Are Membership Savings Programs Right for You?

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

Do AARP, AAA and other membership-based purchasing “collectives” offer effective ways to save? When considering membership savings or “subscription” programs that cost money to join, remember that when you pay to save, you’re starting off with a savings deficit of the amount of the subscription. The time – and purchasing – it will take you to recoup that initial outlay and the total savings you’ll eventually enjoy are the major factors to think about when paying for the privilege of saving.

These programs – and membership warehouse stores for that matter – rely on group purchasing power to secure savings for everyone. You pay to join the group which provides you access to members-only discount pricing and other, hopefully valuable, benefits. While many of these programs can provide significant savings and offer worthwhile perks, make certain there’s actual value in them for you before buying into their persuasive marketing.

Bear these factors in mind when considering the purchase of a subscription or membership:

  • Relevance to your circumstances – Take all variables into consideration so as to make sure that the benefits they offer have relevance for you. If your actual expenses are low in a certain category to begin with, an offer of a percentage savings may prove of minimal value. Are there state regulations that will prevent you from taking advantage of the savings or benefits offered? Are the savings and benefits available where you live? A 10% savings at a shoe store or restaurant chain that doesn’t exist in your neck of the woods is not a useful benefit to you. Neither is insurance if you have that provided by your employer or have negotiated a good rate with your own personal agent.
  • Compare savings and benefits – Don’t take their word just because they claim they offer cheaper prices. Do your research to make certain that the services or merchandise offered really is less expensive than you could find elsewhere without paying for a membership. Can you get equivalent pricing by being vigilant about shopping sales or using coupons?
  • Avoid duplication – As an example of duplicated savings, both AARP and AAA offer vehicle insurance and discounts on vision care and travel. Choose memberships which offer the most unique benefit to you to avoid paying for more individual memberships than necessary. Many warehouse clubs offer the same – or very similar – products so join the one you prefer rather than paying to be a member of every club in town.
  • Membership overload – While the savings offered can sound mighty tempting – and the membership fees seem generally inexpensive – buying multiple memberships, with high hopes of mega-savings, is probably unrealistic. And remember, you need to recoup the membership fee to begin experiencing any savings at all.
  • Real vs idealized savings – Claims of savings are very persuasive to the frugal among us. Even if you choose your memberships carefully, taking your individual needs, circumstances and preferences into consideration, you still need to actually use the benefits. Remembering to look to these organizations for savings when the time comes to make a purchase is another piece of the savings puzzle. You need to remember to take your membership card with you, know what establishments offer discounts and/or benefits and actually use the services to which you’re entitled to maximize their value to you. Otherwise, you’re merely paying for the idea of savings and never really experiencing it.

Memberships can save you money, so long as you choose them realistically, see value in them for yourself and actually follow through and take advantage of the savings and benefits.

What memberships save you money and provide the greatest value?

Bonus Tip:

Did you know that you can save money with Netflix? Even if you don't plan on using the service, you should at least sign up for the Netflix free trial here to get some free movies for a month.

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