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Frugal Living & Freebies

Shopping at Warehouse Clubs
by Sandy Shields
General Shopping Tips to Use
  • Before shopping
    Know the prices of items you are planning to purchase.
    Keep track of the UNIT prices, and sales cycle in your area.
    Make and take along a price list, coupons, and calculator.
    Eat before you go.
    "Buddy-buy" with friends or family to split large purchases and save.
    If possible, shop alone.
    Take cash only and you will not spend over your limit.
    Create meal plans based on what you have and loss leader sales.

  • While shopping
    If store accepts coupons, use them.
    Avoid impulse buys.
    Don't buy convenience foods.
    Remember that it's not a deal if you can't use it.
    Know the difference between wants and needs.
    Remember larger is not always cheaper. Smaller is not always cheaper.
    Remember that advertised items are not necessarily the cheapest.
    Check the bottom and top shelves for best prices.
    Watch for unadvertised specials and floor model markdowns.
    Avoid disposable items.
    Check for "multi-purchase" discounts, or Buy ? Get ? Frees.
    If you find a great deal - stock up to last until the next sale.
    Have the butcher cut up larger cuts of meat for you.

  • After shopping
    Send for rebates. Sam's now has a monthly rebate catalog for big savings.

What items are usually a good deal?
If on sale: Milk (freezes well!), Cheese, All Meats, Lunchmeats, and Breads. Some other items may include batteries, blank cassette and video tapes, appliances, books, office equipment, home entertainment, some frozen foods, and fresh fruit.

What items are usually not a good deal?
Paper products, cereals, pet food, can goods, and chips.

Advantages - Disadvantages

  • Advantages
    Saves time.
    It is possible to save money on certain items.
    If you have a big freezer, you can save money by buying meat and dairy products and freezing them.

  • Disadvantages
    Must have storage space to store big purchases.
    Must have ability to consume what you buy.
    Not always the best deal - must compare prices.
    Membership Fee required.
    Sell mostly brand name products. Store brands and generic are often cheaper.
    Leads to consumers eating more because they buy in larger quantities.
    No price-matching.
    Many consumers buy everything at these clubs thinking that they are saving money, but in reality no one club or store has the best deals on everything.


Shopping your local warehouse club once a month or so is a good idea. I do not recommend doing all of your shopping there.

I conducted a survey recently on my website, thefrugalshopper.com, asking my visitors to list their "favorite way to save money". Out of 1914 total votes, 641 people said that shopping at warehouse clubs is their favorite way to save. Their second favorite way is shopping at thrift stores, and their third favorite way is "shopping the sales". This surprised me! I thought more people would have voted shopping the sales.

It seems the reason warehouse clubs are so popular are because they save time, they are convenient, and they offer many products which can be bought in bulk sizes.

In my opinion, I can usually find better deals at my local grocery, but I still shop warehouse clubs occasionally for special and bulk items.

Sandy is a freelance writer and webmaster of TheFrugalShopper.com. She enjoys living the frugal life, saving money, and helping others to do the same. Subscribe to her newsletter to receive more money-saving ideas and frugal tips. Reprint permission granted with this footer included. Copyright TheFrugalShopper.com 2001.

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