Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Is It Cost Effective To Shop At Warehouse Clubs?

When I talk about couponing a lot of people say they use warehouse clubs and find them to be cheaper than grocery stores. This trip was actually our first in at least six months because I've been stocking up at grocery stores but for this month I chose a little bit of convenience :) Partly because we needed some things and partly because it's the last month of school and I'm tired of figuring out their lunches!

Yesterday my husband went to BJ's for me. Here's what he got:



He spent: $96.12
And saved: $28.00

Obviously not a huge savings :) But the real question is "is it cheaper to buy in bulk?"

Most of what Kirk picked up we price checked together while on the phone :) He'd call with a list of prices and I'd say yes or no depending on what the cost was in the store. For example, ground beef was $3.00 a pound which is well over what I would pay in a store sale so he didn't pick it up but Goldfish is THE best deal I can find on Goldfish at $6.99 for a 58 oz box! I have beat this once in my couponing days - there are almost never coupons for Goldfish so the box at BJ's is a great deal.

The rest of what he bought he used store coupons for. I often get booklets from BJ's for $10 off if you buy 5 or $5.00 off if you buy 3 of a certain brand of item but still I price check.

Kirk bought 5 Kellogg's items and got $10.00 off or $2.00 off each item. For Toy Story fruit snacks it meant they were $5.49 instead of $7.49 for a 42 count box. You can see how full price isn't much better than buying 4 boxes of 10 at the store but getting $2.00 off the box makes it about $1.25 per 10 count and $0.25 for the other 2 :) A good deal at the store but not at all the best deal (remember I often stock up on fruit snacks at $0.50 a box or $2.00 for 40).

Glad snack bags are normally $5.99 for 400 - Kirk used a $2.00 off coupon making them just $3.99 or $1.00 per 100 - which is a good deal.

The flip side is that some of the items Kirk purchased are very expensive at the store and we almost never buy them - namely the cookie/cracker packs. At BJ's they are $9.99 and with $2.00 off that makes it $7.99 which is a pretty good deal for the convenience it provides me.

And that's really what it comes down to. Convenience. My husband often says with any product you have to decide between convenience, cost and quality. I get great quality products at the grocery store at an excellent price but I sacrifice convenience. It is not convenient to clip coupons, to go to the store almost daily and to only buy what's on sale with a coupon but that's okay by me. It's kind of a like a part-time job but instead of making money I'm saving money for the family.

Warehouse clubs give you great quality and are very convenient but the price is not cost effective. It's just not. As Kirk and I compared prices while he shopped I asked him to put back product after product because the cost was too high. Instead we splurged on some convenience products but again only because we had a coupon to lower the price. At full warehouse price it wasn't even close to a deal.

So, ultimately you have to choose what is more important to you and for each person it's different and that's okay. It might feel like a competition (who can spend less on groceries?) but it isn't. It's what works for your family.

But if you're deciding based solely on cost then the grocery store sales with coupons wins every time. It just does. In addition to BJ's being more expensive it's also much easier to overspend. If you grab a "whim" item at BJ's you can be out a good $10 each time - at the grocery store it's generally much less. So no matter which you choose be sure to stick to a list and use coupons!

For me, we'll see how this effects us for the rest of the month. Remember my grocery budget is still just $400 and we spent 1/4 of it at BJ's. It might help because I'll need less items at the store or we'll end up using it all up and need more. I'm excited to see if it helps or hurts us for the month! Stay tuned...

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