Thursday, March 29, 2007

Warehouse clubs can save money

I think that a lot of people are wary about joining warehouse clubs (such as Sams, Costco, or BJs) because they require an initial investment -- and their prices aren't *that* much of a discount. My husband and I are members of BJs, and we do like it, but we were curious if we were saving any money. So I did a rough cost analysis.

We paid $40 for our membership, through a special at JM's work (more on that below). The most common items we buy from there are milk and gas for the cars. The milk is typically $0.40 cheaper than any of the other grocery stores (except when they are having a sale, at which point it's pretty much all the same), and the gas is about $0.08 per gallon cheaper than the other stations. We go through about 3 gallons of milk per month, and we go through about 38 gallons of gas per month. The three gallons of milk nets us a savings of $1.20 per month, or $14.40 a year. The 38 gallons of gas saves us $36.48 per year. So if we only bought gas and milk, we have saved $50.88 -- a net of $10.88 savings.

This of course is just an estimate. If you have a large family (which we do not), the savings could be much more. Or if you drive all over town, this could also be a big area of savings. One thing I would like to buy from BJs is eggs. JM and I are a bit snobby when it comes to eggs -- we only eat vegetarian-fed hen eggs, which are quite expensive. However, the BJ price for 18 healthy eggs is exactly the same price as the regular grocery store price for 12 healthy eggs. If only we went through eggs that fast.....

One point of note: we got a nice discount on the membership price. If we hadn't had the discount, we probably wouldn't be saving much money (if at all) by shopping there. Make sure to check with your husband's work to see if they have any employee benefits. Most large companies have deals with all sorts of different companies (appliances, online stores, warehouse clubs, etc), so make sure you aren't leaving money at work!

Another great way to save at Costco and Sams is through prescription drugs (BJs no longer has a pharmacy). The warehouse clubs have a different pricing scheme than the traditional pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens. This means that the price of a generic drug at CVS might cost you $80, but only $12 at Sams. And I'm not making those numbers up. The even bigger deal is that in most states you don't even have to be a member to fill your prescriptions there! We don't have a Costco membership, but if we wanted to we could walk in and take advantage of the savings. My mom has done this for years with Sams. She would fill my sister's contacts prescriptions through them, even when she didn't have a membership. This saved her a lot of money, and she never even had to pay the membership fee.

Be sure to check out Frugal Fridays for more great tips on saving money.

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  • Alexandra

    There's just four of us, and I had a membership to a warehouse club a long time ago. We didn't seem to be saving anything, so we never renewed.

    Maybe it's because we cook from scratch, but it's less expensive(and healthier) for us to shop at Save-A Lot or sales at Food Lion.

  • JunkMale

    Hey now...we cook from scratch most of the time ;)

    But of course, what works for us might not work for others. That prescription drugs thing might save you money if the gas/milk doesn't.

  • devildogwife

    I like BJs because you can use coupons which you can't (at least last time I checked) at Sams or Costco.

    I didn't realize that you could take advantage of the prescription drugs there even if you're not a member.

  • Mrs. Pear


    We have a Costco membership (discounted through work) and I find that on their canned goods (tomatoes, veggies, etc) I cannot do better, as well as on cheese and a lot of meats.

    But then again, we don't have a good discounted grocer in our area!

    And I have done very well getting gifts there in the book, clothing and gift departments!

  • Laura

    I am looking forward to us getting a membership at our local Sam's club. Like Mrs. Pear, I like the prices on canned foods, and the prices on butter and cheese are excellent!

    Harmony, I hear you about the veg-fed eggs - we do the same thing. We are fortunate here to be able to get eggs with wonderful, thick, orange yolks and whites that actually stand up in the pan, for only about 30 cents more per dozen than the ones whose hens were fed who-knows-what and the eggs are who-knows-how-old. :P

    Actually, we are food snobs about several different items, hoping to have the funds in the future to be even more snobby!!! ;)

  • Tammy L

    Thanks for the good tips! When we lived in another state, we got eyeglasses at a Sam's, but didn't have a membership. Also, I believe you can go to those places along with someone who DOES have a membership. I've gone several times to Costco and Sam's with people who were members. But I didn't really think I saved much by their pricings. Aldi's is pretty cheap, when there aren't any better sales. :) Where we live now, there are no nearby Sam's or Costcos... I think it's at least an hour's drive. We very very rarely have prescriptions for drugs to fill, thankfully. :)

  • Birdie

    We have a membership at Sam's. It makes feeding our big bunch a lot cheaper.

  • Anonymous

    We have a membership at Sam's and every year at renewal time I wonder if it's worth it ($40 this time) - thanks for your cost breakdown. We buy a 2 lb bag of shredded romaine lettuce every week for $3.17 or less. My husband has salad for lunch every day (we did South Beach 3 years ago and this habit has stuck). It is worth it to me not to be rinsing and shredding romaine lettuce! :) And we buy gas there a lot, but the price fluctuates sometimes it's a good deal and sometimes not. We buy other things but every week it's the salad!


  • Rebecca

    I don't have easy acess to a CostCo or other warehouse club but I am a member of a wholesale outlet for business purposes, which does sometimes come in quite handy when it comes to a bit of personal shopping too. Obviously, you have to be wary buying in bulk, as not everything will be cheaper for a consumer but as long as you're sensible, you can save quite a bit. The way I see it, so long as you're consistently saving more than what you paid for membership, it's worth your while.

    Me personally, it's mainly toilet paper, kitchen roll and pet food that I buy in bulk, as I've got two cats and a dog that eat me out of house and home. I've also recently started with toothbrushes too, as they're something I'll always need, will always have to replace and they don't have a use-by. That, and they don't take up much space either.

    On a side note, I was interested to read about the eggs. (I'm a bit of an egg snob too and proud to be so!) I'd much rather have smaller eggs from free range hens than huge eggs from battery hens. I do go rocketing through eggs like nobody's business though. (Blame it on my mum who got me hooked on omelettes, there aren't many days that go past that I don't have one!)