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Shopping Smart at Wholesale Clubs

Shopping wholesale gets you a lot for your money. Get even more when buying in bulk with these tips.

wholesale shopping

If you want to save some cash, shopping at a wholesale club is a great way to do it. But in order to save big time, you need to have some know-how. Here are a few tips and tricks to get the most for your money.

What is a Wholesale Club?

A wholesale club is like a giant grocery store that sells their items in bulk. They also usually carry non-grocery products, like televisions, furniture, clothes, books and more. Customers pay an annual membership to shop at the wholesale club and gain access to their lower prices and bulk options. Many wholesale clubs look like giant warehouses, filled with pallets of different products. If you know what you should and shouldn’t buy, an annual membership will pay for itself.


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Buying in Bulk

The main way customers save money at a wholesale club is by buying products in bulk bundles. Usually, buying in bulk is more cost-effective than paying the regular unit price of an item. But you should always check. When you buy something in bulk, make sure to compare the bulk price to the unit price to see how much money you’re actually saving. This will give you a better idea of which products are worth the bulk order.

Buying in bulk is a great opportunity to stock up on household essentials and dry goods. Load your cart up with cleaning supplies, paper towels, toilet paper, soap and toothpaste. Don’t forget dry pasta, dry beans, rice, sugar and other shelf-stable necessities.

Shelf stability is important to consider when you’re buying in bulk. Avoid bulk buying items with nearby expiration dates – or any expiration date at all, if it’s an item that you use infrequently. Some things, like meat, can be frozen and saved for later, but not everything. Don’t buy something in bulk unless you’re sure that you’re going to use all of it. That’s the only way that you’ll get your savings.

Before you decide which bulk items to take with you, make sure you have adequate storage space at home. Sometimes the savings aren’t worth it if the products are going to clutter up your house.

wholesale shopping

Buying What You Need

One of the best ways to save at any wholesale club (or any store at all) is to write a shopping list and stick to it. Don’t get side-tracked by anything you didn’t come to the club to purchase. You can cut down on unnecessary spending by doing one big monthly trip to the club, rather than a series of smaller trips. This will help you focus on what you need for the month, and limit the amount of impulse purchases.

Another great way to curb impulse buying is by learning the layout of the store. This might take you a few visits, but it’s so worth it. Many stores, wholesale clubs included, will scatter essential grocery items in far-flung corners so that customers are forced to browse aisles of products that they don’t need. You might be on your way to get the eggs, but there are a whole lot of TVs that you have to pass first. When you know the store layout, you can go straight to the products you want and avoid being tempted to waste your time or money on anything else.

Wholesale clubs want you to linger for a long time, browsing their shelves and spending more money. That’s why many clubs offer low-price concession stands or restaurants for members – they don’t even need to leave the store for lunch! Eating before you go will help you resist the siren call of the cheap hot dog and soft drinks.

More Ways to Save

    • Too many bulk items that you would never use all by yourself? Try splitting the cost. If you have a friend or family member who shops at the same wholesale club, you can save even more money by splitting the cost of wholesale items with them. You get half of the products, and they get the other half. Everyone wins, and nothing goes to waste! This is a great way to buy items that you otherwise would avoid due to expiration dates.
    • Don’t forget the store brands. In wholesale clubs, store-brand items are usually of the same or similar quality as their branded counterparts – and they come at a much lower price.
    • Get gas there! Gas can be expensive, but many wholesale clubs now have their own gas stations attached to the store. These gas stations often offer lower prices to wholesale club members. If you’re stopping by to do some shopping, definitely don’t forget to fill up your tank before you leave.
    • Learn about the different membership tiers that your wholesale club offers. Some of them offer different rewards and better deals. Getting the cheapest membership might not always be the best option for you.
    • Check to see if your wholesale club has a pharmacy department. You could be able to save on your medications. Do you wear glasses? Your wholesale club might sell them at a discounted price. Many wholesale clubs have in-store optometrists and eyeglass retailers available for their members.
    • Before you purchase a big-ticket item like a flat-screen TV or a set of outdoor furniture, do a little comparison shopping at other stores. Wholesale clubs are great for discounts on grocery items, but they don’t always have the best prices when it comes to their more expensive products. 

AAA members can earn 2 points for every $1 spent on gas, grocery store, wholesale club and drugstore purchases with the AAA Member Rewards Visa® credit card. Learn more

How do you save money at your wholesale club? Which club is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

  • Marcia L.

    I’m devoted to Costco! I love their employee policies as well as the great prices.

    • I agree 100% about Costco. I have been a Costco member over 20 years. I have also had membership to Sam’s Club and BJ’s Club. It’s my opinion there is not even a close comparison to Costco prices and benefits. I should also mention the Costco website carries thousands of items that are not supplied in their stores, most items have shipping costs included.

  • Sure, grab those massive deals! Warehouse stores are the next iteration of retail shopping with little or no customer service. If you can still find small retailers please remember them as they will soon disappear altogether.

  • Barbara R.

    I am the CostcoQueen! I have even used their travel bargains to rent a car ( before covid) and got the best price! Although I am a single person in my household, I save a bundle on the bulk items you suggested and manage to stay out of a lot of stores for long periods of time so I won’t be tempted to impulse buy. And Costco’s gas and tires are the best buys around! And who can resist a Costco rotisserie chicken?

  • Patricia C.

    I enjoy shopping at BJ’s. The employee’s are always very helpful. The rewards are a big help. You can save on gas if you shop using BJ’s Mastercard. A winning situation.

  • Unfortunately there’s no Costco convenient to me so we shop Sam’s. I purchased the free shipping option which I believe has paid off. A R/T trip to the nearest Sam’s is 1.5 hours and 50 miles, plus shipping kept me out of the store during COVID. Finally, as to learning the store, many locations move the stock around from time to time forcing the consumer to wander & dally in parts of the store where one didn’t wish to go!

    • You are 100% correct! The places are big enough as it is without having to wander around trying to find items that you used to know where they were located. BJ’s does this all the time moving merchandise around! ???????????? They do this on purpose to make the people stay in the store longer. However, for me, if I don’t find it in my travels I don’t go searching for it I just leave so they’re not making money off me with that.


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