How to Save Money at Wholesale Clubs

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If you’ve been to a wholesale club warehouse, you know the thrill of the cavernous interior with snacks, spices, and home office staples stacked to the ceiling. You know the joy of the scent of food samples in the air. But you also know that “holy crap” feeling at checkout when you go overboard. Here are several tried-and-true ways to save at wholesale clubs in general, as well as tips specific to the big 3: Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s.

Related: The Do’s and Don’ts of Buying in Bulk

Ways to Save Money at Wholesale Clubs

  • Split bulk purchases with a friend or neighbor. You’ll both save money without having a full case of canned chickpeas or two giant bottles of lemonade when you only need one. If you’re really good friends, you can try signing up for a family plan, which can be cheaper than purchasing a plan on your own. 
  • Buying in bulk can be a great way to save, but not if things spoil before you finish them. Freeze perishables, like bread, meat, and cheese, to make your investment worthwhile.
  • Along those same lines, some items will be cheaper, but they can degrade or lose potency over time. Those items include: liquid detergents, olive oil, spices, and some skincare products. 
  • Before you shop, look for discounts on your favorite deal platforms, like CouponCabin.com, Rakuten, Ibotta, and Slickdeals.net when shopping in-store or online. Not only can you save money with coupons and cash back offers, but you’ll often see perks like membership renewal incentives and perks for referring a friend.
  • You can also purchase, and then shop with, discounted gift cards from a site like GiftCardGranny to save a bit extra. 
  • If your club has a pharmacy, compare prices with where you typically purchase medications (check for your pets’ medications, too), as the savings can be substantial. You also don’t need to be a member to shop at the pharmacy and take advance of the savings! 
  • Some wholesale clubs may also offer free health screenings for diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart health.
  • Need glasses or contact lenses? Wholesale clubs have optometrists on-site for exams as well as discounted glasses and contacts. 
  • Plan to fill your gas tank while you’re there. Wholesale clubs offer members-only discounted pricing. 
  • Check out Sam’s Club Travel, BJ’s Travel or Costco Travel for savings on lodging, car rentals, flights, and more. Booking through your wholesale club often allows you to get upgrades and add-ons that you wouldn’t get otherwise.
  • House brands will usually have the best prices. Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s all have their own house brands, including Kirkland from Costco, Member’s Mark by Sam’s Club and Richelieu Foods and Berkley-Jensen from BJ’s.  
  • Bargains on booze can be had at all three chains. BJ’s even has its own private label liquor brand, Wellsley Farms. 

How to Save Money at Costco

  • Start shopping from the back to the front – the front, known to employees as “action alley,” tends to contain pricier items and impulse buys, thanks to its higher foot traffic.
  • See everything on sale at your local Costco using the “Warehouse Savings” tool online. It’s updated each month with the newest sales, but it cannot show you in-stock quantities by location. 
  • If you don’t shop at Costco enough to justify purchasing a membership, non-members can shop online for a 5% surcharge, which still may be enough of a discount to beat other competitors’ prices.
  • Asterisks on pricing signs indicate that the item won’t be restocked, so buy as many as you need now! This most often applies to seasonal items, but there are lots of other items (like home decor and apparel) too.
  • Both Instacart and Shipt will deliver your Costco orders right to your door – especially handy if you don’t feel safe to shop in-store, have trouble lifting large bulk items, or don’t have transportation (toting your bulk purchases on the bus isn’t fun!).
  • Rumor has it that you can place Costco orders with Instacart without a Costco membership!
  • Avoid paying for shipping on your Costco online order by purchasing at least $75 of non-perishable groceries. And since non-perishable groceries are among the best bulk items to purchase, this is a no-brainer.
  • Until further notice, Costco is offering Special Operating Hours from 9-10 am Monday through Friday. Only members who are ages 60+, disabled, or immunocompromised are permitted to shop during this window. 

How to Save Money at Sam’s Club

  • Visit the “Instant Savings” section of Sam’s Club’s website ahead of your shopping trip. Marking these promotional items electronically loads the discounts onto your membership card – like an automatic coupon! Deals are updated regularly and are subject to store availability. 
  • Time is money, so save both by skipping the long checkout lines. You can download the Scan & Go app to scan your items as you shop, then check out from anywhere in the store (read: while you enjoy free samples). It’s a great way to check out contact-free. 
  • Sam’s Club’s Shocking Values is a daily deals page with, well, shocking values. The deals are often on bigger ticket items, like furniture and appliances, so the discounts are often hundreds of dollars off the typical retail prices. 
  • Check out the Tire & Battery Center next time your vehicle needs a little TLC. Sam’s Club members get free flat tire repairs – even if you bought the tires elsewhere – plus free battery testing and wiper blade installations. Also, if you do buy your tires at Sam’s Club (they’re known to have great prices), you’ll enjoy free 24-hour roadside tire service.
  • Sam’s Club Concierge, which includes drive-up and in-store hours for senior customers and customers who are at-risk, are 7-9am on Tuesday and Thursday. Sam’s Club also has “Hero Hours” for first responders and healthcare workers from 8-10am on Sunday. 
  • Through the end of October 2020, join for $45 a year and receive a $45 gift card! 
  • Plus Members – who pay $100 per year instead of $45, gives you access to Early Shopping Hours, which are 8-10am. 
  • For every $500 Plus members spend, you’ll earn $10 back in cash rewards. This is pretty simple if you shop for a large family often or own a business and buy supplies in bulk.

How to Save Money at BJ’s

  • Calling all first responders and healthcare workers: All BJ’s locations offer a special shopping hour, dubbed “Appreciation Hour,” just for you. From 8-9 am every Sunday, shop in peace. No membership required.
  • Members who are age 60 and over can shop during Senior hours, which are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8-9 am.
  • Unlike other wholesale clubs, BJ’s accepts manufacturer’s coupons. They also allow you to stack those coupons with BJ’s in-store deals and coupons.
  • Stock up on BJ’s coupons several ways: 
    • Sign up to receive their company magazine, BJ’s Member Journal.
    • Download their app
    • Digitally clip coupons from their My Coupons section online 
    • Sign up for their email list
  • Keep an eye on BJ’s “WOW Deals” section for special pricing on electronics. Apple AirPods, for instance, rarely go on sale – but at the time of this writing, BJ’s is offering them for $15 off.
  • BJ’s members don’t save just at their warehouses – the wholesale club partners with businesses like AT&T, IdentityForce, and more to offer members discounts on partners’ products and services.
  • For you night owls, many BJ’s locations are open late – until 10 pm weekdays – where Sam’s Club and Costco close at 8 or 8:30 pm.

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Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist, TV presenter, spokesperson, and educator, specializing in beauty, tech, apps, toys, gift guides, and smart shopping. She has appeared as an expert on dozens of TV shows and radio networks, including Today, Rachael Ray Show, Inside Edition, CNN, Reuters, CNBC.com, Sirius Radio, and numerous FOX, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. Trae has been featured as a beauty tastemaker in Elle, Redbook, InStyle, and Essence, and her work has appeared on Yahoo Finance, Marketwatch, USNews.com, Credit.com, CBSNews.com, Time.com.