Everyone loves a deal, and warehouse clubs promise so many of them that you’ll pay just to get in the door. However, to maximize your savings, be sure you’re not missing the very best deals.
Here are our suggestions on what to buy 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 are typically cheaper there than at the local grocery store.
The best thing about buying alcohol at a warehouse club is that, in some states, you don’t even need a membership. Depending on your state laws, you may be able to walk in and buy discounted libations without paying an annual fee.
Smart shoppers can often cut the price of a mattress purchase by avoiding mattress stores altogether. See if your favorite warehouse store has a selection of mattresses on the floor. And don’t forget to check their online shopping options, too.
While online mattress sellers can be a good option, product returns may be a concern. That’s where Costco’s easy returns policy can make a nice difference. Be sure you understand the store’s returns policy and any delivery fees before you buy.
This guide cuts through all the mattress-shopping confusion: “7 Tips for Buying a Great Mattress at the Right Price.”
3. Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines
Prescription drugs are something else you can buy from a warehouse club even if you don’t have a membership. Check your local warehouse club first before heading to the drugstore.
You do need a membership to buy 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.
For more on shopping without a membership, check out:
4. Socks and underwear
While you’re shopping for groceries, clothes and electronics at your favorite warehouse store, check the selection and prices of underwear, socks and tights. At Costco, for instance, a six-pack of tough, fashionable women’s trail socks sells for about $20. Brand-name underwear for children, men and women may be found at similarly low prices.
5. Dairy products
Among dairy products, milk is probably going to be your biggest bargain at a warehouse store; regular prices can be lower than even sale prices at the grocery store. Cheese and yogurt are also usually good buys, while eggs can be hit or miss.
6. Organic produce
I have friends who have Costco memberships specifically for the organic produce. They swear the warehouse store 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.
Plan 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. Another option is to prep and freeze the extras for future use.
Meat is another best buy at warehouse clubs. You may find sale prices at local grocery stores that are comparable to prices at the warehouse club, but the latter seems to stock better quality meats.
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 them in freezer bags — squeeze out the air in the bag before sealing — and you’re done.
8. Consumer electronics
There seems to be some debate about the value of buying electronics at warehouse clubs. While the prices are definitely competitive, you may be able to find cheaper comparable items online or at big-box electronics stores.
Warehouse products might come with a complimentary in-house warranty that beats anything offered by the manufacturer. However, it’s best to do some shopping around before a major purchase to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
When shopping in stores gets tedious, narrow your decisions first by doing a little research. Here are “15 Small Gadgets Under $25 That Make Life Better.”
9. Dog and cat food
The Kirkland pet food sold at Costco has all of 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.
Meanwhile, you’re likely to find deals on other pet foods at other 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. Depending on the store, the prices may not warrant a special trip, but 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. Sometimes, you’ll be able to save as much as 20 cents or 30 cents per gallon.
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.
12. Caskets and urns
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.
The per-pound prices for beans can be less than half what a grocery store charges, let alone a coffee shop. K-Cups also tend to be a bargain at wholesale clubs. Just make sure you’ll use whatever you buy before it becomes stale.
Disposable batteries can be much cheaper at warehouse clubs, whether you prefer generic brands or brand names.
And there’s probably no reason not to buy generic. As we discuss in “9 Generic Products You Should Be Buying at Costco,” Duracell produces the popular Kirkland alkaline batteries.
Laundry and dish detergent are generally bargains at wholesale clubs, and giant containers of soap won’t go bad before you can use them up if they’re stored properly.
If you’re willing to make your own detergent, though, your DIY product stands to be cheaper than any sold by a wholesale club. In “3 Easy Ways to Get Laundry Soap for Nearly Nothing,” a Money Talks News contributor tested a DIY laundry detergent recipe.
He said he “couldn’t tell the difference between store-bought and homemade” — except that the latter cost only about 2 cents per load.