It's hard to resist all those fantastic bargains that wholesale retailers offer. You know the types – Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's. However, there are some tips that consumers should bear in mind when shopping at these types of retailers to ensure that these great deals are actually saving you money.
Don't Buy What You Can't Use
It's just a hard fact that you can only use so much of anything at one time. Perishables have a limited shelf life, so buying a huge amount of fresh vegetables, dairy products or meat doesn't always make sense. If you end up throwing loads of fresh food away because it has spoiled before you could use it, it really doesn't result in any savings at the end of the day. Buy items that can be frozen or those that have a longer shelf life, but even these items will eventually go bad or become stale. Remember not to buy things just because they're a good deal if you aren't realistically going to use them. This is one of the main pitfalls that consumers fall victim to when they find a bargain. Just because peanut butter is on sale, don't buy 30 jars of it when no one in your family cares all that much for it! And another consideration – don't buy things if you don't have the storage space to accommodate.
If you belong to a smaller household, buying large volumes of products isn't always feasible. If the savings are really justifiable, find a friend with similar buying habits and buy larger items that can easily be split up. It's easier to break a flat of canned soup or a large box of granola bars into smaller units and share them.
Use Your Math Skills
Many people fall victim to the notion that everything at a wholesale retailer is a better price than you'll find elsewhere. This isn't always true. You'll definitely want to make sure that the items you're purchasing are indeed bargains. Bring a calculator so you know what you're paying per unit. If the cost per can of tomato sauce is less than what you'd pay in a regular grocery store, buying in bulk can be justified. However, not all items are always a better deal when bought in large quantities.
Explore Your Options
Many warehouse or wholesale retailers carry non-food items, which can also be a great deal. Some wholesale retailers carry such things as tires, televisions, computers, expensive jewelry, clothing and even prescription drugs or eyewear. Many of these retailers are also now including gas bars and liquor stores as part of their product offerings. This can result in considerable savings if you're in need of these items, however, it's still important to shop around. Just because it's in a warehouse club store doesn't mean it's the best bargain around. Conventional retailers may offer sales or specials, so the warehouse club may not always be your best bet. Don't be afraid to explore your options. This is especially important when you're shopping for big ticket items that'll have you digging deep into your wallet.
Many wholesale retailers require consumers to purchase an annual membership in order to shop there. If you're considering joining one of these wholesale clubs, ask yourself if you're likely to make enough use of your membership to warrant paying the sign-up fee. If you're not likely to be able to store and use large quantities of food items and you're not currently in the market for any big ticket items, investing in the membership might not be worth your while. One way of making the membership fee a bit easier to justify is to team up with a friend and split the cost of the fee. This means that you'll need to plan your shopping trips together, but if it's a friend that you trust and don't mind shopping with, it'll save you half the sign-up fee.
Avoid Impulse Buys
Similar to conventional retailers, warehouse clubs are still set up to inspire impulse buying. Think of those aisles of books, toys, magazines, seasonal merchandise and candy. The best way to avoid giving in to impulse purchases is to create a shopping list and stick to it. This way you can avoid the aisles that don't contain the items you need. If it's not on the list, you probably don't need it!
Try Before You Buy
Many wholesale retailers offer store brands of popular name-brand items. They may be a bargain, but it's not very smart to purchase large quantities of items that you later find you aren't overly fond of. Many offer samples of their products in store, so it's a good idea to try before you buy. If this isn't a possibility, you can either stick to the brands you know or ask someone you trust for a review of the item. Nothing's worse than spending money on a large quantity of an item that you can't stand to eat, so just because that flat of generic macaroni and cheese is 5 cents less per box, it isn't a very good deal if you just end up wasting it because you can't stomach it.
The Bottom Line
Just like most purchasing decisions, the key is to ask yourself if you really need something before you buy it. If the answer is 'yes,' you should always make sure that you're buying something that will suit your needs and tastes. Spending money on something now that will only need to be replaced a little ways down the road, because it either spoiled or didn't end up being exactly what you wanted, isn't very budget savvy. Don't fall for the big bargains without first considering if you're really getting the best bang for your buck. In some cases, it might be far more economical to stick with conventional retailers, products and package sizes.