Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shopping at Club Stores

One of the ways that my family saves money is shopping at club stores. There are a handful of club stores that I am familiar with - Sam's Club, BJs and Costco - which are all local. (well, depends on how you define local - I am at least 45 minutes to an hour away from the nearest Costco).

We have belonged to one warehouse club or another, since we have been married. Our first membership was courtesy of a gift from my company for a successful year. Once we started shopping at the club store, we determined it was a good idea for us and have renewed each year. The club that we join has varied over the years, as our needs and our locations have changed.

As a frugal shopper, and someone who used to keep a price list (too hard to maintain with two kids, now I rely on my knowledge of typical sale prices), I can tell you that not all items at a club store are a good value every day. Some items, like cereal, unless there is a coupon in the monthly mailer or the fliers at the store, typically is a better deal when it is on sale at the grocery or drug store. It definitely pays to check pricing and to make sure that you are getting a value and not to just assume that because it is a big package that it has to be a good deal. We have been known, on non-food items, to look them up on Amazon to check pricing before making a purchase decision (got to love internet capable phones).

There are a few items that are staples of nearly every trip to the club store - tissues, paper towels, trash bags, Parmesan cheese (you should see the size of the container!) and Skittles (for my husband to enjoy while watching movies in his media room). These are things that we use regularly and we have found that with the club store prices and the coupons provided monthly by the club, that these are good values. Other things that we buy there on a regular basis include fruit cups, premade hamburger patties, Bagel Bites, and air dusters.

When the kids were younger, we bought diapers and wipes almost exclusively at the club store. We found that their deals were typically the best (of course, this was before I was familiar with the Drug Store game, so maybe my perspective would be different?). At the time, we belonged to a club that took manufacturer coupons for the items in addition to their store coupons, with stacking the coupons it helped make the deals even better. We even found that we liked the store brand diapers and if there weren't any deals on the branded diapers, we would pick those up.

There are many other items, besides food and personal care items, that you can get a good deal on at the club stores. We have picked up coats, sweats, shirts, shoes, socks, pajamas, books, toys, and more while shopping. We even found an end of season clearance section on our last visit, allowing us to save even more. Their greeting cards are offered at a discount every day. Their DVDs and music, as well as electronics, usually seem to be offered at a good price, especially when matched with a coupon from their flier. In addition, my daughter loves to dress her dolly in matching outfits and we have had pretty good luck finding "dolly and me" clothes at the club store.

Our club store offers discounted gasoline as well. Unfortunately, it used to be a much better deal - now, sometimes it is the same price as local stations and sometimes it is just a few cents cheaper. If it is cheaper, we fill up - even a few pennies a gallon can make a difference.

My kids don't mind shopping at the club store either. They like to look at all the different stuff, and of course, they love to try the samples.

We don't shop there weekly by any means (although if the store were closer, I might stop in more frequently). Typically, we go every 4 to 6 weeks. We tend to only head out when we are almost out of something or as we prepare for an event. Right now, we are planning a trip in preparation for my son's birthday party and an upcoming fantasy football draft. We need some hamburgers, some snacks, and probably some plastic flatware (although I have a friend that keeps a tin full of traditional flatware that she pulls out for family events and parties - I think that might be my next step in being more green and frugal).

This post shared at Works for Me Wednesday and Frugal Friday.

(do you shop at Sam's? Enter to win a $25 gift card here)