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Warehouse Club Secrets: How They Make You Spend and How You Can Save

Should You Really Be Buying That?
Shopping at wholesale clubs
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Tim Marrs

Finding yourself in a situation where saving money is dependent upon spending can severely impair judgment. Outside of a Costco, I would never remotely entertain the thought of buying a trash-bag-size package of Cheez Doodles. However, roaming the aisles, drunk on value, it seems ludicrous to pass up the opportunity to own this giant sack of starch and orange food coloring for just $8.99. I mean, look. It's the price of nine regular bags of Cheez Doodles at the deli, only there's probably a hundred bags' worth inside this one. Why not toss it in the cart? We threw $50 worth of hamburger in there, what's an extra $8.99? And in that precise moment, all hope is lost. I have been subtly and perfectly misdirected and am about to get fleeced. Because $8.99 is a legitimate bargain, but that was never the issue. The issue is that I will very shortly have an unthinkably large bag of Cheez Doodles in my house, which is going to get eaten by me, my kids, my wife, and half the neighborhood, which does no one any favors. I just bought something that I normally never would have, just to save money on it. So much for Mister Frugal.

Baking soda poses precisely the opposite problem. On one trip to Costco I picked up a 5-pound bag, which seemed like a terrific idea. Responsible, even. Think of all the cookies we'll bake and the fridges we'll deodorize. Unfortunately I sorely underestimated just how much baking soda is in a 5-pound bag, not to mention that we generally need only a teaspoon or so at a time. The sack sat in a closet for a month, too intimidating to even open. Should humans have access to this much alkalinizing power? Six months after we finally started using it, what we've removed is unnoticeable. It's like trying to drain the ocean with a measuring cup. On the plus side, our closet is completely odor-free.

The problem with Cheez Doodles is that you will get rid of them. The problem with baking soda is that you will not. Identifying and avoiding whatever is your own equivalent is critical to coming out ahead.