Being a member of Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s might seem like a steal when you find great deals, but there’s a chance you’re wasting more money than you’re saving.
Sure, deals abound at warehouse stores. However, if you’re not approaching your shopping trips smartly, you could be throwing money away, regardless of which warehouse store you go to.
Following are 10 ways you might be overspending at these membership clubs — likely without even realizing it.
1. Not earning cash back
Hopefully you already know there are multiple ways to earn cash back when shopping online — including on wholesale clubs’ websites. But you’re leaving money on the table if you aren’t also earning cash back every time you shop at a Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s store.
A free app called Ibotta routinely offers cash rebates on purchases from these three chains’ brick-and-mortar stores — among many other retailers’ stores.
To start using Ibotta, sign up for an account, which is free. Then, download the app and launch it. From there, you can select Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s from the list of retailers to see what cash rebates Ibotta is currently offering for purchases from those wholesale clubs.
Of course, you can also always earn cash back by paying with a cash-back credit card.
2. Keeping what you don’t need
Have you ever bought something that you later realized you didn’t need, want or like? Have you held onto it or thrown it away — barely used — because you didn’t think you could return it?
Stashing or trashing it might be your only options if you bought the item at some stores. But check the return policies of warehouse stores.
For example, Costco has one of the best return policies, both for online and in-store purchases. You can get a full refund on anything. Some things do have a return window — like 90 days for many electronics — but you can return most things at any time.
3. Not reviewing the ads and deals
Warehouse stores already have pretty good prices on a lot of things compared with regular stores. But most warehouse clubs give even deeper discounts.
Check the ads and flyers just like you would at a regular grocery store.
I tend to check the Costco app to see what offers are coming up. You can also find Costco’s periodic discounts on its Warehouse Savings webpage. Meanwhile, Sam’s Club’s periodic discounts are on its Instant Savings webpage.
4. Assuming that you need a membership
There’s a lot you can buy at a wholesale club without a membership, especially if you’re open to buying it online or accompanying a membership card-holding friend or relative to the store.
In fact, some people will save money overall by paying nonmember surcharges instead of an annual membership fee.
So, technically, if you spend less than $1,200 per year at Costco, you save money by paying the surcharge instead of the membership fee.
To learn more, check out:
- “7 Ways to Shop at Costco Without a Membership“
- “6 Ways Anyone Can Shop at Sam’s Club — No Membership Necessary“
5. Not splitting what you can
In my household of three, we know there are plenty of things we won’t go through. But if there’s a sale on something we want and we know it’s too much for just us, we try to split it. It might be food, paper goods or coffee. If it’s a great deal, we find a way to make it work.
Consider shopping with a friend or family member and splitting some of your purchases. What might be too much for one household might be perfect when it gets broken up for two.
6. Ignoring your household size
Bulk goods are meant to feed and care for a lot of people. So, determine which products best fit your household.
If you’ve got kids at home or your parents live with you, it’s easier to justify larger quantities. But if it’s just you and your partner, reconsider some of your purchases — or split them with another household.
7. Ignoring your home’s space
You might think that buying toilet paper in bulk will save you a few dollars — and it might — but do you have a place to put the extra rolls?
Larger bulk items are not worth buying if you don’t have a spot to store the excess. So, evaluate your home’s space before splurging on larger quantities.
8. Not checking your use
If you’re going to buy that big pack of batteries, make sure you’re prepared to use them all before the expiration date. Batteries do have a shelf life.
Before you make a purchase like that, ask yourself: How many are you going to use? If it goes bad before you expect to use it up, the bulk package isn’t the deal it might seem.
9. Not planning your meals
Large packages of cheap goods such as rice and pasta make bulk shopping seem enticing. And for families who go through such items quickly, they’re a great investment. But if your family seldom uses these things, you’ll only end up with a lot of food going to waste.
Before you hit the warehouse store, make sure you plan out your meals for the next few weeks so you know you’ll use what you buy. Maybe rice isn’t on your shopping list, but butter and coffee are.
10. Never buying foods you sample
Sure, eating the samples is like having an extra lunch, but they could help you make better shopping decisions, too.
Wouldn’t you rather buy something that you know is good than buy something blindly? That’s why samples exist — to give you the chance to try something you wouldn’t otherwise eat. Sure, warehouse stores know you’re likely to buy the food you sampled — that’s why they have samples,.
It’s OK to change up your shopping list if you taste something you’d like to make soon. And it’s even better if it’s on sale.
How do you plan your shopping trips to warehouse stores? Share in comments below or on our Facebook page.
Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.