Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Is Buying in Bulk Cheaper?

That's a great question so many of us ask as we are trying to calculate if joining a wholesale club will actually save us money and be the right thing for our family. There is no right or wrong answer as it depends on many factors that involve your family and your lifestyle. Here are some factors that need to be taken in account.
::: Membership costs vary from one wholesale club to the next. Calculate the membership cost per month (example: $40 year= $3.33 per month) and see if you are saving that kind of money when you shop each month. If you shop every other month, calculate your membership costs accordingly to see if your savings offset your expenses. Many employers offer discount memberships to wholesale clubs and many clubs also offer promotions for cheaper membership costs throughout the year, so look out for specials.

::: Size of your family, how much food/household items you need, storage space for all the bulk items. Consider how often you actually will shop at the store and what kind of products will you be getting. Consider the time saved in buying bulk vs many frequent grocery store trips. Take into account the amount of money you are able to lay out for one trip to the club. Many people cannot afford to spend $100 in one trip for (8) items, even though they will last for many months.

Keep in mind that bigger packages don't always mean its cheaper than buying a couple of small packages. When buying one cereal box in bulk you can only use 1 coupon and the cereal will rarely be on sale, however buying (2) boxes of cereal at the supermarket when its on sale (cereals are sale, pretty often) and using (2) coupons (one per box) will most often and most likely yield greater savings. I personally don't spend more than $1 per box of cereal at the drugstores, supermarkets, etc (since I combine sales with coupons, get the coupons doubled, take advantage of store reward programs and use rebates whenever possible), so buying (1) bulk box of cereal (which is equivalent to (2) boxes) at the average price of $6, even when using a $1 coupon will only cost me $5 for (2) boxes or $2.50 per box.

Other things to keep in mind is that wholesale clubs do sell many other things besides for diapers & cereal, such as milk, eggs, produce, meats, which you will most likely not have coupons for. If you are buying enough of a quantity of those items, then wholesale clubs are a winner for you. I personally have realized, the more of a pro I become at the drugstores, the less often I shop as wholesale clubs. I tend to get almost all of my household & personal products for free or pennies on the dollar at CVS, Walgreen's etc, that there is not much left to shop for in the wholesale clubs.

Although I have a discounted membership to BJ's (purchased through an employer) I still find great deals at the store, especially since I can stack store coupons with manufacturers coupons. I have learned over time which items are worthwhile to shop for at the wholesale club and which items can be gotten elsewhere for less money.

Other things that wholesale clubs offer are auto repair services (oil changes, tire rotation, etc), gas at some locations, clothing, books, electronics (small to big), jewelry, tires & more. So its worth to consider getting as much as possible out of the membership, obviously only if it will save you money. I love BJ's card section because they always have 50% off on all the brand name cards and gift supplies, its definitely a big savings there.

Coupon policies at the Wholesale Clubs:

BJ's - my favorite, will allow coupon stacking with their own coupons (they send them in the mail and they are found at the stores) and with manufacturers coupons. They also allow multiple coupons to be used for a multiple pack product (such as 8 pack of Pasta, can potentially be used with up to 8 manufacturers coupons + a store coupon).

Sam's Club - does not accept manufactures coupons. They do have minimal amount of store coupons.

Costco - does not accept manufacturers coupons either.

Even though wholesale clubs offer great savings, you will need to investigate & calculate your needs vs spending habits vs time vs location etc. Try out a discounted membership at the store of your choice and track your spending for the year. After that you will either be totally convinced of the savings or will not renew the membership for the following year.

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