How to make the most of your wholesale club membership

Rising prices of groceries and household essentials, coupled with record inflation and soaring interest rates, American households are tightening budgets and prioritizing spending.

One option that can help with spending might be to join a wholesale club like Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s Retail Club. In return for an annual fee, you get access to the bulk items and signature savings offered by the club.

“Annual fees, often under $100, can easily pay off after a few shopping trips if you want a discount,” says Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet. “The danger is that people overspend because they want to take advantage of all the deals and buy in bulk, so you have to make sure you’re only buying what you’ll actually use and have room in your home for. to be saved.”

Below, experts share tips, tricks, and recommendations so you can stretch your dollars and reap the benefits of being a member of your wholesale club.

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What are the benefits of joining a wholesale club?

Joining the wholesale club gives shoppers access to exclusive savings on bulk boxes of household items, personal care goods, and groceries. Plus, you can save on auto parts, gas, seasonal goods, home appliances, toys, clothing, electronics and more, says Andrea Woroch, a thrifty consumer expert. said.

Costco customers wear masks when looking through clothes

A shopper looks at clothing in a Costco store in San Francisco, California, on March 3, 2021. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via/Getty Images)

Is it reasonable to join more than one?

Joining more than one wholesale club will depend on your purchasing needs.

“It makes sense to join a lot of wholesale clubs if there are items or brands you really like and would buy from both stores,” Woroch told FOX Business.

Ticker Guard Last Change Change %
PRICE COSTCO WHOLESALE JOINT STOCK COMPANY. 482.88 -3.53 -0.73%
BJ BJS WHSL CLUB HLDGS INC 76.69 -0.98 -1.26%
WMT WALMART INC. 140.97 +0.25 + 0.18%

How can you justify the annual fee?

If you regularly shop at a wholesale club, the savings will offset the membership fees.

“It makes sense to pay the annual fee if you buy enough savings and more,” explains Woroch. “This is especially true if you shop for most of your family’s needs from a warehouse store.”

And, Woroch points out, a single savings on renting a car or buying furniture can cover more than the annual fee you pay to close the deal in the first place.

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How to determine if buying in bulk is cost-effective?

It can be tempting to try to get a deal by buying in bulk, but there are mitigating factors that prove the real value of buying in bulk.

Woroch says buying in bulk isn’t always the most cost-effective for a number of reasons.

First, you must consider the shelf life of the product.

“Perishable items can be perishable if you buy too much in bulk,” she warns.

Think about what your family will actually eat throughout the week, and try to limit large amounts of fresh foods unless you can freeze them (like chicken breasts). “I like to buy most fruits and vegetables in smaller boxes or individually from my local grocery store for this reason,” she says. “Otherwise, I would waste a lot of that fresh groceries if I bought too much. Not to mention, fresh fruits and vegetables lose nutrients when they sit outside for too long.”

Next, think about whether you have enough room to store bulk purchases like tissues, toilet paper, and paper plates.

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“If you live in a smaller house or apartment, that might not make sense,” says Woroch, adding that splitting bulk purchases with a friend or neighbor can be costly. could be a better choice.

Finally, be aware of your actual budget.

“Even if you have room to store some oversized packages of home and office goods, keep in mind that everything will be more expensive and your overall spend in a single purchase can up to hundreds of dollars, which can get you over budget.” Woroch said. Remember that if you order this on a credit card and can’t pay it off, the interest paid on the balance will eat into any savings you score by buying those bulk items in the first place. , she added.

How to resist the urge to overbuy and overspend?

You may be tempted to buy a lot of items in wholesale clubs, but a shopping strategy can help you stay in control of your budget and realistic needs. The best way to stay on track is to plan your shopping trip in advance.

Costco customers inspect items

Customers shop for clothes at a Costco store on July 13, 2021, in Novato, California. (Justin Sullivan // Getty Images)

In-stock stores advertise all sorts of exciting deals from seasonal merchandise to tech savings to bundles of toys and thrifts that can appeal to even discerning shoppers, Woroch said. invest the most budget to choose to buy a few items impulsively. “Beware of this trap and plan your shopping trip in advance, thinking about exactly what meal you’ll be buying for, so you don’t buy too much groceries either,” she recommends. recommended.

In addition to meal planning, write down things you might need for upcoming events/celebrations. For example, do you need a toy gift for an upcoming birthday or a baby item for an upcoming bath? In those cases, finding a budget-friendly deal is a smarter way to approach a shopping trip, says Woroch.

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Gain gas benefits

Wholesale clubs save up to 30% on gas when compared to other branded gas stations, according to Woroch. However, this does not mean that they are the cheapest option, so you should compare prices using a tool like GasBuddy, which will show you the cheapest gas stations in your area based on on your location.

Cars and motorists line up at a Sam's Club gas station

Drivers wait in line for gas on March 8, 2022, at Sam’s Club in San Bernardino, California. (Will Lester / MediaNews Group / Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / Getty Images)

“You may find that there is a gas station that offers the same or better rates, is located more convenient for you, and will most likely have shorter routes. However, plan accordingly. and refuel for your next trip to Costco or Sam’s Club Woroch says.

Understand the benefits of the pharmacy

Woroch makes it clear that you don’t need to be a member to use pharmacy savings at a wholesale club.

“It’s actually illegal to claim membership for pharma, so if this is the only reason you’re paying to join, save your cash,” she says.

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Research big ticket purchases

Double-check and compare prices on big-ticket items like TVs, computers, jewelry, yard furniture, and other expensive items.

“I always recommend looking at a wholesale club when planning a big purchase,” she says. “While their selection of merchandise may change with the season or year to year, they always have great new deals and both Costco and Sam’s Club own brands of merchandise when it comes to clothing, beauty products and furniture are top quality.”

Customers look at a glass jewelry box at Costco

Ken Shirley looks through a jewelry box inside a Costco store in New York, on November 11, 2009. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via/Getty Images)

Search for travel deals

Warehouse stores aren’t just a good place to save on paper products, groceries, and seasonal goods. They also offer travel deals. You can save on holiday packages, hotel stays, car rentals, and even theme park tickets and other entertainment tickets like lift tickets to the top, says Woroch. skiing.

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