Photo (cc) by StockMonkeys.com
Everyone loves a deal, and warehouse clubs promise so many of them you’ll pay to get in the door.
Rest assured, an analysis by Consumers’ Checkbook indicates your annual membership fee to Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s can be money well spent. However, to maximize your savings, you’ll want to be sure you’re not missing the very best deals.
Money Talks News savings expert Stacy Johnson has a list of warehouse best buys in the video below. Take a minute to watch his top picks and then keep reading for more suggestions on how to make the most of your warehouse membership.
We’re not encouraging overconsumption, but we can’t help but point out that those big bottles of wine at your local warehouse store can be a big bargain. Liquor and beer is typically cheaper than anything you’ll find at your local grocer, too.
The best thing about buying alcohol at a warehouse club is you don’t even need a membership in some states. Depending on your state laws, you may be able to walk in and buy discounted libations without paying an annual fee.
2. Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines
Prescription drugs are another thing you can buy from a warehouse club even if you don’t have a membership. If you need to pay for a prescription out of pocket or have a co-pay based on a percentage of the drug’s price, definitely check your local warehouse club first before heading to the drugstore.
You do need a membership for over-the-counter medicines, and these items are often sold at a significant discount, too. However, be realistic about whether you’ll use up your purchase before its expiration date. You’re not saving any money if you end up tossing half the bottle in the trash.
3. Dairy products
Among dairy products, milk is probably where you’ll find your biggest bargain. Regular prices can be lower than even the sale prices at the grocery store. Cheese is also usually a good buy, although eggs can be hit or miss.
4. Organic produce
I have friends who have Costco memberships specifically for the organic produce. They swear it has the best quality and the lowest price of any store in our metropolitan area. Of course, they have large families and go through a tremendous amount of food each week, too.
If you’re single, a couple or a small family, you should have a plan about what to do with bulk produce purchases. These items won’t keep in your fridge for long. You might see about splitting the goods with another family, or another option would be to prep and freeze the extras for future use.
Meat is another best buy at warehouse clubs. You may find sale prices at your grocery stores that are comparable to prices at the warehouse club, but the latter seems to stock better quality meats. The more expensive cuts typically garner you the biggest savings.
With meat, you don’t need to stress quite as much about buying in bulk. Freezing meat is simple and doesn’t require the same level of prep work you might encounter with produce. Simply break down the bulk package into the desired quantities, wrap in freezer bags (squeeze out the air in the bag before sealing) and you’re done.
There seems to be some debate about the value of buying electronics at the warehouse clubs. While the prices are definitely competitive, you may be able to find cheaper comparable items online or at big-box electronic stores.
What gives warehouse products the edge is that they may come with a complimentary in-house warranty that beats anything offered by the manufacturer. However, as always, it’s best to do some shopping around before a major purchase to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
7. Dog and cat food
The Kirkland pet food sold at Costco has all the ingredients of a high-end brand but is sold at a fraction of the cost. Kirkland is made by the same company that produces the Diamond brand and, depending on whom you believe, that could be a good thing or bad thing.
Meanwhile, you’re likely to find deals on other pet foods at all of the warehouse clubs. People with large dogs will most likely benefit from the big bags sold at these stores.
Many warehouse clubs have their own gas stations now. While the prices may not warrant a special trip, you should definitely fill up while at the store. Gas at warehouse clubs is generally at least a few cents cheaper than what you’ll find at surrounding stations.
Speaking of cars, your warehouse club might also be your best bet for a deal on new tires. The price may be cheaper and the installation practically free. What’s more, your tires can be changed while you shop, making it a convenient way to cross one more thing off your to-do list.
10. Caskets and urns
Finally, if you have a Costco membership, head online to check out its selection of caskets and urns. Even with shipping, its prices are much cheaper than practically anything you’d find through your local funeral home.
Those are our top suggestions for warehouse best buys. Do you agree or did we miss anything? If you don’t have a warehouse membership but are thinking about it, you may want to read this article on how to pick the best store.
Otherwise, tell us which warehouse club you love and why. Leave your comment below or head to our Facebook page.
Correction: This post was edited to delete an incorrect description of Costco caskets.