Early in our relationship, my husband and I used to go shopping together at our local Sam’s Club. (Clearly, we knew how to get the romance going.)
I was new to warehouse club shopping and made the mistake of thinking that anything for sale within the huge store must be cheaper than at other stores.
After a couple of bad missteps — such as not finishing the ginormous container of strawberries before they went bad, and discovering that each razor replacement in the 12-pack I bought were the same cost as their 4-pack brethren at Target — I learned to be more careful about my warehouse club purchases. I’d check unit prices, keep better track of how much I spent at the regular grocery store, and go to Sam’s with a specific list of what I needed.
It’s also important to remember that some purchases will (almost) never be worthwhile at the warehouse club. Here are six examples.
What NOT to Buy at Your Warehouse Club
1. Toilet paper
Even though you can generally find the best deal on paper products at a warehouse club, it is not the best place to buy TP. According to Forbes, that’s because any item used on a daily basis will be offered with a deep discount pretty much anywhere it’s sold.
In particular, toilet paper usually goes on sale the first and third week of every month at your local grocery store. Add a coupon to the sale price, and you’ll definitely be paying less if you buy it at the supermarket.
This is another staple you don’t want to buy at your warehouse club. Groceries and discount stores keep their milk prices low and/or put it on sale often since most families buy some every week. When added to the fact that a bulk milk purchase might go bad before you have a chance to drink it all, it makes more sense to get your milk on sale from your regular store.
This seems like a smart item to buy in bulk: diapers don’t spoil, and you can generally assume Junior will be wearing the same size for a couple months at a time.
It turns out, however, that the generic warehouse club diapers cost four cents more per diaper than the generic brands offered by Target and Wal-Mart.
If you’ve ever run out of ketchup on burger night, you might be tempted to buy a drum of the stuff next time you stop at Costco. But most condiments are only good for six months to a year, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll use up all that mustard or ketchup before it goes to the dark side.
5. Laundry supplies
While liquid detergent and bleach are generally cheaper per ounce at the warehouse clubs, it’s important to remember there is a shelf life for these products. Generally, liquid detergent and bleach are good for about six months. (If you use powdered detergent, however, it’ll last longer and may make the bulk purchase worthwhile.)
As for drying your clothes, Forbes found that dryer sheets were two cents cheaper per sheet at Target and Wal-Mart than at Sam’s Club.
Unless you’re a member of Jim Gaffigan’s famously pale brood, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to use a warehouse club sized bottle of sunscreen before it reaches its expiration date. In addition, you can save more money on sunscreen by timing your purchase to coincide with your local pharmacy’s sales cycle, along with using a coupon.
What other items do you avoid buying at the warehouse club?
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