Photo by Paul Sakuma
Costco, BJs, and Sam’s Club are wholesale shopping clubs and warehouse stores that offer their members a lot of benefits. However, I haven’t been in any of them for years, so it’s a good time to consider them as a means of containing my growing grocery bills. With what’s going on in the economy right now, I’m willing to investigate new strategies to help slim down my budget!
An Online Walk Through Some Popular Wholesale Shopping Clubs and Warehouse Stores
Although Costco doesn’t have a warehouse store in my state, it still has plenty to offer on its website. I discovered that you can shop at Costco in various ways: you can get a Gold Star Membership or Business Membership for $50 a year, or you can upgrade to an Executive Membership for $100.00, which will give you an additional 2% annual reward. Moreover, if you’re a member, you can purchase a Costco Cash Card for use at Costco; and while non-members may also use the cash card to shop online or at a warehouse location, only members may purchase or reload this card.
The Gold Star Membership for $50 will give me access to their food selections and office break room classics like coffee and bottled water for one year. In addition, I can buy anything from appliances to video games at Costco, up to and including jewelry and caskets. Now that’s one stop shopping!
When it comes to getting the most value from items that I purchase, I’ll need all the help I can get, so I’ve turned to the rebate section. While not everyone is a fan of mail-in rebates, you can submit rebates online through the Costco website. It helps when I can submit qualified items for rebates through the website, which Costco will help me track, since one of the complaints I’ve heard about rebates is that they’re a pain to keep up with.
One thing that struck me when I read over the Member Benefits brochure was that Costco takes cash, checks, debit/ATM cards, American Express, the Costco Cash card, and Costco-branded credit cards such as the True Earnings American Express Rewards Credit Card. Unfortunately, my bank-issued MasterCard or Visa wouldn’t fly here, a big inconvenience for those who prefer to track their expenses with such cards.
I’ve heard that Costco’s warehouse stores offer great deals on bulk items like paper towels and pet food, but it’s not easy to compare prices for me — I couldn’t find listings for them on the website. Also, the What’s New section features few (if any) food items, so it’s hard for me to gauge whether I should commit my grocery dollars here. And they seem to know I’m a sucker for gadget bargains — I’d have to be wary of impulse spending while in any warehouse store.
However, if I need photo processing, a pharmacy, travel arrangements, event tickets, or flowers, Costco offers these services without sending me all over town to get them. You can also find other consumer and business-related services as well as insurance services here.
Photo by PunkJr
BJ’s Wholesale Club
Next, I drove my virtual station wagon over to BJ’s Wholesale Club. The basic Inner Circle membership is $45 for 12 months and you can upgrade to the more comprehensive BJ’s Rewards membership for $80. The first thing I clicked on was the Brands Sold in Club page where I easily found my feline friend’s preferred cat food listed. On the page, I found the dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent that I normally use for my kitchen, plus some of my favorite Godiva chocolates.
The In-Club Values section shows a listing of the goods and brands the store offers, but no prices. The grocery section claims you save more than 30% off every day compared to supermarket prices. That sounds good, but I’d have to track the prices on a spreadsheet or price book over a period of time to verify that amount. As with Costco, I’d have to worry about forking over my paycheck because of bargains I couldn’t resist — and watch out! They have a bakery there.
I’ve driven past Sam’s Club a few times and the website has some interesting features, like Click ‘n’ Pull. With Click ‘n’ Pull, members can sign in, click on the items they want, then drive over to the warehouse store to pick up their orders the next day. Salad to go, anyone?
I also like how we can see what products the store carries, along with their prices. We can see ahead of time that those huge bags of rice are limited to 4 bags per customer or that they don’t have the specific salad dressing we’re used to, so I won’t waste minutes trying to scour the store for the wrong thing. Plus, they have an organics section. Advantage membership starts at $40, while the Advantage Plus membership is $100.
Warehouse stores and wholesale shopping clubs are legendary for their convenience and big bargains. However, to protect your food budget, you should go in with a list of the items you need. In my case, I’ll probably have to work hard to keep deals I don’t need from hopping into my cart! If I go for the bulk bags of flour and sugar or the massive carton of pasta, then I’d have to plan where to store these goodies in my space-limited house. Also, I need to make sure I can’t get the necessities on my list at a cheaper price from area grocery stores or Amazon.com. Still, buying in bulk is a well-known cost saving strategy, so overall I’m definitely interested in exploring more of what these warehouse stores have to offer shoppers.
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