You can save a lot of money by joining a buying club. These essentially are retailers that offer discounts for buying in bulk. The most popular and widely known are Sam’s Club, Cosco, and BJ’s. However, there are a few tips that can maximize your savings.
1. Each warehouse club has a "clearance" or markdown area. Sometimes it takes a little searching to find these areas. Like any retail store, the major traffic areas will be occupied with full price merchandise, and most discontinued, last one, seasonal items that are reduced can be found on shelves near the outside walls of the warehouse. There are few exceptions such as apparel. If there is enough quantity with real deep markdowns, check tables at the end of the warehouse row–next to the outside wall, or if limited, on a special table in the apparel department. Be sure to check the signs for prices.
2. Another way to spot these markdowns is to check codes printed on the price sheets. Sam’s Club uses "C" to identify discontinued items. Cosco identifies discontinued with an *asterisk.
3. Markdown merchandise can be identified by the price. At Cosco, markdown prices end with 97cents, $XX.97. Sam’s Club markdown price ends in a penny, $XX.01.
4. Keep track of prices. Remember you are buying in bulk and many times when you calculate the individual price of an item, you may save more by buying it at a store and with groceries using coupons for greater savings. Also, keep track of regular prices on the shelves. From time to time, a sizeable quantity can be reduced in place either because it is seasonal or discontinued, or limited quantities.
5. There is a pattern to the placement of clearance, seasonal, and discontinued items. Large quantities are markdown in place, reduced quantities are moved to outside walls or specific areas near the regular merchandise (like electronics), and limited numbers, depending on size of the item and number, end up on the markdown shelves away from regular merchandise.
6. Watch for "seasonal" or "one time buy" items. Usually these are limited quantities and the price can be very good, such as the Stilton Cheese for $9.88 at Sam’s Club during the holidays. Many warehouse stores bring in special "goodies" during the holidays, either in plants or gourmet foods.
7. Buy the warehouse "private label" items. Sam’s Club has Member’s Mark, Cosco has Kirkland Signature, and BJ’s has Berkeley & Jensen labels. These include quality items like leather jacket at very competitive prices, and you can get the quality of higher priced "brands" at real bargain prices.
8. Watch for the "food samples" since the launch of a new product oftentimes includes a great price. This also includes the custom days when you can order your selection in the amount you want, not a prepackaged amount like seafood, and you can get the selection you want, like muffins, rather than the prepackaged variety.
9. Electronics. Electronics at warehouse clubs does not always beat prices of specialized stores, since these stores make more on the warranties and therefore can offer better prices. However, should you have to return the merchandise for whatever reason, returns can be easier at the warehouse.
10. Pharmaceuticals prices are excellent on your prescriptions and over-the-counter medicinal needs. Selection may not be as varied on the over-the-counter products, and, of course, you buy in bulk.
MEMBERSHIP: Since you usually need to buy a membership to purchase warehouse products, you can split the cost of the membership with other family members or friends and split the large quantities as well.
Tip of the Week: #39 Check the seasonal items and stock-up since it may be a year before you see the item again.
For instance, Sam’s Club gets these large colossal shrimp in once a year–they’re the size the British would refer to as "prawns." 4-6 Shrimp Per Pound, 2 Lb. Pkg. Right now they are in stock, but once gone won’t appear for another year.