In The Club, Part 1

When you walk into the building, the sheer size can be overwhelming. They don't call them warehouse clubs for nothing. These buildings are slightly-user-friendly warehouses, for sure. Why join one of these "clubs"? Is it worth it?

I'm going to start a short posting series on my view of warehouse clubs- the benefits, the drawbacks, and which one to choose. Here, I'll start with how I got started with a warehouse club and the benefits we've found.

My mom joined the warehouse club for unknown reasons while I was in college. By the time she joined, my parents were empty-nesters or at least almost-empty-nesters, and I failed to see the logic in the move. When I graduated, got married, and ended up living nearby, she renewed her membership and offered to put my name on the account. Each account could have 2 cards and two names on it, and because my dad never went to the store without my mom, he had no use for a card. I got a card, and now my husband and I could go together

  • Money saving tip: If only one spouse is likely to use the membership, consider joining in this fashion with another family. The membership fee will end up being $25 per family if split between two households, which is  very reasonable and justifiable.

When we started visiting the warehouse club, we were amazed at the large packages and quality merchandise. At the time, though, we were living in a 1-bedroom apartment, and didn't have room to store a year's worth of toilet paper, ten pounds of chicken breasts, or a gallon-container of spaghetti sauce. We barely had room for the stuff we had! What good would a warehouse club be to a couple in an apartment?  We were skeptical... and then we wandered into the pharmacy.

The pharmacy is mostly unremarkable- it has many of the brand-name, over-the-counter medicines you'd expect anywhere- but it also has generic medicines labeled with the store's brand. Again, this would be expected- but the cost savings with these generics was outstanding. The cost of my husband's daily allergy medicine- about $1 a pill, or more than $350 a year- had a generic at the warehouse club's pharmacy for $13 for 300 pills. For a year's supply of pills, we paid less than what we were paying for 2 weeks' worth elsewhere. This purchase alone justified the warehouse club membership, if we bought nothing else. And so we are still members- but it doesn't stop there!

Once we moved out of the apartment and had a little more room to store things (and once we got a chest freezer) we found there are more benefits to being "in the club":

  • Toilet paper, soap, and other consumables: It's just downright convenient to buy these in big packages, knowing we'll use them up eventually. Also, I found that many of these were cheaper per-unit.
  • Cheese: This is a weird one, I know, but we go through a lot of shredded & sliced cheese, apparently, since I was always running out. Now, when I buy the shredded cheese in 5lb bags and freeze them, I always have cheese on hand. Also, per ounce, this shredded cheese is way less expensive than even Aldi's selection. How do I know? I made a Price Book. More on that later.
  • Quality - The warehouse club has higher-quality food than what I see, on average at the grocery store. There is a really wide selection of organic products and produce as well, at affordable prices.
  • Gas savings, part 1: The gas station at the warehouse club usually has gas about 5 cents per gallon cheaper than anywhere else in the area.
  • Gas savings, part 2: Bigger packages means fewer shopping trips means A) few impulse buys (good for the wallet) and B) less gas spent going to and from the store to pick up essentials (good for the wallet AND good for the earth).
  • Packaging: While some of the larger packages are composed of individually-wrapped items, making for no less packaging than buying in small quantities, most are truly larger packages. Less plastic and energy is used to package 1 5-lb bag of cheese than 5 1-lb bags of cheese I'd find at the supermarket. Also, no plastic bags are handed out at the register, and signage and displays are kept to a minimum, reducing waste production.
  • Services: In addition to the pharmacy, other services are offered. Just 2 weeks ago, my husband got a new pair of glasses (without vision insurance) at a substantially lower price than at the optometrist. We've gotten 2 sets of tires installed in their car care department. Other advertised services include Travel, Jewelry, Carpet, Car Purchasing, and Insurance.

There are certainly more benefits -What have you found to be the best part about being a part of a warehouse club?

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