There has been a lot of debate recently over whether or not shopping at warehouse clubs actually saves you any money.
Those mega-stores certainly think so, as do the thousands of customers they welcome through their garage-sized doors every day.
But it isn’t a cut and dry situation.
Aside from the membership fee, which will run you around $100 a year, there are several hidden costs that can leave you overspending and wasting resources.
On the flip side, however, there are certainly particular cases where you will save money and products that it makes a great deal of sense to buy at warehouse clubs.
Here is a quick look at the pros and cons of warehouse club shopping, and whether or not it actually saves you money.
Shopping at warehouse clubs definitely brings a lot of benefits.
Recent studies have looked at the discounts available at traditional supermarkets versus the pricing of bulk goods at warehouse clubs and found that on average, customers can expect to save around 30% on the things they normally buy.
Over the course of a year, that should certainly be enough to make up for the investment in the club membership.
Some of the shopping categories that seem to offer the most savings at warehouse clubs are snacks, cereals, bread, cooking, and baking supplies.
You can generally expect to save as much as 40% on those purchases, as long as you are willing to buy in bulk.
But the biggest savings were shown to come with the purchase of syrup, bottled water, raisins, and sandwich bags.
Shoppers were saving more than 65% on those specific purchases at warehouse clubs.
So again, depending on what you’re looking for, significant discounts are available.
However, that doesn’t paint the whole picture.
There are some pitfalls that can impact your ability to save by shopping at a warehouse club.
First off, you have to take travel into consideration when thinking about overall costs.
If you don’t live near a warehouse club store and have to drive quite a bit to get there, the additional gas expenses may swallow up your savings over the course of the year.
Additionally, if you buy groceries there that have a limited shelf life, you may end up wasting a lot of food.
You always have to buy bulk at the warehouse clubs, so if you don’t have a large family buying meats and dairy there may cost you more in the long run when you can’t use the groceries before their expiration dates.
Impulse buying because you find a ‘deal’ will blow up in your face.
In the end, there may not be a simple answer to this question.
You’re going to have to look at your own consumption habits to know what will work best.
Chances are a perfect choice will be to do some of your shopping at a warehouse club and some at a traditional supermarket.
Pick up your staples and the things that don’t go bad at the club store, and buy your occasional purchases and short shelf life items at the supermarket.
But check out online options as well.
Sites like TheCouponCupboard.com traditionally offer deep savings you can bring to the supermarket with you, which may swing the balance in one direction or the other.