Thursday, October 14, 2010

Frugality- Warehouse Clubs

Recently on iheartpublix, Michelle mentioned that she doesn't use warehouse stores because she doesn't see how you could save money there. She used an example of buying Ritz Crackers there, but added 1/12 of club membership price to the price of the Ritz crackers, which at first I thought "maybe warehouse clubs aren't that great," but then I got to thinking, and decided actually it is worth it! Here's why:

  • Gas- Gas is consistently 10¢ or more cheaper than any other gas station in the area. If I filled a 10 gallon tank 4 times each month, I cover the cost of the membership and more. Most people have bigger tanks and fill-up more often, so easily shows as savings. My Estimated Savings- $5-$10/month
  • Milk and Eggs- I feel a bit of jealousy when I see prices for milk and eggs in other parts of the country. At my Publix (and most other stores in the area), milk costs $3.29 a gallon and eggs cost about $1.30 (or more) for a dozen large. At BJ's (my warehouse club of choice) milk is about 70¢ cheaper a gallon (depends on whether you get skim/whole/etc.). Eggs were $1.79 for 2 dozen x-large eggs. My Estimated Savings- $4-$8/month
  • Baking Goods- White flour, wheat flour, bread flour, sugar, spices, extracts, yeast, etc. While occasionally you can score a good deal on these foods at the supermarket, it's rare. For example, you can get 25 lbs of flour for about $8, that's 32¢ a pound! Another example is pure vanilla extract, for a store brand 4 oz bottle at Publix it is $10.99 (which was the cheapest on the shelf), for a 16 oz bottle at BJ's it is $6.99. You get 4 times more for $4 less!  Even if vanilla was BOGO it would still be 8 oz for $10.99. My estimated savings: $10/month.
  • Formula- Thankfully, my daughter is no longer on formula (and wish that she never was, but that's a long story...), but formula is way cheaper by the bulk, especially if you get the club brand. At BJ's you can get a can that makes 382 fl oz for around $16.99. For comparison, a regular container of say Enfamil makes about 120 fl oz and costs about $20. My estimated savings: none currenlty, but previously $50/month.
  • Diapers/Wipes/Ointments- Now this one is debatable, while it is possible to get diapers cheap on regular basis regularly, it is possible to get them really cheap at a warehouse club too. At BJ's you can get a giant box of Luv's Diapers (not sold at Publix) for around $20 with the right coupons (see below for more about coupons and warehouse clubs). Club brand can be even cheaper. We don't see the best diaper deals in my parts, so BJ's is a great back-up. My estimated savings: $10-$20/month
  • Meat- It's hard to get meat cheap. While the best way to work with meats is to use less of them, and plan your meals by what is on sale that week, I feel like I would be eating beef all the time. On the other hand, we go to BJ's once every 3-4 months and buy a bunch of meat. Usually we spend about $100-$200 and walk out with 3-4 months of meat, and a variety of it. I of course buy meat when I see it really cheap or have a coupon at Publix, but for a really great price on good quality meat, it's usually the warehouse club for me. My estimated savings: $50/month
  • Seasonal- Warehouse clubs can be a great source for seasonal items. Decorations, gifts, etc. are usually much cheaper there, and their after holiday clearance is even better. My estimated savings: $50/year
  • Clothing- You'd be surprised at the quality of clothing there, especially kids clothing. You can get Carter and Gerber baby clothes way cheap. You can find department store jeans for $10. Holiday dresses, pajamas, school uniforms, etc. are all there and pretty well priced. My estimated savings: $50/year
  • Housewares- Warehouse clubs often sell furniture, mattresses, and even appliances, and their often cheaper than specialty or department stores. My estimated savings: $50/year
  • Propane- My store has the cheapest propane in the area by about $5. We grill year round here, so this is definitely a plus here. My estimated savings: $20/year
  • Electronics- Bundle packages, discounts, and other incentives sometimes make it a great idea to buy electronics from the warehouse club. My estimated savings: $20/year
  • Misc.- Jewelry, tires, medication, travel, cell phones, vision, home repairs, and many more things are sold inside warehouse clubs, and often much cheaper than other places. My estimated savings: hard to say since these aren't typical purchases for me.
Total yearly savings: $1688- $1796/year minus $45 annual membership fee equals $1643-$1751/year!

A Note About Coupons
Much of the argument at iheartpublix was that you couldn't use coupons at warehouse clubs, but could at Publix. In her Ritz example, she used coupons to make the Publix cheaper (but remember she included the membership fee in the price of the Ritz, which I just showed is covered in savings by the many other types of purchases there), but at BJ's you can use coupons, in fact you can use a store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon, and sometimes even multiple manufacturer's depending on the way the item is packaged. Costco has store coupons, but does not allow manufacturer's coupons, but does allow formula checks. Sam's does not accept coupons. I've had memberships to all three, and BJ's is by far the best. 

Basically, you can pull out great deals at a warehouse club, and I think it is worth the money. Most clubs also have a trial membership and/or will refund money on a membership if you do not like it. So it may be worth a try!
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