Back in college, since I had no car and ate cheap take-out 5 days a week, I never went to warehouse clubs. But since getting married, my wife’s family extended their “business” membership to us, and we now go to Costco once every 2-3 weeks. These stores are enormous, and always seem to be located on the edge of town. Our is about a 20 minutes drive away. At first, I thought it was pretty cool, being able to buy soap and toilet paper once a decade. But after my last run, I’ve been analyzing it further…
There are definitely pros and cons to shopping at warehouse clubs. First, the cons.
- You have to pay a membership fee, about $45 a year, so you’re already behind when you start.
- Instead of splurging on a pack of gum at Safeway or Publix, you go out and buy a 7 lb tub of nacho cheese (see pic). Yes, that’s right, I bought me a 7 lb can (6 lb. 10 oz. to be exact) of fake processed plastic bright yellow cheese. Mmmm. I actually allow myself one “splurge” every time I go. Last time it was a 2 lb. jar of kalamata olives that was $4/lb instead of $10/lb at the specialty grocer. For next time, I’m eyeing a huge vat of buffalo wing sauce.
- In addition to the forementioned 20 minute drive, you often end up parking a mile from the entrance. And then you have to pilot these huge carts around the 100,000 other people looking for that 20 lb sack of salt for 2 bucks.
- There’s never any employees to help you. If you can’t find something in the vast stack of pallets, too bad.
- There’s only one brand of anything, besides the fake coke. And they don’t sell fake Diet Cherry Coke. Bummer.
But on the flip side, there are many pros:
- If you need a big ticket item, like a TV or laptop or large appliance, you can get your membership back immediately and then some.
- There are now some things I only buy at Costco. Examples include sandwich meat and cheese. It’s good quality, cheap, and I just freeze what I can’t use. Their flash frozen chicken breasts/tenders/thighs are great too. They even don’t have any preservatives or anything, just chicken, salt, and water. The tenders are my favorite, with easy portioning and they last forever in the freezer.
- At certain locations you can justify the drive with super-cheap warehouse gas. Alas, mine does not have this, and I ain’t driving an hour to get it.
- Less employees = lower prices. And once you go a couple times, you start to get a feel for the place.
- They offer certain services like tire shops, pharmacies, and eyeglasses for cheap. I checked out their prices and plan on getting my next set of glasses from them.
- Nope, Costco simply needs to make a good fake Diet Cherry Coke. Please?
I’d love to hear y’all’s thoughts on warehouse clubbin’. What do you get and why?
By Jonathan Ping | Frugal Living | 3/13/05, 5:05pm