Warehouse clubs: some people hate them, and some people swear by them. Warehouse clubs require you to pay a membership fee in order to join and be able to buy products that should be at a steep discount. But are they? Do warehouse clubs really save you money? Or are they a marketing gimmick?

Membership Costs


First, when joining a club like Sam’s Club, you should evaluate the costs of membership. Membership costs go beyond the annual fee (at Sam’s the fee is $40). For example, if belonging to the club requires you to drive far out of your way to areas you don’t normally go, the increased fuel charges are adding a lot to your membership costs and is probably not worth it.


Speaking of gas costs, does your membership club sell fuel? If so, it might make your membership worth it. Clubs usually sell gas and diesel fuels at a discounted rate. Double check online to find out if there is really a difference and calculate the savings into your membership cost list.

Big Ticket Items


One area where membership clubs are often a good deal is in the big ticket item. If you are buying something big in the next year, like a TV or tires, then it could be worth your while to join up. Just be sure to research online to see if you would save enough to justify the membership fee. In the case of something like tires, research different stores in your area and compare the warehouse list price.


Research should always be your best friend when you evaluate a Costco or a Sam’s Club. Because these stores often sell in bulk, it can be difficult to compare prices to your basic retail store prices. To check pricing, look at the price per ounce, price per serving or price per unit. This is usually clearly marked at both the warehouse and a retail store like Meijer. With household goods there could be a big savings. But for things like food, there will be less of a savings since buying bulk food means more food usually gets wasted. Unless you are buying for a group or large family, you are better off buying at local grocery stores.

Things Not to Buy at Warehouse Clubs


Warehouse clubs are good for bulk needs and certain expensive buys. With the amazing variety of goods, it’s tempting to believe you will save on everything you buy. Not so. Here are the things that will waste your money.

Condiments – The shelf life of condiments is low when they are opened, so purchasing a gigantic bottle from the warehouse will usually just lead to waste.

Books, CDs, DVDs – Books are still cheaper on Amazon.com. And all the entertainment categories are usually cheaper online and available for free at your local library.

Canned goods – Experts who study pricing have revealed that when grocers put their canned goods on sale, it beats the price offered by clubs by 40 to 60 percent.