Sunday, October 11, 2009

Savvy How To: Warehouse Savings (Part 1)

Savvy How To:
Warehouse Shopping (Part 1)

Saving money at warehouse/wholesale clubs like Costco or Sam's Club is another way shoppers can stretch grocery budgets. However, just because you can buy products in 25-pound increments doesn't mean you're always getting the best deal. And don't forget to add on that yearly membership fee. Memberships at one of these clubs can range from $50 to $100.

While many items are a good buy and definitely high quality, saving money at these clubs requires some skill in knowing what really is worth the money. I've heard many shoppers proclaim that they can't get out of these stores without spending at least $200 or more, so my first suggestion is to take a shopping list. Going to the store without a shopping list is akin to going to the store hungry: You always buy more than you needed or intended.

It's all too easy to be awed by the enormous wall of big-ticket items prominently displayed as you enter this concrete jungle. There is a reason why candy is next to the register and end caps. They're hoping you'll pick up one or two extra items you hadn't even realized you needed. The amount of snack food going out of these stores can be visually overwhelming at times. Also, if you're buying so much product that it expires before you can use it, then you're wasting money!

That's not to say there aren't great deals available at stores like Costco or Sam's Club. If you arm yourself with a steely resolve and a little price point know-how before you go, you can get some great deals.

Here are my “good buy” items, and next week I'll list my “goodbye” items:

Good buys

Dairy: Cheese, cheese sticks, milk, eggs and butter are just a few of the great dairy buys at wholesale clubs. Most dairy product prices are regularly lower than mainstream grocers and retailers.

Flowers: An odd one you might say. The prices and quality of flowers at wholesale clubs rival traditional florists. Most locations have the added advantage of selling flowers prepackaged and semi-arranged so you can simply drop them in the vase when you get home.

Gas: Watch your pumps everyone! One of the best and cheapest places to buy gas is at your local wholesale pump station. Because these in-house gas stations go through tremendous amounts of gasoline they are constantly re-ordering to keep up their supply. That usually means huge fuel discounts for stores and those savings trickle down to consumers.

Prescription/Nonprescription Drugs: Warehouse pricing on prescription and over-the-counter drugs often saves 40 percent to 50 percent over retail pharmacies. Just remember: That bottle of 1,000 Tylenol or the jumbo 2 pack of Neosporin do have expiration dates, so make sure your mega medicine purchase can be used before the product expires.

Electronics: While I'm far from an electronics guru, my own personal searches for prices on HDTVs, iPods, SD cards and even ink cartridges and other electronic fare have readily found prices at their lowest in warehouse clubs. That's doesn't mean you can't find lower prices available with the help of the Internet or holiday door busters, but spending hours of hunting likely won't save you too much overall. There is something to be said for the convenience of overall year-round low prices.

There are many great buys from wholesale vendors, but next week I'll let you know my “goodbye” products, items I leave off my club shopping list.

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