6 Ways to Avoid Spending Too Much at Warehouse Stores

Unhappy man with grocery receipt
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Everything is larger than life at Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club. That includes product sizes, shelves and even the shopping carts.

Whether you’re a family stocking the pantry on a budget or a soccer coach looking for post-game snacks in bulk, you can wheel some killer deals out the door.

Yet, we also must remember that, like any other retailer, warehouse stores stay in business because they know how to part us from our dollars.

Following are some tips to avoid being trapped by warehouse stores’ tricks of the trade.

1. Ignore ‘warehouse’ decor

store aisle
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The floors are concrete. The beams are exposed. Stuff is stacked on metal shelving or pallets.

That spartan appearance tells consumers we’re bound to get unbelievable deals because warehouse clubs don’t waste money on decor or carpeting.

Generally, that’s true. Just make sure that rushing to nab something at what you assume is an unbeatable price doesn’t keep you from doing the math. Compare prices.

Remember, too, that low prices might tempt you to buy stuff you don’t need.

2. Remember that you are paying extra

money
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Part of the reason you pay less at warehouse stores is that you shell out each year for the privilege of walking through the door. The annual fee offsets some of your savings.

Often, the membership fee will pay for itself. Sometimes, though, you can get a better deal at regular stores, especially when combining sales and coupons.

However, getting a pretty good price consistently at the warehouse likely beats getting super prices every so often at supermarkets and drugstores. If you don’t want to fuss with coupons, warehouse stores might be for you.

3. Don’t buy food you can’t eat

warehouse club
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Large quantities are the hallmark of warehouse stores. But even if you really like an item, be honest: Are you going to consume that much bagged salad or all of those cookies?

For example, I love grape tomatoes. They make a wonderful snack, and they’re delicious in salads. But we probably couldn’t finish several pounds of the things before they rotted.

If you’re throwing food away, you’re not saving money.

4. Beware the deadly FOMO and WWLT

Costco deals
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“Fear of missing out,” or FOMO, drives a lot of irrational buying. Knowing that the inventory changes often might cause you to pull the trigger on a purchase even if you’re not sure you want or need it.

Just as bad is WWLT — “Wouldn’t ‘whoever’ love that?” You see the camouflage-printed jammies or the hardback mystery novel that would be perfect for someone in your life. Perhaps, say, yourself.

Come clean: Have you ever gone to Costco for milk, oranges and canned goods and walked out with a trampoline? It happens.

If you’re suddenly eying something you don’t need — or something you want but can’t pay for right now — it’s no bargain.

5. Put on your track shoes

televisions
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As soon as you enter the store, run to the specific items you need. Groceries are likely to be in the back. Do not be distracted by the bright, shiny big-screen TVs or the smartphones or other pretty gadgets by the entrance.

If you’ve been wavering about buying something like that, the discounted price tag might be enough to convince you. But if that new iWhatever isn’t currently in your budget, that means you’ve just decided to carry a credit card balance or to withdraw money from savings.

Wait until you’ve saved enough to pay with cash — and done enough homework to be sure your warehouse club has the best price.

6. Be an informed consumer

Shopping list on cellphone
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The same consumer tactics you use everywhere else also apply at warehouse stores: Make a list, compare unit prices and carry cash instead of plastic. For more tips, check out:

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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