal of them.
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