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Are Warehouse Club Memberships Worth the Cost?

Are Warehouse Club Memberships Worth the Cost?Generally speaking, you want to keep as many memberships off of your monthly budget as possible. Memberships are charged month after month, and businesses like that arrangement because they get to collect your dollars even if you didn’t use the service.

Gyms are notorious for being able to stay in business by collecting monthly membership fees from those who don’t actually go to the gym.

However, this rule of thumb doesn’t mean that you should automatically eliminate all memberships from your monthly expenses.

If something could potentially save you money – like a membership to a warehouse club – that would at least be worth considering. In the end, it all comes down to math.

How Much Does It Cost?

The first thing to think about is how much the membership costs per month. You may wind up paying annually for the membership, but it is still best to think about the cost on a per-month basis.

So, for example, if the membership is $60/year, that works out to be just $5/month. That probably doesn’t sound too bad, but there is a little more math to do.

How Much Will You Save?

This is where things can start to get tricky. When people shop at a warehouse club, they tend to overestimate their savings – sometimes dramatically.

For instance, if you purchase a large package of soft drinks, you might save $5 over the cost of shopping at the grocery store. That’s great – right? If you save $5 on the soda, you will have made back your investment for the month just with that one purchase. Or so you may think.

The hidden cost of a warehouse club is in the purchases that you didn’t need to make, and would not have made otherwise. Would you have purchased that much soda if you were just shopping at the grocery store? Maybe, maybe not.

If not, you would have actually saved more money by staying away from the warehouse club – and you would have saved calories, as well. In some cases, warehouse clubs simply promote over-consumption, leading shoppers to actually spend and consume more in the long run than they would have otherwise.

Use Memberships Responsibly

We are not trying to argue that it is always a bad idea to join a warehouse club. In fact, these memberships can work out nicely – as long as you use them responsibly. It is your job to shop with a plan, think about your needs, and not fall for the marketing tricks used by the store.

One way to get value in this situation is to use the warehouse club to purchase non-perishable staples and household goods rather than traditional groceries.

For example, you might decide to buy your toilet paper in bulk at the warehouse club. The paper is not going to go bad, so you don’t risk wasting it by not using it fast enough. Also, this is an item you were going to purchase anyway, so you haven’t increased your consumption.

When you apply critical thinking and common sense to warehouse club shopping, you can get your money’s worth in the end.

 

Do you shop at a warehouse club? Why or why not?

 

Photo courtesy of: tokaijru

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John Schmoll is a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. He's passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes so that they can live lives free from the shackles of debt and empowered to make their money work for them. You can check out his other sites: Frugal Rules, for ways to improve your financial literacy; and Sprout Wealth for tips on different ways to make more money. John has been featured on Forbes, Lifehacker, Yahoo Finance and US News & World Report and more. If you're wanting to grow your blog, check out my blog coaching services to see how I can help you take your site to the next level.

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2 comments

  1. We pay for a Costco Executive membership. It’s 5 minutes from our house so we exclusively buy gas at Costco unless we’re travelling. We also buy most meat in bulk as well as cleaning supplies. Pair that with things that are difficult to find elsewhere (like Kodiak Cakes pancake mix) and the annual reward that we get back for having the Executive membership actually covers the cost of the membership itself. Easily worth it for us.

  2. I live in a small house with no extra storage. There are only two of us here and we use very little of any one product. The only thing we would purchase in large quantities would be cat food, but the last time I checked, Costco did not carry the brand we purchase.

    The one reason I might consider a membership is if we would need to buy a large ticket item that costs quite a lot. I have been told that items like hearing aids and glasses can be purchased at lower cost than elsewhere. There may come a time when that would make it worthwhile.

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