10 Ways to Save Big at Warehouse Clubs

There are great deals to be had at Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's, but you still have to keep a close eye on the bottom line. Use these tips to make sure you're saving (and not losing) money when shopping at big-box stores.

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Purchase the store brands.

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Because warehouse clubs have generous return policies, their store brands are generally high-quality and offer the greatest savings on everything from food to beauty products. The brands are Kirkland at Costco, Berkley & Jensen at BJ's, and Member's Mark at Sam's Club.


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Stock up on household staples.

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Buy large containers of frequently used household supplies such as dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, ketchup, and mustard. Then, use a funnel to decant them into regular-size containers that are easy to use.


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Buy bulk meat.

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You may have to invest in a high-quality vacuum sealer, but it'll allow you to buy large packages of meat and poultry and break them down into quantities right-sized for your family. Over time, the savings versus local supermarket prices can more than pay for the machine. And with a stocked freezer, you're less prone to order pricey takeout.


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Avoid the middle aisles.

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Just as in a traditional supermarket, the best buys are around the perimeter. For instance, organic milk, eggs, and sliced bread are often substantially cheaper at a club store. The center section is where random impulse buys lurk, like pajamas, toys, and books.


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Make a list of what you need and stick to it.

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As in, if you don't write, "grill," "iPod dock" or "set of pots and pans," then you shouldn't buy them.


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Share the savings with a friend.

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If your household is not big enough to warrant bulk-buying, team up with a friend in the same situation. Shop together, split the tab, then return to one person's house to divvy up the bounty.


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Master the science of unit pricing.

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Put simply, this is the way to tell whether a bulk purchase (say, a 15-roll pack of toilet paper) actually saves you money versus buying individual items. Just because something is sold in bulk doesn't guarantee a good deal. It's up to you to determine that through careful comparison shopping. In the end, no matter where you buy, you want to pay the lowest price possible per ounce, quart, roll, whatever.


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Stay for lunch or dinner.

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If you don't mind pizza or hot dogs, the prices in the in-store cafes are generally absurdly low, and a quick bite makes the outing a little more fun.


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Take advantage of seasonal savings.

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When the end-of-year holidays come around, wholesale clubs offer phenomenal prices on good-quality photo cards.


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Upgrade to save.

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If you shop on a regular basis, ask whether there is a membership upgrade that gets you in earlier (usually an hour) than the general public. Careful shoppers can more than offset this usually higher fee, which buys convenience because you can get in and out much faster — and less time inside means you are less likely to give in to impulse buys.

Copyright &copy 2010 Meredith Corporation.


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