35 Hidden Ways to Save at Warehouse Clubs

Author: Daniel B. Kline | January 22, 2020

A Costco store as seen from the parking lot.

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Welcome to the club

Joining Costco, Sam's Club, or BJ's Wholesale Club unlocks all sorts of potential savings. All three of these chains use roughly the same model.

These stores are actually low-frills warehouses. The merchandise is displayed with minimal flair and there's very limited help on the floor. Customers pay an an annual fee to join and, in exchange for the lack of niceties, get really good prices.

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Man shopping with shopping list.

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1. Have a plan

Don't visit a warehouse club without a plan. You should know what you need to buy, what you may want to buy, and what you're willing to buy at a certain price. You'd be shocked at how many people miss out on deals for things they actually need because they don't make a plan before heading out to shop.

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Pen resting on top of a to-do list.

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2. Make a list

Some items are for everyday consumption and those go on one kind of list. There are other things you want to be aware of that you may need. If, for example, you plan to replace your mattress, that's something that should be on your list. If you know you plan to do that, you can make your purchase when your club offers the right deal.

ALSO READ: 3 Potential Risks for Costco Investors

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Woman holding a smartphone and a credit card with contemplative look on her face.

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3. Get the chain's credit card

All three major warehouse clubs offer a credit card that gives additional savings. The offers vary, but they can pile up quickly.

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Two women sitting outdoors after shopping while one snaps a photo of the other.

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4. Shop with a friend

People go to the mall together, why not the warehouse club? If you shop with a friend you can share one membership as long as one person pays (you can settle up after). Doing this lets you buy bulk items that might be too much for just you that make sense if you share.

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Packaged food in a freezer.

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5. Use your freezer

Warehouse chains generally sell in bulk. That means that you might have to buy in a quantity that's too large to use before the items expire. If you buy meat, however, you can use freezer bags to preserve part of your purchase for a longer period of time.

ALSO READ: 9 Reasons Not to Join a Warehouse Club

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A plate of food samples

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6. Fill up on samples

Warehouse clubs offer lots of free samples. You can generally walk around the store and try everything from candy to drinks, appetizers, and even small pieces of a main course.

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Two hot dogs are shown with mustard

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7. Try the food court

Both Costco and Sam's Club offer very cheap eats at their food court. You can get a hot dog or a slice of pizza, and a drink for under $2. There are also cheap ice cream cones and other treats.

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Woman eating chicken wings.

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8. Bring home a chicken

One rotisserie chicken can feed a family of four (though you'll want to add side dishes). Warehouse clubs offer rotisserie chickens at rock-bottom prices and they're generally pretty good.

ALSO READ: 3 Reasons to Join Costco (and 2 Reasons to Stay Away)

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A couple buying a new car.

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9. Buy a car

Both Costco and Sam's Club offer a service that helps members buy a car. If you use it, you won't have to haggle with a dealer and you'll know you're getting a very good price.

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Close up of a gas pump at a gas station.

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10. Gas up

Only some warehouse club locations offer gas pumps. When they do have them, however, they tend to be some of the cheapest gas, if not the actual cheapest gas, in town.

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A key fob sitting atop a small pile of one hundred dollar bills and an auto loan application.

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11. Get your car fixed

Some warehouse club locations have auto repair centers. These may offer just tires or other parts. Some will be full-service centers. The prices will be good and you won't have to worry about whether you're being cheated.

ALSO READ: How Much Do Americans Spend on Car Repairs?

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Woman reading emails on a computer screen.

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12. Check your email

Costco and Sam's Club both offer extra savings via email. It may be tempting to just ignore or throw away promotional emails, but that could end up costing you money.

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An online discount website on a cell phone screen.

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13. Use the website

For years, Costco and Sam's Club largely neglected the internet. That's no longer true and both chains have strong websites that sometimes have deals that can't be found in stores.

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A female child in a winter hat and coat with hands to her face.

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14. Buy before you need

Sometimes you can save money at a warehouse club by buying before you need an item. That may mean stocking up on winter hats or gloves because you know your kid will lose theirs. It could also mean stashing away holiday gifts well before the holidays, or even just buying extra socks because the price is right.

ALSO READ: Where Will Costco Be in 5 Years?

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A man shops in a warehouse store with a cart.

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15. Buy house brands

Warehouse clubs sell name brands but they also offer their own house brands. These are generally the same quality as the better-known brand but at a cheaper price. By not being a brand snob, you can save some real money.

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A cocktail is being poured

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16. Stock your liquor cabinet

You can also buy house brand liquor at many warehouse club locations. These are generally high-quality spirits produced by major manufacturers that use the club's house brand name. You may have to sample a bit to find what you like, but the quality can be very high for the price.

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Christmas decorations shaped like hearts and snowflakes hanging in store

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17. Don't forget seasonal items

The merchandise changes at warehouse clubs on a very regular basis. You should generally be able to find seasonal items like holiday decorations at below-market prices. You may also be able to stock up after the fact if you visit a day or two after a holiday passes by.

ALSO READ: This Mistake Could Cost You an Extra $3,400 a Year

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One person handing a gift card to another person.

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18. Buy gift cards

Warehouse clubs sometimes have gift cards at below face-value pricing. You may have to buy a set of cards to different stores or get a higher denomination than you want, but if the card is for someplace you visit regularly, this is free money.

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A millennial man does pushups at the gym.

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19. Get a gym membership

Sometimes warehouse clubs sell gift cards that can be exchanged for a gym membership. These can often contain large savings with the caveat being that you have to pay for a full year up front.

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Older couple in front of a cruise ship.

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20. Book a cruise

Use your warehouse club's online travel service to book a cruise. The prices will generally be as low as you can find anywhere and sometimes the added perks may be better than you can get on your own.

ALSO READ: How to Invest in Cruise Line Stocks

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Two girls ride a roller coaster.

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21. Buy theme park packages

The Florida theme parks offer very few deals on tickets if you're not an in-state resident. Warehouse clubs often have package deals with airfare and hotel that beats the pricing you can get on your own.

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Two workers installing flooring.

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22. Get a new floor

You can't actually buy flooring in warehouse clubs. What you can do is hire a third-party contractor through your club to get a good price on redoing your floors.

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A coffin

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23. Buy a coffin

Coffins can cost thousands of dollars. Warehouse clubs sometimes offer them at much lower prices. This is, of course, an item you only buy when driven by need, but if a need exists, the savings can be huge.

ALSO READ: 7 Tips for Planning Your Funeral, and Why You Should

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A bouquet of roses

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24. Buy flowers

Your warehouse club may not always stock fresh flowers. It will, however, often have them around Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and on other occasions when flowers are a typical gift.

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Gifts under tree with gold ball decorations.

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25. Pick up generic gifts

You never know when you might need a small gift. Warehouse clubs have oddball selections and sometimes you might see something that makes a good gift in a lot of situations. Buy it now and make sure you remember to use it when the need arises.

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A table of books on display in a bookstore.

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26. Stock your library

Warehouse clubs won't have a big selection of books. They will, however, have some bestsellers at very low prices. You can also expect to find cookbooks, self-help books, and biographies of famous people.

ALSO READ: Our 2019 Book List for Investors

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We see a dollar sign casting a shadow in the shape of a forward-pointing arrow.

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27. Level up

Both Sam's and Costco offer higher levels of membership that cost more but come with cash back. The deals vary slightly but in a broad sense, you'll pay twice as much to join but get 2% cash back on your purchases. If you spend enough to earn back your added joining fee, then you will be making money on the deal.

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A man takes a sneaker out of an orange box.

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28. Be open to the unexpected

Warehouse clubs don't generally sell shoes or sneakers. That does not mean they won't and that you won't walk in and see unexpected merchandise from time to time. Know what you need and be ready to buy if something on your list shows up.

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A price tag with three dollar signs.

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29. Track prices

Warehouse clubs always have certain items in stock like televisions and computers. Prices on those items can vary greatly.

If you need a big ticket item, but have time, follow your choice for a few months. Track the price online at other retailers and watch to see if your warehouse club offers a price drop.

ALSO READ: Costco Keeps Rolling Through the Holidays

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Grovery Delivery

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30. Don't forget delivery

Costco and Sam's Club both have different delivery options. In both cases you can get at least some of what you need without leaving the house. Some of the offers have a fee, but the added convenience may still make it worth it.

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A car is packed with grocery bags.

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31. Know when to say no

The hardest thing for warehouse club members is knowing when not to buy. Your club may have a great deal on an item you use but if half of it will go bad before you use it then you're not really getting a deal. Sometimes walking away is the best way to save money.

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Smiling young male in glasses against grey background.

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32. Get glasses

Most Costco and Sam's Club locations have eyeglass centers. These are generally a very inexpensive way to meet your eye-wear needs.

ALSO READ: Why Costco Stock Rose 44% in 2019

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bottles of prescription medicine sitting on shelves in cabinet

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33. Fill your prescription

Warehouse clubs have prescription drug counters. In many cases these offer cheap prices even if you don't have insurance. That's not always the case, but it's worth checking the cost versus the pharmacy you usually use.

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Cup of coffee with spoon, beans, and sugar.

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34. Stock up on coffee

Costco and Sam's Club generally offer a large selection of coffee. This includes beans, K-cups, ready-to-drink beverages, and more. The savings, especially on K-cups, can be significant.

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doctor handing a piece of paper to a patient

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35. Get a health screening

Not every warehouse club offers healthcare screenings, but be ready to take advantage when yours does. There might be free blood pressure checks or hearing screenings. Keep your eyes open as these may be advertised in-store or just pop up when you happen to be visiting.

ALSO READ: 3 Top Healthcare Stocks to Buy Now

Daniel B. Kline has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Costco Wholesale. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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