It is a losing game to try and determine which of the different warehouse stores (BJs, Sam’s Club or Costco, among others) are the best of the best. They each have their distinct pros and cons, and though you can save more at warehouse stores than you can in more traditional settings, you still have to watch things like per unit or per weight pricing. You also have to consider if you can pay back the cost of membership with the savings you’ll enjoy to make it worth the trip.
After all, you do save even more at warehouse stores than in many regular store or online sales, yet there is a lot involved. You have the membership, you must make the trip to the often-overcrowded locations and find whatever it is you are looking for. In other words, it is an effort to get yourself to and from the stores, and so you really have to consider if you are going to be willing to make such efforts before you pay for even a single membership.
The good news is that most consumers can benefit from at least one membership, and once they know how best to shop for deals, they can find them and enjoy them.
Learn How and When You Can Save More at Warehouse Stores
There are lots of tricks and tips to use when looking for the best ways to do warehouse shopping, and yet it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye out on each of the top warehouses. Why? Most of the stores take a shot at getting new membership signups by offering greater discounts and package deals periodically. It is then that you can save more at warehouse stores than you would if you paid the standard memberships.
As an example, if you are looking for one of the best ways to do warehouse shopping right now, you would want to take a look at the Groupon and LivingSocial websites. This is because both feature a limited time package deal (early 2018) for membership at a Sam’s Club. While most of the warehouse membership deals emphasize something like “90 days free” and then membership automatically begins (unless you cancel), they are now giving a discounted annual membership with lots of nice extras.
So, you don’t get any free time to use the membership and test it out, which my readers know is one of the best ways to do warehouse shopping. However, and depending on the package selected, you can get from 45% to 79% off the usual price of membership and the items provided with it.
For instance, if you buy a one-year package you can get a $10 gift card, an instant savings package worth more than $100 (basically a fat book of coupons on popular and frequently purchased items), and a $25 credit to the Vudu movie website and streaming channel.
Now, does that mean that you can save more at warehouse stores by waiting for such options? In a word: No.
Savvy consumers should already know that there are many ways to get free access to warehouse shopping and the deals it affords. For example, you can often find those 90-day free trial offers from both Sam’s Clubs and BJs. They also make day passes available, and these can be done online, too. If you get a Costco gift card, it enables you to enter the store and shop as if you were a membership customer and enjoy access to all of the deals.
For example, freebie memberships and Costco gift cards enable you to also:
- Use any gas station options that the stores make available
- Save big on the biggest ticket items. I’ve used free trials and gift card options to buy new tires (as all of the warehouse stores make them available at much deeper discounts), buy new computers, expensive jewelry and costly appliances, among other items
- Shop online. I love looking at the warehouse store websites, and most of them also let you take a look at the coupons and deals available, further leveraging a free pass or gift card option. Even more importantly, and one of the best ways to do warehouse shopping, is to go online and compare prices to big box stores and the physical warehouse store prices. Surprisingly enough, some of the costlier products are sold at a discount through the website.
- Stock the shelves. Though one of the most common downsides to using warehouse shopping is that you must buy in bulk and in large quantities, when you are using a limited time membership or a single day of access, it is the perfect time to pack the shelves with those low-cost luxuries. I go for large containers of spices that I use a lot (smoked paprika, cumin, peppercorns…they add up fast at the grocery store), pantry items like canned artichoke hearts, paper goods, and much more.
- Sample the things you can use even without a membership. Did you know that pharmacies inside warehouse stores must, by law, be accessible to everyone? It’s true, so you can get discount shots, glasses, and prescriptions without your membership. If the site sells alcohol it must allow you to purchase inside with or without a membership, and all of the snack bars allow non-members to dine on jumbo snacks and meal deals!
So, as you test drive or assess memberships, get the most out of them and save even more at warehouse stores by using the tips I’ve just itemized.
Recognize the Best Ways to Do Warehouse Shopping for Your Needs
The next thing to do is narrow it down to the membership that is the best for your needs, personally. The best ways to do warehouse shopping involve looking at several factors before paying up on the annual membership fees. These factors look at the kinds of items available, the kinds of items you want and need, whether membership is too costly, and the actual pricing policies. Without taking time to explore these factors, you can end up with a membership you won’t use enough to warrant the price.
You also have to consider the difficulty factor. I once avoided a specific Costco location because the traffic, no matter when you went, was utterly horrible. We had to park in a lot far outside of the regular lot if we wanted to get in or out easily, and things got worse when they added a gas station. Fortunately, they have improved parking and traffic flow, and now I go there happily, but for a while, the membership fee was an unwarranted expensed.
Just try to keep in mind, however, what one money expert said, “any membership fee can pay for itself if the prices in the store are low enough – and if you buy enough for your annual savings to add up to” more than that membership fee. Yet, as I have pointed out in the past, it can be very challenging to know if warehouse memberships are worth it.
Learning to Save More at Warehouse Stores by Choosing the Right Stores
If you want to discover the best ways to do warehouse shopping, you start with the right warehouse. The most common and best known include:
- BJs – At a $55 to $110 per year membership fee
- Costco – At a costlier $60 to $120 per year membership
- Sam’s Club – The most affordable at $45 per year
Can you save more at warehouse stores by investing in the memberships with the higher dollar amounts? After all, a lot of us think that we only get what we pay for, and yet that logic may not work so well when considering the best ways to do warehouse shopping.
As one expert said when writing about the three biggest warehouse stores, “Costco…sets itself apart from other warehouse stores with its focus on high-end goods, such as organic food and designer jeans…Sam’s Club…products range from groceries and office supplies, to big-ticket items such as jewelry and furniture…[and] BJsoffers a wide range of goods and services, from groceries to vacation packages.”
Clearly, that implies you will save more at warehouse stores if you go to each of them for their specialties. For instance, you might find gourmet, organic chocolates at Costco, but get some great living room furniture at Sam’s and regular groceries at BJs. Yet, that isn’t really how it works. Just consider, do you want to head to three different warehouses with three different membership fees just to buy specific items? No, you are better off selecting one to purchase a membership with and looking at freebies and day passes into the others.
This can enable you to make the most of warehouse products while still turning to regular grocery options and online vendors for the remainder of your shopping. And yet, I can tell you that experts have determined that BJs is probably not the one to go with where membership is concerned. Why? Consumer Reports has explored the best ways to do warehouse shopping for years and determined that you actually only beat grocery store prices when shopping at Sam’s Club and Costco. This is because they do not have to use the same, somewhat hefty, markups that grocery chains do, and unlike BJs, have many of their own brands.
This allows them to cut out the higher prices charged by recognized brands and substitute them with their own. Interestingly enough, Kirkland branded goods (the house brand of Costco) are consistently high rated products and include everything from nuts and frozen foods to cleaners and more. Opting for these off brands can put tremendous amounts of money back in the budget and warrant the membership.
Though BJs has a lot of pros, its adherence to the main brands means that they are often just barely above grocery store pricing on many of the per unit prices. They can be a good source of unusual options, like discounted travel and some grocery items, but the experts say that you can save even more at warehouse stores if you steer mostly towards Costco and Sam’s Club.
These two adhere closely to the true warehouse pricing model that doesn’t bloat product pricing because of bulk discounts at the wholesale level. Instead, they get you to pay for the membership up front, and in that way, they are sure to make the profit from each customer regardless of the amount they buy during that membership period.
Yet, you save more at warehouse stores on more than just your groceries. After all, all three offer deeply discounted pricing on travel, prescriptions, eye care, car purchases and more. And you cannot ignore this if you are looking at the best ways to do warehouse shopping. As I said, if you have the gift card access to Costco or day passes (free memberships) to the others, you’ll want to consider making the big-ticket sales. That is because they do offer everything from engagement rings and wheels for trucks to premium travel and luxury furnishings at incredible discounts.
Though we think of warehouse shopping as “stocking up”, what we need to do is shift our attitudes about these shopping destinations. It takes only a few minutes at a page like Costco’s Warehouse Savings page to see how they can help you save more at warehouse stores. For example, during a 2018 furniture event, most of the dining sets were discounted by $800 or more, while bedroom sets were at $1k off the regular prices. You could find home improvement savings, $70 of any set of Michelin branded tires and a 55″ 4k UHD TV for less than $350.
Clearly, none of those items were pantry goods or items typically bought in bulk, yet they do represent some of the best ways to do warehouse shopping and enjoy massive savings. Take the time to go online, look at the brands, the sales and the prices all of the warehouse stores in your area offer. Chances are, you’ll see that one is more of a good fit to you and your budget than another. Go with their membership and use the free passes at other stores to maximize savings with every visit.