Why I Don’t Shop Much at Club Stores

by Miranda Marquit · 10 comments

One of the cornerstones of frugal living, it seems, is shopping at club stores. The idea is that you can get huge discounts on different items, and this will account for the cost you incur by joining a club store. Growing up, my parents shopped at a club store regularly. However, now that I’m grown and have my own family, I don’t do much shopping at club stores.

My Family is Quite Small

I grew up in a family of five kids. For a good portion of my growing up life, we were on a single income — my father’s salary as a college professor. My mother made almost everything from scratch, using ingredients bought in bulk. My family, though, is quite small: My husband, my son and myself. There is no reason to buy huge amounts of many items. Many food items, especially perishables, are likely to go bad before we use them.

I Can Find Better Deals Elsewhere

It is true that there are some items at club stores that offer great deals. However, the best deal isn’t always to be found at a club store. And, even if you do get a good deal, you need consider whether the savings you receive actually do add up to an amount that is large enough to offset the annual fee you pay as a club store member.

We have found that we can actually get better deals if we look for sales at other stores. Per-unit, we have found that buying toilet paper, tissues and a few other items are actually less expensive if we buy them on sale elsewhere. So we watch for the sales, and the stock up. The same is true of canned goods. The local grocery store has a regular “case lot” sale that results in cheaper canned goods than what we’d get at the club store. So, as long as we plan ahead and stock up, there is no need to go to the club store.

And, of course, one can’t forget the Internet. Small appliances, electronics and other items can usually be found cheaper online. We do a lot of online shopping — at sites that offer free shipping on certain orders, of course!

What I DO Buy at the Club Store

My mother is able to add others to her account for less, so she just pays for each of her children to be on her account every year. So, a couple times a year, we venture into the club store for some very specific purchases. The over the counter medications are actually the best deal at the club store. Additionally, personal care items like deodorant, toothpaste and hand soap are usually good deals at the club store in our town. So we go ahead and get those, stocking up, at the club store.

While the club store can be a source of good prices and big savings, it’s important to double check. You actually may not be getting the best deal at the club store. Just like every other situation, it is a good idea to shop around and do some price comparisons. You might find that you can save more with a little careful investigation, rather than just getting everything at the club store.

This post was featured in the Festival of Frugality.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat Hanrahan January 31, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I totally agree that it is not always good buying from a store like Costco or Sam’s Club. I do not have the room in my house to store the large quantities that they want to sell to me. I can usually find better deals through the ads in my sunday paper. I have had memberships to both Costco and Sam’s and the only thing I miss buying from them is meat. The meats at both stores were usually a lot cheaper than any of the grocery stores around here.

Dave@50plusfinance February 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I gave up on Costco 2 years ago. The member fee was to high. I just didn’t see the savings unless you were buying large quantities. I can still find better savings at the grocery store with sales and 2 for 1 sales.

erik July 28, 2011 at 9:37 am

Costco does have a better return policy than most stores so they are a good choice when buying a TV or a computer or other high end items. Their produce is also tastier than what you might find at the grocery store.

DonS November 23, 2011 at 11:01 am

Ahhh, so that’s how you live frugally……”glom” off your parents for your membership. I’ll have to remember that one.

Bubba July 13, 2012 at 8:26 am

Most of the time I was disappointed with the produce I bought from the local sams club. Apples were constantly brown inside, but looked good on the outside. Some clothes were sized wrong. If I didn’t use my membership for months after it expired, Sams Club would try to charge me from the expiration date, not from the actual renewal date. One member told me that “In this case I am right”, when we disagreed on some renewal issue. The optician would constantly screw up my eyeglasses order.

The store is on the other side of town, and the customer service waiting time was constantly too long.

Due to the above reasons, I cancelled my Sam’s Club membership. I don’t miss it, but I do realize the savings of the 2 membership fee they require.

ButteryMuffyn July 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm

@DonS – Totally agree that the best way to save money is to use other people’s memberships 🙂 Also, having spoken to many people about frugal living recently, scavenging from friends and family members, eating way out of date food and basically being a food beggar seems to be the way to go. Will take my tongue out of my cheek now 😉

susanne August 1, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I just joined costco again because of their offer on a gym membership. It was HALF the price of going through the actual fitness chain! Even with the costco membership fee, i saved $300. Not too shabby. I suggest the other gift cards they have there for restaurant and other stuff that can make great gifts.

amanda August 7, 2012 at 8:22 pm

One thing in particular that is great in the club stores is baby needs. I use the bj’s brand diapers,which actually work better than pampers, for 1/2 the cost. I get a 142 pack for 24.00

Steven Daub March 15, 2013 at 8:24 am

You neglected to mention the savings on gasoline at Costco. Sometimes 20cents/per gallon difference. For a consumer that commutes, this is significant!

calandman March 20, 2013 at 9:02 am

While I appreciate the savings Costco offers it is the quality of the meat, seafood and produce that is the main draw for me. Prime grade meat is very difficult to find anywhere and Choice grade prices are great. Just because you are living frugal doesn’t mean you sacrifice quality. That’s not living. While we don’t often enjoy Rib Eye steaks when we do we buy the best Prime Grade available at Costco.

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