Warehouse clubs excel at making things seem cheaper, even when they’re not cheapest. Nonetheless, there are some great deals to be had.
The single best way to save? Record the prices — smartphones are great for this — and then compare your warehouse club’s prices against those of the other stores or websites where you shop.
As with any retailer, always watch for sales. It’s possible a discount at the local supermarket may beat the warehouse club price. Finally, watch the sizes on food items — if half of your purchase goes bad before you eat it, you probably haven’t saved money.
That said, there are some items that are often better buys at warehouse clubs. Here are 18 that will help you get the most from your membership.
Beer, wine, liquor: Pretty much all of it will be cheaper at a warehouse store.
Bonus: In some states, nonmembers can buy booze at a warehouse club due to state laws that regulate alcohol sales. So call your closest club and ask about its policy for selling alcohol to nonmembers. Or just head to Sam’s Club, which allows nonmembers to buy its alcohol — see “6 Ways You Can Shop at Sam’s Club Without a Membership.”
Warehouse stores can save you on both prescription and nonprescription drugs, although you still should shop around.
For an easy way to comparison shop for prescriptions, check out “2 Free Websites and Apps That Can Slash Your Prescription Drug Costs.”
Gas at warehouse store pumps is often at least a few cents cheaper than elsewhere, and buying it there allows you to knock out two errands at one place.
Just be sure to gas up before shopping. You don’t want to find yourself waiting in line for a pump with bulk perishable groceries in the trunk.
You can often get a good deal on tires at a warehouse club, if your local club has a tire service facility. Many clubs will install tires for you for a low fee or sometimes no charge.
Of course, nobody wants to feel like they’re cutting corners when making funeral arrangements, but some warehouse clubs offer steeply discounted caskets. If you can get the same quality for a lower price, why not?
Disposable batteries can be much cheaper at warehouse clubs, whether you prefer generic brands or brand names.
However, as we note in “5 Keys to the Best Deal on Batteries,” there’s little reason to buy brand-name batteries — regardless of where you purchase them.
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 that any sold by a wholesale club. For the article “Easy, Dirt-Cheap Ways to Make Laundry Detergent,” 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.
8. Paper goods
Warehouse clubs often offer giant packages at low prices, although toilet paper and paper towels can sometimes be cheaper if you get them on sale elsewhere, so compare prices. This is another item you don’t have to worry about going bad before you use it all.
You’re probably going to shop around before you plunk down a thousand bucks for the gigantic 4K TV. When you’re shopping, consider more than price. Some warehouse clubs have better warranties. Also, check the club website as well as the brick-and-mortar store. There will sometimes be a price difference between the two.
It’s worth checking out your warehouse club’s prices for car rentals, hotels and travel in general. Costco and BJ’s offer travel deals through their websites. Prices and deals vary, but it’s worth the extra couple of minutes it takes to compare their prices with those of travel sites.
11. Financial services
Some warehouse chains can help you get a mortgage or various types of insurance. There are far too many variables involved in such purchases to make blanket statements about whether it would be a good deal, but it never hurts to check.
The selection of colors and sizes is a lot more limited than you’ll find at a department store. But if you find something you like that fits, the price will often be better.
13. Plastic bags
Everything from full-sized trash bags all the way down to sandwich bags will come at a lower price at a wholesale club, at least if you stick to generic brands. And you won’t have to worry about them spoiling before you can use them all.
14. Pet supplies
Dog and cat food can be cheap at your club, but be wary of the package size and any expiration dates — pet food can go bad. Chew toys for dogs as well as rawhide bones and dog biscuits are often cheaper than at the pet store, too.
Other things, like cat litter, can be considerably cheaper and obviously won’t go bad before you can use them up.
Milk can be super cheap at a warehouse club. The downside is you might have to buy two gallon-size containers at once, so make sure you’ll use all of it before the expiration date.
Cheese can also be a good buy, along with eggs.
16. Organic produce
This is another of those things that can be cheap but is often offered in large quantities at warehouse stores. If you won’t use all of it before it goes bad, maybe a friend or family member is willing to split the cost and the big package of organic produce with you.
Meats, both regular and organic, can be a great deal at warehouse clubs.
Freeze what you won’t use right away, and it will last for a long time.
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.
For more ways to save money at your favorite warehouse store, check out:
- “8 Ways to Squeeze the Most From Your Costco Membership”
- “7 Clever Ways to Save Money at Sam’s Club”
- “7 Ways to Save at BJ’s Wholesale Club”
What did we miss? Let us know in the 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.