How to Shop Smart at Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's Warehouse Clubs

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I just went to Costco today and I just love shopping there. However, it is imperative that you shop smart at warehouse clubs because there are several pitfalls that can come into play to turn a smart-shopping trip into a budget disaster.

Things You'll Need

  • Warehouse club membership
  • Planning
  • Self-restraint

Purchase the items that will save you money when you compare it to regular store prices and how much you will use. Items like coffee, cereal, cleaning and paper products and bath items can be found at prices much less than the per-ounce price at your local supermarket and they will likely get used all the way to the end. However, giant jars of peanut butter or 5 pounds of grapes may spoil before you can finish them, and you've just wasted your bargain. Just because something is offered at Costco doesn't mean it's the best place for you to purchase it for your family's needs.

Beware of price distortion! Shopping at warehouse clubs can skew your perception to where you begin thinking that anything less than say $10 is practically free (if you've shopped there you know what I mean). Just today my son asked me if we could buy a tin of cookies and I thought, "Oh, it's only $6.99." Then I realized I was about to spend 7 bucks on cookies! They stayed on the shelf and I didn't blast my budget. A natural extension of price distortion is size distortion. Great deal on yogurt? Check. Do you need 40 cups of it? Probably not.

Be wary of the sample patrol. Those samples are so very tempting and often quite delicious but they have an edge because they know that the first bite or two you take of something is typically the tastiest. You may just adore those pita chips in the store but then you get them home and realize you've just spent 6 bucks on a pillowcase size bag of blah.

Make a list and set a spending limit. It is entirely too easy to pick up items just because they look so tempting in the store but it doesn't take much to approach several hundred dollars at the cashier. Also hold onto the coupon books they mail out and make sure you utilize the ones for items you would buy anyway.

Be sure to comparison shop online before purchasing any electronics or other big ticket items like grills. Warehouse clubs like Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's often offer great prices on certain items but they will not have the selection you would find at a retail store, nor will there be anyone willing to help you lug it to your car and your home. If you find a great deal on a flat-screen TV there be advised that you will have to deal with that big box on your own.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use discretion and self-restraint to make warehouse clubs like Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's worth the annual fee.

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