Is warehouse membership really worth cost?

It’s a question I’ve been frequently asked over the years by conscientious consumers who want to get the most out of their dollar. The question is complicated and the answer varies from household to household. Here are seven filters every would-be Sam’s, Costco or even Amazon Prime shopper should run their decision making process through before signing the dotted line or trotting out a mammoth cart overflowing with household goods.

Membership cost

You may love the deep discounts offered by club-styled shopping, but with each and every purchase, you need to count the cost of your membership fee. Will you save enough money to at least justify the upfront expense? You’ll also want to carefully weigh what level of membership you plan on purchasing and why. It’s important to do this research away from the pressure of sales tactics. The stores associates will always think you need the premium plan. It’s best to consider your best options before you enter the doors.

Unit cost

Just because a product comes in a super jumbo size doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best price. Vice versa smaller packages don’t automatically equal spending more money. When shopping bulk, you need to pay special attention to price per ounce and price per unit and the trickiest comparison of all — price per unit per ounce. Sometimes this requires simple math, and other times you’ll be tempted to go cross-eyed due to the numbers.

Time cost

For the record, I love buying in bulk when my budget allows. One of the primary reasons I believe warehouse memberships can be beneficial is for the time you save. If you have extra food or consumables on hand, your need to go to the store diminishes. And the opportunity to make impulse buys when you run out for just one thing also decreases. Your time is valuable. So if you can save time by buying more of the items you use more frequently and keep yourself from running back and forth to the store, a membership might be worth the expense.

Generosity opportunity

Shopping in bulk has more than once allowed me to be more generous than I could have been otherwise. I love the ability to donate essentials such as toilet paper, soap, deodorant, paper plates and more to charities when the opportunity arises. Buying in bulk often means we have more of these items on hand. Recently a friend moved into a new home, and I was able to gather paper plates, paper towels, plastic ware, plastic cups and toilet paper for a care package in five minutes flat.

Added benefits

Your membership benefits may reach beyond lower prices on the club’s wares. You may also have access to discounts on gas or vacations. Amazon Prime’s membership includes free video and music streaming services. Look beyond the price tags in the store and contemplate whether you might be able reap additional rewards.

Proximity

If you have to drive a great distance to be able to shop at your warehouse club, you need to examine two factors. 1) Will your membership cost you more money in gasoline? and 2) Will you really shop there? The further away we are from an establishment, the less likely we really will be to shop there. Proximity should play a role in your decision making process.

Temptation cost

Scoring a great deal on toilet paper is awesome … as long as you don’t also walk out of a warehouse club with a big screen TV and a diamond ring, too. Discounts are always enticing. You need to determine whether you’ll be able to withstand the shopping temptations that these retailers present.

Bottom line, you must consider your household budget before making any bulk purchases. If you’re continually reaching your means, you’ll find yourself stretched to a price you cannot afford. Bulk shopping can allow for blessing and budget busting. Be sure you count all of the costs.

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to newstips@dailyjournal.net