Do Wholesale Clubs Save You Money?

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Do Wholesale Clubs Save You Money?

Here is an article from FB Hubby about his Sam’s Club vs. regular food store comparison. I hope you enjoy!

Have you ever walked into Sam’s Club or CostCo? It often feels like Dorothy landing in Oz. There is so much to look at, people everywhere, music from the electronics area. Look Toto, they have tires! Who needs ruby red shoes, I can get a set of Michelins, five pounds of red Twizzlers, and motor down the yellow brick road.

An hour later you walk out with a loaded cart having spent $250 and you suddenly realize you don’t even like Beef-a-roni, let alone four quarts of it. “But it seemed like such a great deal.” So the big question we face is, are we getting home with a good deal, or are did we get flattened by the Sam’s Club house right when we walked in, like the Wicked Witch of the East. So I decided to compare a recent Sam’s Club purchase with what the same purchase would have been at the local Stop and Shop.

Compare Apples to Apples

One of the keys to comparison-shopping at a grocery store is not the actual price you pay. It’s always important to look at what they have to print next to the price you are going to pay. These numbers will tell you information such as the price per pound, price per quart, price per 100 count, etc. Now be careful, they give the appearance of trying to help you with these numbers, but they love to mix them up.

For example, one brand of chicken broth was shown to cost $1.75/lb while the one next to it was $3.25/quart. Looking at these two, you would naturally think that the $1.75/lb is the better deal by far. However, a little math called dimensional analysis (those of you who survived high school chemistry might remember that) reveals that $1.75/lb is equal to about $3.65/quart (and you thought high school math was a waste of time). Now who has time to do math in the grocery store, so here is a quick trick for this situation, what ever the price per pound is, double it and that will give you close to the price per quart (so if it says $2.00/lb that is about the same as $4.00/quart).

Also, there’s a great app, Apples to Oranges that can help you compare these sizes to get an accurate picture of the true unit cost.

Now on to my shopping trip.

In this case, I compared very specific things, and here are the results:

Item Sam’s Club Stop and Shop
Poland Springs 0.5 L $0.32/qt $0.47/qt
Gatorade 12oz $1.28/qt $2.08/qt
Coffee Mate Creamer $2.44/qt $4.58/qt
Butter Sticks* $1.85/lb $3.89/lb
Perdue Chicken** $3.69/lb $5.89/lb ($3.99/lb)#
Tide Pods $3.69/lb $4.69/lb
DD Ground Coffee $7.04/lb $10.66/lb
Glad Force Garbage Bags $11.29/100 count $24.45/100 count
Bacon $3.62/lb $4.99/lb
Swiffer Refills $19.34/100 count $32.19/100 count
Minute Maid Lemonade $0.26/12 oz can $0.50/12 oz can
Hellman’s Mayo $3.46/qt $5.66/qt
Swanson Chicken Broth $0.95/lb $1.75/lb
Bimbo Sandwich Bread $1.20/lb $1.75/lb
Bounty Paper Towels $1.09/100 count $1.16/100 count
Northern Toilet Paper $0.18/100 count $0.46/100 count
Extra Virgin Olive Oil $6.13/qt $11/qt
Diet Coke $0.30/can $0.50/can

* Butter was a Sam’s Club brand compared to Stop and Shop’s brand.

** Thin sliced chicken breasts in both cases, but the Sam’s Club can in a large package with five freezer ready packages that contained four pieces of chicken in each individual package. The Stop and Shop was five thin sliced pieces all in one package.

# The Stop and Shop chicken was on sale for $3.99/lb if you had a Stop and Shop card.

My Results

The total cost of what I got at Sam’s Club was $181.00 versus what it would have cost to get the same exact amount of stuff at Stop and Shop, which would have cost me $288.00. Looking at this, I know what you are thinking, “what a fool I’ve been, shopping at the grocery store all this time.” However, there are other factors to consider before heading down this yellow brick road.

First, notice that with the exception of the bread (which you are forced to buy two loaves) the chicken (had to buy over 4 pounds) and the creamer (comes only in 2 quart size), nothing else on this list is perishable. Second, the size of everything purchased at Sam’s Club is far larger than what is typically available at a grocery store. The mayo was two quarts; there were 80 Swiffer refills, 32 cans of diet coke, 32 rolls of toilet paper, etc.

All of this stuff is going to require space, either in a storage area, or in your refrigerator or freezer. No problem for a family with a house and maybe a second refrigerator, a bit of a problem for my Sister-in-law in her New York City apartment. Buying all of this and having nowhere to put it will certainly leave you feeling like the Wicked Witch of the East (flattened).

In the end, all the items I purchased at Sam’s Club were things that we use quite a lot of (I know, 80 Swiffer refills, come on! Well, we have a cat and hardwood floors). In addition, they don’t go bad quickly or at all. Unless we know we’re having a large number of people over, we never buy fruits and vegetables from Sam’s Club. They do not normally save us money and they will always go bad before we get around to using them all. The same goes for meats, cheeses, dips, or anything else with a short shelf life that can’t be separated and frozen in smaller parts. (This was why I did get the chicken, as it was already separated and pre-wrapped for freezing).

So Dorothy, I hope I was able to pull back the curtain a little and show you what was really going on. If you go to Sam’s Club or any other Wholesale Club, get the brains and the courage, but leave the heart, it’s perishable. Just make sure that when you click your heels and find yourself back home, the Good Witch made some space for all this stuff.

Do you shop at a wholesale club store? Do you think you get better deals there than at a regular food store?

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Shannon is a financial planner who left a “traditional” financial services firm to start her own company, The Financial Gym, because she felt traditional financial services firms did not have the tools or resources to help people in their 20s and 30s who are starting out and trying to build assets while also managing debt. She realized that the key to long-term personal financial success is a commitment to financial fitness and making smart financial choices. Through her blog, Financially Blonde, her book, Train Your Way To Financial Fitness, her podcast, Martinis and Your Money and The Financial Gym, Shannon is committed to making financial fitness fun, easy and accessible for everyone.

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