5 Savvy Tips for Saving Money on Your Next Trip to Costco or Sams

Warehouse stores have been around for years and have become a weekly shopping excursion for many suburban families. According to Wikipedia, 1983 marked the opening of Costco Wholesale and Kmart’s Pace Membership Warehouse (later sold to Sam’s Club). They certainly can be an attractive way for families to shop and save money.

Why do you shop there?  Yes, you know you do.  It’s because you can buy large wholesale quantities at a cheaper price which ultimately keeps more money in your bank account.  Or does it?  Here are 5 of our top tips for ensuring that you’re really saving money during your next trip to a warehouse store.

Saving Money at Warehouse Stores

1. Don’t Assume That Everything Is A Good Deal

Warehouse stores are packed with a wide variety of items including groceries, electronics, books, clothing, and furniture.  It’s easy to assume that everything stacked on the pallets and tall, metal shelving is priced cheaper than other stores.  Isn’t that why you pay a membership fee?

However, these companies make a profit, despite their low prices on bulk items, by overcharging on other things. Products like soda, cereal, coffee, cleaning supplies, and junk food like potato chips are often a lot cheaper if purchased elsewhere.

2. Comparison Shop

The best way to identify good deals at warehouse stores is by doing a price comparison with where you normally go shopping.  Bring along an old receipt and/or take pictures of products with the price tags and cost per unit, as displayed on the shelf at the store.  This will allow you to do an accurate comparison with the larger-sized packages at the warehouse stores.  With a little bit of math, you can be confident that you’re actually getting a good deal.

Don’t forget to consider your financial situation when computing the true cost of your groceries. A year’s supply of flour might seem like a good deal, but interest on credit card debt could negate your savings.

3. Stick To Your List

After you’ve done some comparison shopping so you know what is actually a good deal, make a list and stick to it. Use menu planning to make sure that you’ll use everything that comes home from the store.  Large packages of items from the produce section might go bad before you have a chance to use it all.  On the other hand, big packages of meat can be a great deal, especially if you have a large freezer to store what you can’t use right away.

As warehouse stores seem to carry everything under the sun, you may find yourself thinking “we could use that” while wandering the many aisles.  Stick to a list so that you don’t end up with giant packs of chocolate bars or a trendy kitchen gadget which you really don’t need.

4. Don’t Limit Yourself To Groceries

One of the best ways to save money with a store membership is by adding some non-grocery items to your list.  Don’t forget to fill up your car with gas, because you can save big on fuel costs.  Make sure to pick up things like pet food and alcohol.  Most warehouse stores provide great prices on prescription medication as well.

5. Research Ways To Save On Membership Fees

There are often ways to save on the yearly membership fees for these stores.  Many places offer free introductory periods.  Memberships sometimes include multiple members of the same family.  Instead of each spouse having their own card, split the cost with a brother or sister, so two households can benefit from one membership fee.  You may even be able to find deals on websites like Groupon.

So, there you have it. Surprised, or were you already that savvy? The bottom line here is to do your homework, keep these tips in mind and don’t assume you’re getting a good deal at warehouse stores.

What has been your experience in shopping at wholesale stores?  Are you saving money?

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About Harmony Smith

Harmony Smith is the founder of Creating My Kaleidoscope where she writes about saving money, increasing her income with side hustles, DIY projects, and other adventures. Harmony has been featured in Business Insider, Money Saving Mom, and Rockstar Finance.


    Speak Your Mind


  1. These are great tips – especially number 1. I recently wrote about coupons and other discounts, and how sometimes these can be a trap. I fully agree that going to a ‘discount’ store can also lull you into the view that everything will be cheaper when it isn’t necessarily so!

  2. Trevor McClintock says

    As much as I love Costco, there have been times when prices have been cheaper elsewhere.

    My advice would be to use your smartphone (if you have one available) and have a quick little browse on websites such as Amazon and compare prices.

    I’ve often found this a useful benchmark to see whether or not prices are reasonable or too high.

  3. I am already savvy shopper at Costco. We don’t buy chips and other stuff there. It is usually the bulk ingredients like flour, oil, etc. and of course the meds. They have nice clothes at cheaper price too. The T-shirts , pants, dress shirts last longer than similar items at similar price from elsewhere.

  4. Thanks for the tip about meds.

    My husband got a free Sam’s membership with his job. When that perk was discontinued, we started crunching the numbers. We found if we used coupons (doubled) and shopped sales and loss leaders most stuff ended up being cheaper locally. Since it was a trek to Sam’s, gas had to be figured in. It ended up not being worth it. However, I know people who don’t cook from scratch and the alternative would be eating out. So Sam’s bulk prepared stuff was a better deal for them. I know a very large family who has to travel for groceries anyway and coupons are hard to come by, so Costco is their go to place. They go less frequently and stock up.

    • Harmony Smith says

      Good point – it absolutely depends on a family’s specific situation. A good deal for some people is not so great for others. Also, kudos for doing the calculations and not forgetting to include the gas expense.

  5. Mustard Seed Money says

    My wife is a huge weekly circular nerd. She circles everything that she wants for the week in order to save money. So we don’t normally go to Costco to buy a bunch of items since it’s basically the two of us.

    My mom however has a membership to Costco and my wife will go specifically for medication. She is able to save 90% on medicine at Costco compared to other stores.

    Here’s something that I recently found out. You are not required to be a member to use Costco’s pharmacy. While it’s a little cheaper to be a member it’s still a great deal even if you’re not.

    • Harmony Smith says

      Thanks for the great tip! I doubt few people know that you can get cheaper prescription medication, even if you’re not a member.

      Your wife has more patience for shopping than me. I’m always aspiring to do more research and planning when it comes to buying groceries and other household goods.

  6. Tip #1 is a great one. We often assume during our Sam’s trips that everything is a great bargain. It isn’t until we check out other grocers that we discover some of those bulk items are actually running us more! A big one we were getting duped on for a while is produce. It is almost always better quality and price at a nearby grocery store. Have you ever seen those super green bananas? I have no idea who buys those crazy things!

    • Harmony Smith says

      Yes! The people who are buying those bananas are the ones who don’t know about Rule # 1! They assume that everything is a good deal. The best shoppers are strategic about visiting a couple of different stores.