I know, you won’t believe it, but I let my Costco membership expire. How can I live without shopping at Costco?
Over the last year I have wondered whether or not I should spend the money to renew my membership. I wanted to do my research and make sure the membership fee I would have to pay again was worth it. Here are a few questions I had to consider before deciding.
What is Different about Warehouse Stores?
Stores like Costco or Sam’s Club require you to pay a membership fee in order to shop at the store. The fee for Costco is $55 a year and Sam’s Club is $40. You are required to get a card with your picture on it and show that card each time you enter the store.
The whole purpose behind these warehouse stores is they claim to offer better deals on the items you buy. Since you have to pay a fee to enter the store, not everyone can take advantage of the deals. So are the deals as good as the stores claim?
Is Buying in Bulk the Best Idea?
The one feature warehouse store have working in their favor is that everything is bought in bulk. Buying in bulk most always saves you money – as long as you use what you buy. There are a number of items that absolutely save you money when you buy in bulk, like toilet paper, soap and toothpaste. US News says buying non perishable foods in bulk is 30% cheaper than buying those things one box at a time.
Be cautious of the things you buy in bulk. For example, if you buy fruit or vegetables in bulk, be sure you can eat all that you buy before it goes bad and you end up throwing the food out. Also be aware of items you buy that you don’t need. When shopping in warehouse type stores, take a list and stick to it (Editors note: this is a good idea with any form of shopping). The food tasters and items you see in the store that look good can quickly break your budget and have you overspending.
Buying in bulk isn’t always the most reasonable answer. If you have a large family, the buying in bulk can help you save money. If you are buying for just you, the money you spend and save might not be worth the membership fee. Decide whether shopping at warehouse stores make sense for your situation before joining.
Do You Get Sucked into Spending More?
When you are shopping at the warehouse stores, finding what you need can take a while, which it what they want. These stores want you to wander the store and come across new fun things to add to your cart that you hadn’t planned on.
Deal News explained why you never hear music playing in these stores, because they want you to feel comfortable and stay. With their merchandise changing frequently, finding what you need can seem like you are on a treasure hunt. It can be fun to discover new items that seem like a great deal, just be careful not to overindulge.
Buying items in bulk means the upfront cost is going to seem more expensive. Be sure you calculate the cost per unit on the items and stick to your list. It can be very easy to blow your monthly budget with one trip to a warehouse club store. Make the most of your trip and only buy the items you know you will use and you can use before they go bad.
Which Is the Better Option – Costco or Sam’s Club?
Deciding which warehouse club to become a member of can be a hard decision. You want to ensure you are making the best economical choice. Both offer a variety of different products to save you money and ensure your one stop shopping; including contacts, tires, gas, and groceries .
One article in Time magazine found that Sam’s Club overall bill was $12 less than the bill of similar items at Costco, but that Costco’s per-unit prices were slightly better than Sam’s. This same article said that Sam’s offered more methods of payment and more membership perks. On the other hand, Business Insider found the prices at Costco were cheaper than Sam’s Club in some areas.
The difference between the two warehouse stores isn’t enough to put one store above the other. Ultimately, the decision is going to come down to which warehouse store is closest to where you shop, and the products you want to buy there.
I love the Kirkland brand and prefer it over the Sam’s Club brand, but both stores are similar enough in price to be worth the membership fee and even earn the money spent in the fee back in money saved.
So Is It Worth the Membership Fee?
In all the research and experiments I came across, one thing was constant between all – YES the membership fee is worth it! The markup on items at warehouse club stores is around 15%, while at other department stores and supermarkets is around 25%.
The difference between the major warehouse stores wasn’t enough of a difference to say one is better than the other; that comes down to preference in shopping. The money saved by buying items in bulk and through these warehouse stores is worth the upfront cost of a membership fee.
So, this being said, I will be renewing my membership with Costco. The deals they offer through their coupon books, gas, and buying items in bulk will help me save my family money.