Personal Finance

10 Tips for Saving at Wholesale Clubs

The oft-forgotten fact of shopping at warehouse clubs is that you’re not actually saving money if, besotted by the low prices, you end up purchasing more discounted products than you really need or have room to store. Lowering your shopping bill requires critical thinking about what you need — and how often you need it — as well as discipline to stick to that list.

Whether you’re a member of Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s or another such club, here are 10 tips for maximizing the value of your next shopping trip.

1. You don’t necessarily need the printed coupons that are mailed to you.Members are periodically mailed a voluminous booklet of coupon offers. Many of these discounts will be automatically inputted at the checkout stand. They’re useful mostly so that you’re to aware of lower-priced items as you make your shopping list. BJ’s sets itself apart by accepting manufacturer’s coupons, and Sam’s Club offers online auctions.

2. Do make a list.Without one, you will enter the warehouse doors much more likely to buy things you don’t actually need. If you’re going to your local location for the first time, or are resolving to become a smarter shopper, compare the prices of the products on your list to those at your local grocery store by using the per-unit price. Organic produce, for one, can often be more economical at wholesalers, but other staple products, such as milk, might be cheaper at a smaller store near you.

3. Time your visit.Going on a weekday will save you time; going toward the end of a season will save you money, since seasonal products may be more heavily discounted. Shopping online — and skipping the long lines altogether — will come with less temptation to browse for books and other seasonal nonessentials in the warehouse’s more alluring center aisles.

4. Try the in-house brand for the items on your list.The Costco brand, Kirkland Signature, typically offers lower prices for a similar level of quality. It’s 30-count toilet paper offering online, for example, was $3 cheaper than a 30-count pack from Quilted Northern. Similarly, Sam’s and BJ’s have their own in-house brands.

5. Check your location’s returned items section for greater discounts, if it has one.This section may be overflowing, given wholesalers’ generous return policy, which allows members to return most items at any time for any reason. (There are exclusions exist for certain items, such as Costco’s for electronics purchased more than 90 days prior.) While you’re at it, consider the clearance items or lower-priced floor models for larger items, such as sofas.

6. Ask customer service for an accommodation if you feel slighted.As their generous returns policies suggest, these wholesalers aims to please customers, since they depend on their willingness to renew their memberships. Take advantage of this corporate priority if you are dissatisfied in any way — for instance, because you noticed a significant price drop on a previously-purchased item. A representative may offer to make up the difference.

7. If you drive your car to the warehouse, make sure to fill up there too.A gas station comparison website or app such as GasBuddy will confirm that your local wholesaler’s per-gallon prices are almost always at or near the lowest in any area.

8. Take advantage of a la carte services.Through immunizations, prescription drugs, eye exams, flowers for a wedding or another event, car rentals, and other vacation packages — these are some of the available services that make the warehouse a one-stop shop. Many of them compare favorably in terms of cost. An eye exam at Costco costs $49, for example, while Warby Parker charges $75. Sam’s and BJ’s offer similar miscellaneous services.

9.Buying in bulk isn’t always the option with the most value. Stick to your shopping list to ensure you’re purchasing only what you need, or what you can store in your home to cover future needs. One popular strategy of members: buying a large quantity of meat; cutting it into smaller pieces; and vacuum-sealing it in your freezer and defrosting it when the time comes to eat it.

10. Use your rewards credit card at checkout.Costco, for one, accepts all Visa cards, given its Citi Costco Credit Card connection, as well as cash, checks, debit/ATM, EBT and Costco Cash cards. The credit card is geared for Costco members who spend frequently on dining, travel and gas. It comes with unlimited 2% cash back on most Costco purchases. Sam’s Club Mastercard and BJ’s Perks Credit Card, each with rewards between 3% and 5% on spending, are options at competing wholesalers.

The article 10 Tips for Saving at Wholesale Clubs originally appeared on ValuePenguin.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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