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

Learning to Work the Costco System

Although my wife and I had to learn the hard way about impulse-buying, these days we're all business when we hit that floor. We've got a detailed list, and we rarely deviate. We bribe the kids to come and help with promises to look the other way while they gorge themselves on the free samples in the food aisles and to let them choose our one designated under-$20 "splurge" item. We're ready for the checkout debacle and factor in an extra half hour, so if it takes 10 minutes, I'm not frustrated, I'm 20 minutes ahead. Getting home and putting away our thought-out, hard-won items is one of the more calming things that happens to me in a week.

There are many areas of my life I want to be spontaneous; my kitchen is not one of them. With four kids to manage, I'm a big fan of predictability. We currently have more soy milk in our house than they do at the nearby corner store. Which means I know that every time I open the cabinet to get some, it will be there. It's a little boring, but a lot soothing.

So despite all the annoyances and aggravation, I've made peace with this love-hate retail relationship. Only you know if bulk stores are right for you, your temperament, and your wallet, but they definitely agree with us. We have seen ugliness that made us want to cancel our membership. We've also saved enough money to make us wonder if we could make our budget work without it. So for now we'll continue our weekly visits to the cathedral of consumption. These days it feels like life's too expensive not to.