10 Mistakes That Cost You Money at Warehouse Stores

Unhappy grocery shoppers
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

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.

The following are 10 ways you might be overspending at these membership clubs — likely without even realizing it.

1. Not earning cash back

grocery shopping
Stokkete / Shutterstock.com

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. Go to our Solutions Center to find the right credit card for your needs.

2. Assuming that you need a membership

ARTYOORAN / Shutterstock.com

There’s a lot you can buy at a wholesale club without a membership, especially if you’re open to buying items online or shopping with a friend or relative who has a membership to the store.

In fact, some people will save money overall by paying nonmember surcharges instead of an annual membership fee.

Let’s take Costco for example. Becoming a member will cost you at least $60 a year, while not joining means you will pay a 5% nonmember surcharge on most purchases.

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:

3. Not planning your meals

VH-studio / Shutterstock.com

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, plan your meals for the next few weeks so you know that you’ll use what you buy.

If you’re new to the concept of meal planning, check out our primer, “This Habit Saves Me Money and Stress All Week Long.”

4. Not reviewing the ads and deals

working from home
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

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.

5. Not figuring what you actually need

Nomad_Soul / Shutterstock.com

If you’re going to buy that big pack of batteries, make sure you’re prepared to use them all before the expiration date. Just like many items sold in bulk, batteries do have a shelf life.

Before you make this kind of purchase at a warehouse store, ask yourself how many of the items you actually will use. If they go bad before you expect to use them all up, the bulk package isn’t the deal it might seem to be.

6. Keeping things you don’t need

return policy
Stockbakery / Shutterstock.com

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?

Before stashing or trashing it, check the return policy of the store where you bought it.

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.

7. Not splitting what you can

coffee
idelem / Shutterstock.com

In my household of three, we know there are plenty of things we won’t go through. So, if there’s a sale on something we want and we know it’s too much for just us, we try to split it with someone else. 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.

8. Ignoring your household size

single life
szefei / Shutterstock.com

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.

9. Forgetting your home’s space limits

small bathroom
Ehpoint / Shutterstock.com

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.

10. Not being flexible about your shopping list

free samples
stockfour / Shutterstock.com

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 cook 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.

How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.

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

Read Next
12 Things Everyone Should Stop Buying This Year
12 Things Everyone Should Stop Buying This Year

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

7 Hidden Ways to Get More Out of Amazon
7 Hidden Ways to Get More Out of Amazon

You don’t have to be a Prime member to take advantage of these little-known perks of shopping on Amazon.

70% of Older Adults Botch This Basic Retirement Question
70% of Older Adults Botch This Basic Retirement Question

Can you answer this fundamental retirement income question?

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Comments

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.

Trending Stories