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Are Wholesale Stores Worth the Membership Fee

Updated on May 10, 2007

You know the stores I am talking about. Sams, Costco, BJ's, etc. Does shopping at these wholesale stores really save you money? Is the membership fee worth it? The answer is - it depends on what you buy. For me it is worth it - completely. For you it might not be.

One of the tricks is paying close attention to prices. There are many items at these wholesale stores that do not save me money. I can get the same items for cheaper at my local grocery store - when it is on sale. I try to stock up on items when they are on sale so that I never have to pay full price. However, if I run out of said item and there isn't a sale at my grocery store, I can usually get the item at Sams for cheaper than the regular price at my grocery store. Knowing the prices of the items I use helps me make the best decision on where to purchase what I need.

One big item to consider is milk. I have found, in two states now, that Sams consistently has the lowest prices on milk. My family drinks three gallons of milk a week. So in three months time I save enough on milk alone to cover my membership fee. If you don't drink milk, is there another item that you use enough of that would save you enough to cover the membership fee?

Other food items I get at warehouse stores that make it worth it for me are a three pound bag of Organic Spring Salad mix for $3.88, a 12 pack of tomato sauce that breaks down to $.41 per can, meats and blocks of cheese. These items are almost always cheaper for me at a warehouse store than at the grocery store. For you it could be other items, the point is to know the differences in prices and see if it is worth it for you.

Do you own a business? Wholesale stores offer great prices on office supplies. I can get a two pack of toner for around $45. At my local Walmart this toner is $28 each. I save $11 each time I buy toner. Envelopes and bubble wrap are other items I have found cheaper there.

Another thing to consider when deciding if these big box stores are worth it, do you need to shop in bulk? I think that everyone can benefit from shopping in bulk, but not everyone thinks like that. Also, not everyone has an extra freezer to store items in. Canned foods, however, can last years and don't need a special storage place. So if you will use something, puchasing it in bulk can save you money in the long run.

A lot of people have trouble shopping at these stores because they offer so many kinds of items, all under one roof. Many people find that they spend too much money at these stores. It can happen. You have to know your prices and not get sucked into all the extras the store offers. It can be hard to tell really how much an item costs compared to the grocery store. You might know how much one item is at the grocery store, but when comparing that to a box of 12 items that are a different size, are you getting a good deal or not? Most places do list the unit price underneath the total price, but this can be confusing. It might have the price listed per ounce, yet you are buying 8 cans with 15 oz each, and it can get confusing to do all this math in your head. I try to always bring my calculator so that I can tell if I am really getting a good deal or not.

I can't tell you if wholesale stores like Costco are worth it for you. I do know they are worth it for me though. Most of these stores offer a day pass for you to go in and look around. Try this, or go with a friend who has a membership and check out the prices. You will either decide that this kind of shopping isn't for you and never go back, or realize that it really will save you money and decide to join. Whatever you decide, I think checking into every option that could save you money is wise one. You never know when and where you will save money.


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