Buying in Bulk: Are You Really Saving?


Purchasing from Membership-Only Companies

Member-only warehouses offer big savings in exchange for your loyalty as a customer. By paying an annual fee, ranging from $25 to $500 dollars a year, depending on the business and level of membership you desire, you gain access to the warehouse to buy products at a lower cost than the local grocery store.

Three of the most popular member-only stores are:

  • BJ’s
  • Costco
  • Sam’s Club

Not sure which one you’d like to join? Review this comparison.

While the concept – cost-savings by buying in bulk – is enticing, are these stores truly cheaper than traditional grocery store brands like Publix, Winn-Dixie, Harris-Teeter, Trader Joe’s and Wegmans?

Are Membership Warehouse Clubs Cheaper Than Traditional Grocers?

In an investigation with The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), contributor Matthew Pryor compared the prices of grocery store items at Sam’s Club, an American chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs owned and operated by Walmart. He found that Sam’s Club offered an average savings of 31% when compared to his local grocer. This amount is worth the annual membership he pays, Pryor says.

Other reports indicate that certain types of products are cheaper when purchased in bulk. A report by Southern Savers shows that dairy is among the least expensive purchases in a membership-only warehouse store.

While the prices may be cheaper it is important to note that the big warehouses have their downside as well:
  • Not everything is sold in bulk
  • There are limited varieties (less than your local grocer)
  • You often have to store items that are not used as quickly like deodorant, paper towels and water bottles
  • There are no sales
  • You cannot use coupons (BJ’s is an exception)
  • The environment is less than inviting, usually a warehouse

Best & Worst Products to Buy at Membership Warehouses

The U.S. News and World Report shared a list in 2011 of items you should always buy in bulk:

  • Toilet paper
  • Soap and shampoo
  • Alcohol
  • Office supplies
  • Toothpaste/toothbrushes
  • Vitamins
  • Non-perishable foods
  • Blank CD’s and DVD’s
  • Laundry detergent

Some popular items that experts suggest you purchase at your local grocery store include:

  • Books
  • Clothing
  • Condiments
  • Diapers
  • Electronics
  • Name-brand cereal
  • Soda
  • Sunscreen

The Bottom Line

Ultimately you are the only person who can determine if a warehouse store is best for you. Buying in bulk might be right for a family of five, but could prove to be a hassle for newlyweds.

Keep these points in mind before you purchase in bulk:

  • Expiration Dates – Make sure you and your family will be able to consume the food before it goes bad.
  • Sales Tactics – Don’t purchase something just because it is cheap. The dollar section at the front of the store may seem like a bargain, but it is a tactic to induce you to spend more money.
  • Storage – Do you have the space to store the bulk items you want to purchase?
  • Coupons – Just because you have a coupon for an item doesn’t mean you need to buy it.
  • Membership Fees – Is the amount of money you’re saving greater than the membership fee you are paying?
  • Gas and Time – Is the amount you are saving worth the extra trip to another store location (consider time and travel)?

By comparing receipts and considering the factors above, you can determine if purchasing products in bulk from membership-only warehouses is right for your family.

Additional Resources



  • Dollar Tree, by



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