To warehouse or not to warehouse

By Mir
March 10, 2008

The very lovely Courtney writes:

I know you have been posting things relating to good financial decisions, but not necessarily internet deals lately and was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving your take on wholesale clubs.

I found it interesting that I am both a member of Costco and BJ’s and some of the MAJOR differences between these two particularly. The biggest thing that affects me is baby items (I have a 23 month old and a 6 month old which means two in diapers and one on formula). I was amazed at the limited selection at Costco not to mention their prices!! BJ’s is not only MUCH cheaper on their diapers and wipes, but they have a huge variety to choose from – Luvs, Pampers, Huggies and their own brand where Costco only carries Huggies and their brand (at least the one that I use). Not only does BJ’s carry a variety of brands, but they also carry a variety of sizes – at least in the wipes department. Anyways, I find myself wondering if people realize that they aren’t always getting the best deal at one wholesale club over another or that not all are the same. Another example is that Costco sells my contact lenses for almost $5 a box cheaper than BJ’s.

Not sure if this issue would be worth posting a blog about, but it is just a thought. I know BJ’s is not as nationally known as Costco or Sam’s Club, but I have to say, I have been nothing but pleased with being a member there. Plus, they don’t seem to be nearly as busy AND they accept coupons!

So… what do I think? Are warehouse clubs worth it? Yes. No. Sometimes!

This one is really almost too easy, because Courtney was swell enough to do most of the work for me. Thanks, Courtney!

She’s absolutely right—not all warehouse clubs are created equally. Some will meet your needs and some will not… maybe. In some cases none of them will meet your needs. So: How do you know when you’re right for a warehouse club?

A warehouse club might be right for you if:

… you have a large family. Buying in bulk when you have, well, a bulk-sized brood to feed/clothe/wash makes perfect sense.

… you have plenty of storage area. Yes, you may save a bit of money if you buy those granola bars by the case. But it’s not a savings if you don’t have anywhere to put them.

… you have a child (or two or three) in diapers. Although the halcyon days of warehouse clubs selling cartons of diapers for a song are probably over, most warehouse clubs do still use diapers and wipes as “loss leaders,” which means they sell them for under cost because they bring people in.

… the warehouse club is conveniently located. Do not join a warehouse club that’s 100 miles away. By the time you pay for the gas, it’s a wash, savings-wise.

… you have an employer who will pay your membership fees. If its free to join, why not? But if you’re paying $30 or whatever each year, you need to be convinced you’re saving at least that much.

… they take coupons. That’s assuming that you do the coupon thing, of course. But a warehouse club that doesn’t take coupons is rather limiting if the whole point is that you’re looking to save some money.

… if they carry stuff you need and use. The biggest savings-killers with stores like this are twofold—one, that you make a bunch of impulse buys (which are not only bad because, hey, do you need that? but also because now instead of a small bottle you have a gallon, or whatever), and two, that you buy a brand you really don’t like because that’s what they have.

Me, I used to do the warehouse club thing when I had two kids in diapers. What I saved just on their diapering far outweighed the cost. But in general, these days, for a family of four I simply cannot justify the cost—we don’t need mass quantities of, well, anything, really. And I’d rather buy things like fresh fruits and veggies in quantities we can actually consume. So it’s not right for us, but that doesn’t mean it’s not right for you.

Most warehouse clubs will let you do a free trial membership (or someone with a membership can take you as a guest), so regardless of your situation, if you’re on the fence, try it out before you sign up. That’s the best way to try it out without committing. And maybe you have a friend who’s in a similar boat—maybe the two families can decide to go in on a membership, together (how you work that out within the rules of membership is up to you; it may be as simple as one of you agreeing to be the member and always take the other one shopping in exchange for half the member fee).

Anyway, that’s my two cents. Am I missing something? Is there another super-fantastical benefit of warehouse club membership which I’ve overlooked?


  1. I am a member of Costco, but not a member of the oh-my-goodness-we-need-to-drop-several-hundred-dollars-each-time-we-step-foot-in-the-warehouse camp. We regularly buy bottled water, beef jerky, dishwashing detergent, milk and chicken nuggets there. We have gotten good deals on some clothes there, my hubby’s glasses, plus our cell phones plans too. Not a long list, but I really, really feel that with warehouse clubs (and grocery stores in general) you need to know what things cost. Only then can you know if you are getting a good deal or not. I fail to understand people who buy ginormous packages of toilet paper and paper towels there, when you can get it much cheaper when it’s on sale with a manufacturers coupon.
    I have taken advantage of the coupons that Costco sends out via snail mail. I am also a big fan of their photo processing. You can upload pics, order them and then pick them up in-store at competitive prices.
    A recent score we got was with the Costco coupon book that is mailed out. A major mattress store honored the Costco price on a really nice set…woohooo!! 🙂

  2. We got my husband’s hearing aids at Costco and saved a fortune.

  3. I read an article a while back about how prescription meds can be much, much cheaper at warehouse stores. The example they gave had the Costco price at something like one-tenth of the drugstore price.

    Last year my mom purchased a Costco membership specifically to buy four tires and the savings on them alone more than made up for the membership fee.

    But I gave up my Costco membership when my Safeway started carrying the big boxes of diapers too.

  4. I’m single and my parents live just the two of them, but we’ve gotten our value back from Costco just in a few things: Claritin (which I take everyday), gas (save a few bucks everytime we go and fill up if we’re nearby), Cheerios (we’re all addicted), and products for parties (I’ve thrown major events over the past year and saved a ton buying veggie platters and such there). I’m planning on getting contacts there too when I get around to it, and if my new plan doesn’t cover prescriptions as well as it does now, they’re getting transferred to Costco. My mom saved around $8 on a $50 itunes giftcard for me for Xmas, and I like buying things like canned tomatoes, AmLactin, and paper goods there for the sake of having them in bulk. My friends with kids love the diapers at BJs. If you know what to buy going in, you get great savings.

  5. I think it’s a decision you have to make based on the kinds of things you buy and the prices at other stores in your area. We shop at Costco a LOT. In our area they are the cheapest place to buy milk, butter, cheese, and many kinds of meat. (To be honest I have to point out that DH and I choose not to shop at WalMart, and some of these things might be cheaper there.)

    Contact lenses are another loss-leader they use to get people in the door. My eye doc says he can’t even order contacts for the price Costco sells them for.

    Often gas is less there, but we have to watch that. Other things we buy there frequently that are either less expensive or so much higher in quality that we choose to get them:

    fruit-fresh and frozen
    some vegetables
    paper towels
    generic cold medicines and pain relief
    “artisan” bread
    bread flour
    organic peanut butter

    We do have to be careful about the “great bargains” that pop up on things we wouldn’t otherwise buy. But that happens in any store. Around Christmas we have some people for whom the most appropriate gift is a store-bought gift basket or food gift type things (there are reasons it would not do to substitute homemade, no matter how wonderful) and Costco rules for prices on those things. We’ve also bought their huge rolls of heavy foil wrapping paper and used them three Christmases in a roll.

    So, that’s a vote in favor of Costco. We also have Sams in our area, but the quality of meat and produce is not there and it is a very noisy store.

  6. I’ve been a Costco member for some years now, but only because I split the cost with my mother and we share the membership. I used to buy my diapers there, but since figuring out the CVS Extra Bucks system out, I usually get them cheaper by combining manufacturer coupons, sales, and “extra bucks”. In a pinch, I know that buying them at Costco is still a “good price”. I have a very limited list of items that I buy there regularly – organic milk, half and half, Chock Full of Nuts coffee. At Christmas time (which according to Costco, begins in August…), they can have great prices on quality, big ticket toys. Oh, and I second the tires. Costco is THE place for tires, especially when they go on special.

  7. Oh, also the $5 rotisserie chicken is HUGE, juicy, and can feed my family for two days. Then I throw what’s left in a stock pot with celery and carrots and make $5 worth of broth. That cannot be beat.

  8. It’s really up to the individual household, I’m sure, but we’ve gotten our money back and thensome at our local Costco. Our Costco carries gas a full $0.20 cheaper/gal than the station down the block. I couldn’t agree more about the lack of choices when it comes to baby items (formula sucks, too), but with the gas, prescriptions, and other non-perishables.. it’s well worth our money. Also, the Costco brand is such an amazingly high quality brand.

  9. I have a subset of my regular stuff that I buy at Costco, plus I’ve gotten really excellent prices on some bigger stuff (custom wood blinds were a steal there). There’s one located quite close to work, so I can do it on my lunch hour.

    In my area, Costco sells gas and they have the cheapest price around, so there’s that.

    I think the big danger with Costco (particularly with stuff in that middle section) is that their inventory rotates, so if you see something you like, you’re tempted to buy it even if you don’t really need it right way, because it might not be there the next time.

    For me one of the benefits of Costco (and that’s the only warehouse place I have any experience with) is that I’m relatively sure when I buy something there, that I’m getting a reasonable price. Not necessarily the very cheapest price, no (though there are definitely things that fall into that category), but I feel confident I’m not getting taken. At this point in my life, I choose to spend my life energy on things that are more important to me (earning a living, parenting my children, occasionally waving hello to my husband in the hall on my way to bed, things like that) than keeping a price book or clipping coupons on Sundays. I’ve been that route in the past, but I just don’t have time for it now.

    Costco is also consistently voted one of the great places to work, which makes me feel good about spending my dollars there (as opposed to, say, Wal-Mart).

    My bias is showing. I’ll admit it — I loves me my Costco.

  10. I think you made an excellent point about the travel. The closest warehouse is 60 miles from me. (120 miles round trip.) I have friends that go up there bi-weekly for, what they say, a huge savings. I guess I can never figure it out. Why spend all that gas, plus go out for lunch, and buy a bunch of junk that is really not that much cheaper. At least at that store it isn’t.

    Yes, when I had three in diapers (oh how happy am I that those days are gone) it was cost effective for me to make a once monthly trip for diapers, wipes, formula. Now a days, even with three kids, I don’t see the point.

  11. A friend and I split our BJs membership (entirely within the rules) and it’s still a big savings for me. So many of the staples that my family uses are much cheaper there, plus it’s a place I can get some “fun” food for a little cheaper.

  12. Aldis and Trader Joes is what made me give up on warehouse stores. I have a small family of 3 and we are now over the baby needs stage. Many of the items we used to get at Costco I can now find for a similar price at Aldis or Trader Joe and both stores are really convenient to me. Also no membership fees and since the stores are smaller easier for me to get in and out of quickly. But even at theses stores the advice from above stands. You have to know what things cost in order to know if it really s a deal.

    I did not go to Aldi for a long time because I remembered the ones from the inner city area of Chicago during the early 90’s. The stores are completely different now in terms of quality of products. If you have any in your area I advise you to check them out.

  13. I know that not everyone lives near a Trader Joe’s and that it’s not a warehouse store, so this is slightly off topic, but someone above mentioned how Trader Joe’s led them away from Costco. Me too! I don’t have to buy a gajillion pounds of something, but I still get it much cheaper than our other grocery. Here’s a good article about how much of TJ’s food is actually third-party – meaning, you are actually buying Annie’s Goddess dressing for a couple of bucks LESS, just with a different label. Interesting.

  14. i do have a membership to sam’s…no costco, tader joe’s, aldis near us. i have my membership for meat, wine, juice boxes for my kids lunch, and holiday card pictures. there are some other things we buy there as well…usually milk and eggs are a good buy. i could easily go in there and spend hundreds of dollars on stuff, but i could do that at kroger too…just have to know what i am going in for, put on my blinders, not take my husband or kids, and stick to my list.

  15. I love Costco for their meat. I can buy organic ground beef cheaper than anywhere else and chicken breast for ridiculously cheap. We also buy other organic items that I can get in larger amounts for less. Like others, we are careful about those things we wouldn’t normally buy.

    I do feel though that often, with bigger ticket items, it may not be the cheapest at Costco (primarily due to limited selection) but it will be great quality and they back it up.

    Plus we have the executive membership and the American Express card. Between those two, we get two cash rebates each year which more than pay for my membership.

  16. We belong to Sam’s and we live at least 70 miles from the closest one. I love it because we have purchased several big items online (an outdoor playset and a Bose surround sound system). I have been really happy with their customer service too. That means a lot these days! We did a lot of price shopping before purchasing these 2 items and saved a lot! That alone has been worth it to me. I do know however, some items are more expensive than in the grocery store, so you really have to watch close when you are in the actual store.

  17. We are members at BJ’s (also split the membership with family). Currently, our biggest savings is diapers, wipes, etc. but even when we were just two, I would go for non perishables. I’m going to say something blasphemous here so prepare yourself… I hate to shop. Hate it. So if I could go every couple of months for tp, paper towels, shampoo, soap, clothes and dishwasher soap, I was thrilled. I will pick up non perishables there for a better price (milk, fish, meat) but I won’t make a special trip to the warehouse store for that.

    I thought I heard that BJs was going to have home heating oil but it may not be in my area, we never heard more about it.

  18. I’m surprised that it isn’t worthwhile for you with a family of four, Mir. There are just two of us, and we FAR exceed the price of the Costco executive membership (which results in a yearly rebate) in savings. A few big ticket items over the years have been mattresses and tires. Staples are coffee, soymilk, bananas, frozen berries, cat sand, cereal, fresh spinach, lemons, peppers, melons and strawberries (when they’re in season), bread, marinated artichokes, olive oil, salmon burgers, fresh chicken breasts, chicken broth, scottowels, tp…

    I always go in with list in hand, which I stick to.

  19. Oh, and $70 Speedo swimsuits for a mere $20.

  20. We have had a Costco membership for about 15 years now. We stock up every 6-8 weeks (go with a list!)buying bulk packages of meat & fish, then come home and “seal a meal” them into reasonable sized portions. Their prices on olive oil, chicken broth, and other staples are great too. And I figure I’m saving $ on gas by not having to run to the local grocery store every other day. (Plus, I get kinda nervous when our toilet paper supply runs low….but that’s just me.)

  21. Heidi is right to stick to your list! We belong to BJ’s precisely b/c of the baby goods. We generally do our big BJ’s shop when visiting my mom in in DE-it’s literally 2 minutes from her house, and we save by not paying MD’s lousy 6% tax. also, her location has a deli dept and their lunch meat is almsot half of what I’d pay in a regular grocery store.

  22. We belong to both Sam’s and Costco. One we pay for and one we don’t. We buy most of our meat, paper and plastic products, cleaning products, and bottled water there. We also buy cereal and other basic food items occasionally. Office supplies are reasonable at these places too and I usually buy the bulk ones to keep some then donate some to my family member teacher who is always looking for extra stuff for her room. We could get by with just one membership but honestly Costco doesn’t carry our preferred brand of toliet paper and Sam’s always has it. Yes, we could get it at Target but their prices are about twice as much it seems for a similar amount. So since Costco are Sam’s are within walking distance of each other we can run to both at the same time if desired.

  23. Costco is great for my mom. It doesn’t work well for us. Our local grocery chain has meat for lower prices than Costco, and that’s our biggest ticket purchase. We can’t eat processed food (er, and a lot of other food b/c of allergies), and don’t have much storage space, either.

    One other reason why Warehouses aren’t always a good choice that hasn’t been mentioned is that sometimes you can’t afford to buy 2 months worth of something, you have to buy it a couple times a month instead. It’s annoying, but sometimes I can’t afford the savings!

    If we at differently, lived closer, and didn’t have the super-cheap and super-awesome grocery store, we would have a different answer for a family of 5.

  24. Well, I am going to have to be the discenting voice here. I guess it’s because we don’t fit into any of the big ‘if’ categories. We have a (fairly) small family of four, we don’t have a huge amount of space for either frozed or dry goods. I do have one in diapers but I have found that by using coupons and shopping the sales I can usually beat the warehouse prices. I have also only ever used one of their free 30 day memberships and have had such a terrible time getting signed up (long wait, poor customer service) that I am already frustrated and annoyed by the time I get started. Overall, however, I find that I am able to easily save 20-30% at the grocery store with greater selection and reasonable portions (I think I read somewhere that you save abut 15% at the warehouse stores) so, after many disappointing trips have declared myself ‘off’ these places (how’s THAT for a run on sentence…). Interesting topic though.

  25. We love Costco! Great items such as lower gas prices, diapers, milk, tires, yeast, and many more as has been previously mentioned. My husband gets his contacts from here too. I do all of our photo printing there. By the time I upload the photos and drive there (about 10 minutes) away, my photos are usually ready. I have printed over 1000 photos in the past year (my daughter is 12 months and yes, I am photo taking crazy 🙂 ) and have never had a problem.

    I wish we had a BJ’s near us here in Kentucky. I use to go there when I lived in MD and miss it. As everyone has said BJ’s is the place to go if you have children.

  26. Someone mentioned tires — I like Costco because they’ll rotate them while I shop. Someone else mentioned swimsuits, and every year for the past five years I’ve picked up girls Speedos for $12 and then seen the exact same ones in a catalog for $26 to $30. Other clothes that are a good deal are their Kirkland brand dress shirts for men (I just cut the tag out when I bring them home!) — they are very well-made for the price. Milk in my neck of the woods is always cheaper at Costco. Also, I’m a big bulk-buyer (one of those crazies with a year’s supply in my basement) and the Costco near me caters to that niche market with wheat and dried milk and occasional other items they rotate in and out.

    But I agree with the other comments — you have to have a list and stick to it. I’ve divided my basics into three categories after researching prices: Costco, a big box store (sorry!), and my local high-end grocery store. I rarely stray from those categories.

  27. At Costco, the milk, cheese and eggs are always a good buy, as is the sandwich bread (as in, nearly half the price of the grocery store). Plus gas is a good deal (fill up while you’re there), and glasses and tires are good deals for the quality you’re getting.

    That’s what is said to be different about Costco — they don’t necessarily offer the cheapest items on the market; they are supposed to do research and offer the best value. For example, you might be able to find cheaper tires, but the ones they offer are a better value.

    The membership fee is $50, but I go once a week and easily save $1/week over grocery store prices (usually more like $5-10 a week).

  28. Oh! I almost forgot to pimp my friend’s blog Addicted to Costco. She always has info. on deals, coupons, etc.

  29. The way I see it, Costco costs me a bit over $4 a month extra to shop there, but I’d spend 4-5 times more than that per month on certain things if I shopped elsewhere.

    Their fresh produce is unbeatable and they have the ONLY whole grain bread I’ve found outside a health food store that is both free of trans-fats and high fructose corn syrup (it freezes very well and is cheap). For me, the bread alone is worth it. I couldn’t find a bread in my local grocery store that didn’t have at least one of those things in it, and I would spend $4-5 a loaf at Whole Foods (no TJ’s here, bastards). It’s half that price at Costco.

  30. We are Costco members, too. There is a Sam’s in the area, but I think the Costco is cheaper. We buy nearly all of our meat there and then break the bulk packages down into usable sizes for our family of four and foodsaver/freezer it. We go 1x/month and stock up on wine and other foods, too. In fact, the last time I went, we got 6 packs of romaine lettuce (good sized heads) for $2.25 each – I bought two they were such a good deal. We buy some other frozen things as well as paper goods and detergents there, too. Oh, and bread! We buy a two-loaf package of whole/multi-grain bread for $3.35 each, so I buy two two-packs, put them in the freezer and that lasts us just about a month. Similar whole/multi-grain bread in the grocery store is regulary $4/loaf when not on sale.

    To be honest, I just can’t make the time for couponing and watching what’s on sale at what stores each week. It just takes me too long, plus, we live about 20 minutes outside of the south side of town, so going to a bunch of stores to get the best deals just doesn’t make sense as a good use of my time. Also, I’ve read several articles that the maximum markup on any item at Costco is 14%, so I feel that in general while I may not get the best price, I am getting a decent price.

  31. We love Costco and always end up saving much more than the price of membership. My husband uses their payroll service for his business, which pays for the membership alone. We also use their tire service and buy gas there most of the time. And we have a running list of things we buy there…cheese, olive oil, bread, shampoo (the kind we use is dirt cheap there compared to the fancy grocery store where we used to buy it), canned tomatoes, baby wipes (the best, even if they’re not the cheapest), vitamins, organic chicken broth, etc. They also have very good deals on books and wine.

    It’s true that some things really are not cheaper there, so you do have to be aware. When I’m there, I find it very easy to lose perspective on sizes and prices since the scale of everything is so skewed there. I try to buy only things that we will definitely use (no trying out new products when I’m buying a kajillion), that we have space to store, and that I know to be a reasonably good deal.

  32. I can’t imagine getting a club membership for myself — I do too good a job of shopping grocery sales with coupons at regular stores to really see fantastic savings. My mom has a membership, which she uses primarily for her volunteer catering. It is the best place to shop for parties, I’ll give you that. But there are only a few products from Costco that I either truly adore (AvoClassic guacamole, Trident frozen salmon burgers) or can’t beat the price on elsewhere (10 lbs. of oatmeal for $4.) So I think I have the absolute best system for shopping at Costco… I just give my mom a list when she’s headed out!

    The limited selection at Costco drives me nuts. I want more than two brands of spaghetti sauce to choose from, and there’s nothing worse than heading out there because there’s one particular item I want… and they no longer carry it. Argh!

  33. My grandmother added me as an authorized user on her Sam’s Business Account (she has a home-based business), so I don’t pay for my membership or I’d never go. I think you really have to know the ballpark unit prices for the items you regularly use or it isn’t worth it. Some things they carry are really a false economy since when you work out the unit price it is the same or more than a regular store. But I think a lot of people just assume it’s a bargain if you get a lot of it.

    I did get a POUND of pine nuts for 10 bucks, so that made me happy. And it’s good for buying a huge thing of appetizers if you’re having a party.

  34. I am a Costco member through my employer, so I don’t have to pay a cent to be a member. One of my favorite things about Costco that hasn’t been mentioned yet is that my Costco has a gas station. The gas there is always at least .05 cheaper per gallon than the other stations down the street. I use their photo processing regularly. I routinely buy big bags of their meatballs, chicken nuggets and spinach ravioli to keep in the freezer for quick meals. I stock up on granola bars, variety packs of individual wrapped crackers/cookies, fruit leathers, etc. for the kids lunch boxes. I also love them for parties–their sheet cakes are really good and a huge bargain at $15 (including filling). They have great appetizers/dips/salsas, fruit trays and veggie trays. I also really like their meats. Last week I got ground sirloin for $2.49 lb. Sure, I had to buy 5 lbs., but I split it up in freezer bags. I’ve also found some really great clothing deals for my husband and the kids. You really have to be aware of what a good price is, though, because some things are totally not worth it. The soda there comes in 36 packs and is overpriced compared to other stores, but I always see lots of people with it in their carts.

  35. Couple of other points about Costco:

    1. If you get the executive (I think that’s what it’s called?) membership they rebate 1% of your yearly shopping to you. I have a teenage boy* so that rebate pays for our membership fee, even the more expensive level.

    2. They have a fantastic level of customer service particularly when it comes to returns. I’ve known all sorts of people who have returned computers and cameras and had no trouble at all with Costco – they’re very, very good. In fact several of my friends will only buy computers at Costco even if the price is a little better elsewhere because the return policy and support is so darn good.

    *In case this isn’t self explanatory, simple example. He comes home from school (having had breakfast, lunch and often a snack) and eats: 3 bagels with cream cheese and lunch meat, two pieces of fruit (at least), three pb&j sandwiches, minor nibbles of left-overs if available and sometimes 1 or 2 packets of Ramen (I know, I know but it’s dead cheap!). Then he asks what I’m making for dinner. Also, he’s 5’11” and weighs… maybe 115 lb soaking wet with boots on.

  36. For prescriptions you do not have to be a member to get a discount. It’s a law (somewhere) that if you have a pharmacy you have to offer the discounts to everyone not just members blah blah blah I don’t know the terms. My Dr. told me that. But it didn’t matter because we have Costco membership. We split it with my mom.

    I highly rec the clothes. I know it’s weird. I never even looked at them until my husbands uncle was telling us about the great deal he got on dockers there. (his uncle is the flashy, lives in a mansion in Florida off the coast kinda guy).

    Holy crap dockers $18 a pair AND lucky jeans (for men) were only $29.99 a pair. (Lucky jeans cost at LEAST $100 a pair usually).

    We always check the clothes now. I’m hoping the bakery will come to our Costco. In CA, we had a La Brea bakery in our Costco and we don’t have one in Ohio. I miss it!

  37. Now that Costco carries a wide selection of fresh, organic products, we shop there almost weekly and save a lot on standards like PB & J, bread, fresh spinach and greens, carrots, milk, butter, eggs etc. I agree that the rotisserie chicken is about the most delicious deal in the store.

  38. Carmie, are you talking about the Innkeepers 8 Grain Bread? Omigosh, SO good, so good for you, and so inexpensive. It must be a loss leader.

  39. Another huge Costco fan here! I’m a single grad student who lives with two roommates. For our apartment, we get tp, paper towels, laundry detergent, dish soap, and some other cleaning supplies.

    I also buy meat/fish about every 3-4 months and freeze it, get fruits/veg there, and fill prescriptions for way cheaper than anywhere else.

    Finally I’ve gotten great deals on some big ticket items there: TV, external hard drive, and camera. Plus they have incredible warranties on those items. My mother once returned a camera 4 years after she bought it and got it replaced!

  40. I can’t believe no one has mentioned the Costco return policy! Literally they will take back anything at anytime, no questions asked. I have been amazed. It makes me feel much more comfortable trying new things there, and I’m sure increases their sales. In fact we just bought a laptop there.

  41. I am the mom rachel mentioned above, and I do get a lot of use from our Costco membership. My husband bought a set of tires there last week that was a) cheaper than anywhere else, including the online, and b) included road hazard insurance, regular rotation, etc., etc. My husband is a business journalist and he has studied Costco’s business plan, how they treat employees, etc., and he thinks they’re one of the best companies around. We will not, in contrast, shop at Wal-Mart. I plan my trips to go there after a regular appointment, and have certain things I only buy there — we’ve learned what’s cheaper at our local Trader Joe’s and Market Basket. I am now a huge fan of Activia yogurt, and there is nowhere else anywhere that has a lower price. rachel is right, though, about storage. We have a second fridge/freezer and enough storage to keep large quantities, but if you don’t the bargain isn’t worth it. I second the vote for Costco brand (Kirkland) quality, too — particularly their generic vitamins, acetaminophen, etc. And their dishwasher detergent, dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent score consistently high in the Consumer Reports tests. And, yes, the clothes are ridiculously nice and cheap (see the Kirkland men’s shirts) the meat is great and those rotisserie chickens are the best anywhere. Final word: I hate to grocery shop, so if I get my stuff at Costco, that means fewer trips to the hated store.

  42. I split my BJs membership with a friend so it saves me money, but I would do it even if I couldn’t split it. I have only one child in diapers now (BJs brand diapers are great and cheap too), but we buy most things there. The one in our area has started incorporating more organic items, including meat and milk, and it is much cheaper than other stores (especially Whole Foods). I admit I am a sucker for some of the center aisle items (my husband is worse), but we save a bundle otherwise.

  43. It is all about shopping with a list, isn’t it??

    Wheat Montana bread at Costco two weeks ago was $4.20 for a 2-pack. Last week the price was up to $5.40 for a 2-pack. (hysteria and the futures market) So I price checked it at the Albertson’s nearby… it was $3.69 for a single loaf. So if you are into fancy high grain and no high fructose corn syrup bread…. it could be worth it. Also… real organic maple syrup (64oz) for $19.95 which is half what it is at the regular store. And I’ve found the powdered dishwasher detergent to be great…. and we have hard water and lots of trouble that was causing us to have to use those tablet things…. I can get a 20# bucket for cheap (and with a Costco coupon) and it lasts over a year.

    I do wish they had cheaper diapers and would take mannie coupons.

  44. OK, don’t know if someone mentioned this since I haven’t read all the comment. We shop at both Sams and Costco, both are good for a few different things. Love looking through the seasonal items in the center. BUT, big thing that bugs me about both — the person who has to check your receipt on your way out. WHY??? Nothing to steal from the register to the door. When it’s busy, the person does nothing but mark your receipt with a highlighter… and the line leaving the store gets clogged up for this. I just do not get this and wish both stores would do away with it.

  45. Heidi, no, it’s the Kirkland Signature whole grain. I’ve never seen the Innkeeper’s bread at my local Costco but I know their selection varies from place to place. My mom lives in Alaska and their Costco doesn’t have half the organic stuff mine does.

  46. Curious about all of the organic products y’all find at your Costcos? I’ve seen organic chicken broth, etc. but never meat. I shop at a Costco in the Chicago area. Enlighten me please b/c if it had more organic meat and produce I would shop there more than my once every six weeks $300 trip!

  47. I’ve been a member of both Sam’s and Costco’s. I didn’t notice too much difference between the two. I am not a member of anything like that now because it just wasn’t worth it for me. That being said, I’d like to chime in on the value of the “drug store” part of these stores. Stuff like razor blades and vitamins are a very good deal and I’ll try to pick some up if I’m there with a friend. What is a GREAT deal is Clariten (Loratadine). The big ‘value’ box of 45 10 mg pills at Walgreens is $30, or 67 cents a pill (smaller quantities are almost a buck a pill). The never heard of it brand Sandoz at Walgreens (also 10 mg) is $30 per 100, or 30 cents each. So half off is good, right? But at Sam’s and Costco, the generic Loratadine (still 10 mg) is $11 for 300 pills. 300! That’s 3.7 cents a pill. That’s 1/18th the big box of Claritin at Walgreens. If you really want the Claritin name, it is 46 cents per pill at Sam’s/Costco.

  48. Hi Jamie – I have a feeling Costco stocks different stuff per region. I live in Seattle and lots of people buy organic here. Off the top of my head, here are some of the items our local Costco carries in organic: fresh ground beef, gourmet chicken sausage, sandwich and fancy bread, organic wild salmon burgers (frozen), peanut butter, jellies, juices, eggs, milk, butter, breakfast cereal, chicken broth, spaghetti sauce, whole wheat pasta, granola bars, coffee, fresh spinach, fresh mixed salad greens, fresh mini carrots, pre-packed apple slices for lunches and frozen berries. There’s probably more items but that’s all that I can think of right now.

    Also, Costco caps their level of profit on any given item to 7%, so I know I’m getting a fairly good deal. Maybe not always the best deal compared to a local store that may sell items at a loss, but I rest easy knowing Costco is never going to totally hose me pricewise.

  49. I just noticed someone mentioned the checking your receipt at Costco. I asked one time. They check to see if you have been double charged on things. That’s why. It’s actually to benefit you.

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