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Should I Join a Warehouse Club?

Does it make sense to pay money to a store just for the privilege of shopping there?  Some might think that ‘s crazy and a colossal waste of money that could be spent shopping elsewhere.  But the truth is: over a hundred million people do it!  Could it be right for you?  That is what we examine today.

The main warehouse clubs are Costco, Sam’s Club, and B.J.’s and the first issue to consider is: Are any of these stores reasonably close to where you live or work.  If not, then chances are you won’t go there enough to make the savings worthwhile.  The biggest savings at most of these stores come from items that you use every day; like toilet paper, cleaning items, diapers, snacks, frozen foods, pet supplies, canned goods and other consumables.  Larger discretionary items like electronics can likely be found on the internet, often at lower prices.  Part of the psychology of a warehouse club is to provide enough bargains on products that you buy, regularly, so that you assume all of the warehouse products are bargains, too.  Don’t fall for this.  Know prices of competitors, and watch for sales at your local supermarkets, which are often lower and packaged in smaller quantities.

The second issue to consider is size.  Warehouse packages are notoriously large, so the issue is: Do I really need this much, or might it go bad before it can be consumed?  Since many of us have cabinets and pantries that are already full, another size issue is storing the mass quantities that you just bought.  Finally, it can be pretty dispiriting to go to the store and buy only ten items, then get a bill for over $200.00 when you check out.

Thirdly, there is the issue of convenience.  Again, if the warehouse store is not close by, you will have to invest more of your time to shop there. Store hours are also more limited than your corner grocery store and they can be very crowded, depending upon when you are able to go. So you have to decide if the savings are worth the time invested to achieve them.

Finally, don’t forget the gas!  For some people, the savings on gasoline, alone, will more than pay for their yearly membership fee.  At the present time, a popular warehouse store in Northern Virginia is offering premium gasoline for fifty cents cheaper than most of the local name brand stations.  If you fill up a 16 gallon tank once a month, you save $96.00 a year on gas alone!

In conclusion, if there is a warehouse store reasonably close to you, and you have the flexibility to visit the store when it’s the least crowded, it probably makes sense to join.  If you require large quantities of consumable items for your family or business, it probably makes sense to join.  If you don’t have the time (or patience) to invest in what can be a 2+ hour excursion, or the need for the larger sizes found at warehouse stores, stick with your local grocer and watch the ad circulars for the best deals.