With inflation wreaking havoc on the price of everything, there’s little doubt that Americans will be hitting up warehouse clubs for many things like groceries, paper towels and prescriptions, to furniture and beer and wine. And that could be a good bet for your pocketbook: Experts says that shopping at warehouse clubs can be the most economical way to make certain purchases.
Here’s what you need to know to save money and time if you’re shopping at a warehouse club:
Purchase in Bulk in Some Cases
Costco, Sam’s Club and other warehouse clubs often offer the most competitive prices when you are buying certain things in bulk, says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot. Paper products, for example, are a great bulk buy, says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst and senior staff writer at DealNews. “It may seem silly to have a year’s worth of toilet paper, facial tissue and paper towels, but it can pay off if you have the room to store it all,” says Ramhold. The same goes for disposable dinnerware and cutlery, she adds, which has the added bonus of making “life a little easier during stressful weeks so you don’t have to make sure to clean the dishes after dinner.”
However, don’t get sucked into buying everything in bulk. “One of the big temptations is to convince yourself that you’ll use a huge amount of something that’s perishable, such as fresh produce. Try to ignore the cost per pound and focus on the amount you’ll actually use before the item goes bad,” says Skirboll.
Buy Prescriptions, Eye Exams and Alcohol at the Wholesale Club
“Check out the pharmacy at your wholesale club,” says Trae Bodge, a smart shopping expert at Truetrae.com. “The prices are often lower than your local pharmacy and you may even be able to get a free health screening.” What’s more, getting an eye exam at your wholesale club can be less expensive than doing it at the local eyewear store. “The wholesale club will also have discounted glasses and contacts,” Bodge adds.
And don’t ignore the beer and wine sales offered at these clubs. “You can find bargains on booze at many wholesale clubs,” says Bodge. “The prices will be especially good on their house brands, like Wellsley Farms at BJ’s.”
Pay Careful Attention to Prices
Skirboll says that paying extra close attention to prices can go a long way at wholesale clubs. Often, “at Costco, if a price ends in .99 it’s not on sale, but if it ends in .97 that means it’s been discounted and they’re trying to move the product,” says Skirboll. That’s a hint that you’re getting a pretty sweet deal. Additionally, items ending in .88 or .00 are often manager discounts, but she warns: “Be sure to check for any damage as these can often be sellable returns, floor models or discontinued products that will not be replenished.” At Sam’s Club, prices that end in a penny, such as .91 or .41, have often been marked down.
Opt Into Price Matching
Shoppers should check price-matching policies on the retailer’s websites because it can result in you paying a lower price for an item you’ve already bought. “This usually means they’ll only honor it if the price drops at their own store or website, but even so, it should help you shop with confidence,” Skirboll says.
Use the Store’s Rewards Credit Card and Cash-Back Offers to Save Even More
Since you’re going to be shopping anyway, Ramhold recommends using a rewards credit card. What’s more, although warehouse prices tend to already be good, you should also look at your favorite sites for getting deals for discounts and cash-back opportunities. “Rakuten has up to 8% cash back at Sam’s Club, which is a nice benefit for your next big purchase,” says Bodge.
If you can shop your favorite warehouse club online, Ramhold encourages people to do so. “Similar to how many stores offer in-store only deals, they also offer online-only deals,” says Ramhold. So definitely keep an eye out for both.
Time It Right
If you do want to shop in-store, experts say you should aim to arrive at the stores right when they open and on weekdays to avoid the crowds. What’s more, if there is something seasonal you want to buy at these stores, don’t delay, says money savings expert Andrea Woroch. “Keep an eye out for special promotions as sometimes you can score items for less if there’s an item coupon,” she recommends.
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Alisa Wolfson is a freelance writer whose work has been published by Marketwatch, Business Insider, the New York Post and more. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two daughters and their rescue dog, Gus.