A couple of month’s ago we made a trip out to Sam’s Club at the suggestion of some friends who claim to save a lot of money shopping there. We made a thorough (and exhausting) examination of the items offered to see if we could save on things that we regularly buy. As you know, these stores sell in large quantities and so some basic math is needed to figure out what per item/pound/unit costs really are. But that is really not enough. How do you know if the prices are actually lower than those you typically pay?

One good way is to keep a price book. I resisted doing so for some time because it is somewhat tedious but it has become an invaluable tool. Using the price book, we were able to compare the unit prices at Sam’s Club to prices we could find at our main grocery stores, Target or Walmart. Sam’s Club does not take coupons so the couponed cost (if available) is the one we used for comparison.  We found minor savings on some items but since we do not consume many of the things a typical household consumes (box fruit juices, snack foods, packaged dinners, etc) our choices were limited. Once we considered the membership cost and the gas to get there, we decided it was not worth it for us.

Last week I found an offer online for a 2 month free membership at BJs, another warehouse store. Unable to resist the lure of “free” and when we had another reason to be in that part of town, I packed up the price book and we embarked on another exploration. I admit that I didn’t have a lot of hope that this store would be any different but I was wrong. First, they have significantly more products on offer. Second, their membership cost is 100% refundable at any time during the period of membership (even the last day) and they take coupons! We found many more items that we actually use and because they were offering $10 off your purchases with a paid membership ($45) we went ahead and joined. I’m confident that I will cancel the membership if we find we’re just not making the trip out there or my continually evolving price book informs me that their prices have crept up.

What about you? Have you found these clubs worth it?

Photo credit: BJ’s Photo Gallery