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Everyday Cheapskate: Surviving Discount Warehouse Clubs

Mary Hunt on

Now here's a question I'll bet you ask yourself from time to time: Can I really save money by shopping at a discount warehouse club? You can find great deals there, but you can also get into a lot of trouble if you have, shall we say, an impulsive propensity. You can really stretch your dollars if you are willing to stick to a few basic rules:

1. Shop with cash. Having the entire contents of your checking account, overdraft protection plan and credit card limit available in the form of your checkbook or credit card might be all you need to pop a big-screen TV in your cart. Go with cash only and you'll avoid lots of temptation.

2. Shop with a list. Decide before you get there what you need to purchase. If it turns out to be a true need that you simply forgot to put on the list, you can always return later with more cash and a new list. My guess is you won't.

3. Justify the membership fee. At $25-$35 a year just for the privilege of membership, make sure you will realize a net savings in excess of the fee.

4. Don't out-shop your storage space. If anything will nullify your best intentions, this is it. No matter how great the bargain, how terrific the deal, if you cannot reasonably use tuna the size of a Jacuzzi or 25 pounds of onions before they spoil, they were no deal at any price. Never buy more than you are sure you reasonably consume.

5. Find a shopping buddy. Perhaps yours is a small household of two or three, or you live life single. Or for some other reason you just can't consume the quantities often found at warehouse discount clubs. That doesn't necessarily eliminate the discount warehouse club from your shopping options. Here's a great idea: Find another in your same situation. Determine to split both the goods and cost of food and household items you both use. Suddenly, the possibilities are endless. I could even see two small families sharing and splitting this way. Just understand that the membership will be in only one household, who will be tasked with the job of also shopping.


5. Create an appearance of scarcity. It's human nature to be careless in the face of a seeming abundance, so plan accordingly. Instead of stacking 18 rolls of paper towels out in plain sight, get creative with finding space out of sight and therefore out of mind. Think: under beds, under stairs, in the garage. Same for other large quantities of nonperishables and household supplies.

Beyond food and paper goods, discount warehouse clubs like Sam's Club, Costco and BJ's offer good prices on high-quality appliances, tires, linens and bestselling books, to name a few. But what about food and other grocery items? Don't assume that because you can buy in large quantities you are necessarily saving money. You have to think beyond size and consider the unit price (per ounce, per pound, per serving, etc).


Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.




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