Know Your Tier
Warehouse clubs offer different membership levels or tiers. Higher-priced tiers make sense for big families and business purchases, but for standard domestic shopping, a basic membership is fine.
Find a Shopping Buddy
If you don’t have a spouse or kids, split membership costs and bulk purchases with a friend. You'll both be able to save money, you won't end up buying more than you could possibly use, and you may find that shopping with a friend will help rein in impulse purchases.
Plan a Monthly Trip
Club memberships can save you money on bulk purchases, but your bill can quickly add up the more frequently you shop. Plan a single shopping trip per month, stick to the items on your list, and avoid free samples and other traps that are designed to get you to buy more.
Make Your Lists
Make two shopping lists—one for regular groceries and the other for club purchases. Your grocery store list should contain items you run out of on a weekly basis, while your club list should have only your bulk or seasonal purchases, such as turkey for Thanksgiving.
Know How Pricing Works
At Costco, price tags that end with $.97 may indicate that an item is being sold below cost—but don’t count on it. Each store has a slightly different system for markdowns, so it’s best to get familiar with your local club’s pricing strategy.
Some warehouse clubs will stock seasonal items much earlier than other stores, for instance, bathing suits in December. Before you write up your monthly shopping list, think about upcoming holidays, vacation plans, and other reasons for special purchases, and update your list accordingly.
Compare Unit Prices
Buying nonperishable items like toilet paper and paper towels in bulk can make you feel like you're saving big, but pay attention to unit prices. Compare the unit prices of your favorite items at your local warehouse store with prices at other big retailers like Target and Amazon to see whether you are really getting the biggest bang for your buck.
If you’re thinking of buying a big-ticket item—for instance, a new TV or computer—do some online research, and don't simply assume you'll get the best deal at a warehouse club. You can also check your club’s website to find out what products and models they sell.
Consider Club Credit
Depending on how much you buy at your warehouse club, it may be worthwhile for you to get a club credit card, which comes with financial incentives. You can typically expect to get a small percentage (2 to 5 percent) back on gas purchases, eligible travel, dining out, and other purchases made with the card.
Eat Before You Go
Costco and Sam’s Club have food courts with relatively cheap eats—plus free samples. But a lot of the fare is high in fat and sugar, so protect yourself from impulse buys by fueling up before you go.
Some warehouse clubs sell gas at relatively cheap prices, and if you have a club credit card, you may get additional savings. To make the most of this benefit, hold off on gassing up your car until your next shopping trip.
Go Beyond Groceries
Planning a vacation? Look for good deals on travel packages at your local Costco or online. And travel is just one of many special product categories on offer at warehouse stores. Others include eyeglasses, hearing aids, prescription drugs, caskets, and cars. Pay attention to these "extras," which could save you some cash.
Score a Deal
You have to shop smart to save money at a warehouse store.
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