To Costco or not to Costco?
That is the question. Whether ‘tis smarter to pay the annual fee for the privilege of buying a $4.99 rotisserie chicken or 45 rolls of toilet paper at a time, I want to examine the pros and cons of warehouse stores to see if you really get your money’s worth.
- Depending on what you buy, the savings can add up. You are probably not going to buy everything at a warehouse store. But when I was a Sam’s Club member, the money I saved in kitty litter paid for my $45 annual membership. Per pound, a 42-pound bag of litter was half the price of litter at the grocery store – a savings of over $100 a year if I bought litter at the grocery store once a month. (Yes, I have a fat cat. I go through a lot of litter.)
- Extra bonuses. While Costco and Sam’s Club don’t usually accept coupons, they do have specials in their circulars and mailings. Depending on when you sign up, you can get gift cards to Sam’s and extra sign-up bonuses, such as free food items and/or free upgraded membership.
- Cheap eats! When I was a member of Costco, one of my favorite things to do was grab a $1.50 jumbo hot dog and soda before I started shopping. Warehouse stores offer fast, convenient food for low prices. And while not haute cuisine, it’s hard to say “no” to such a cheap meal. And it is genius marketing on Costco’s part to keep that $1.50 combo meal value price the same for the last 30 years.
And don’t forget the samples!
But at the same time, there are drawbacks to warehouse stores.
- Do you really have room for two quarts of parsley or 30 rolls of paper towels? If you live in an apartment or small house, space is at a premium. It is wise to buy only what you really use and have room to store. While I can easily stash the 42-bag of aforementioned kitty litter, I have less room for a 30-pack of paper towels, which would take me over 5 years to use.
- Convenience factor. I loathe grocery shopping. I do all my shopping at one store, even if another item is on sale at another store nearby. For me, my time is more valuable than running errands all over town. So while I may save a few bucks at a warehouse store, I don’t have the patience to go there once a month. I just want to get my shopping over and done with!
- Contributing to local economy. While Costco is almost legendary on how well they pay and treat their employees, the same cannot be said of Sam’s. Because I like to support local businesses, I try to shop the locally owned/operated stores and support local jobs with my spending dollars.
In the end, the decision is a question of cost versus convenience. The savings are undeniable, but I personally cannot stand the hassle factor. I think the wisest thing to do would be to pool resources and go in on a “family” membership with a family member or friend who is like family!
What is your experience with warehouse savings? Comment below!