Are Wholesale Clubs Worth It? (Pros and Cons)

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Are Wholesale Clubs Worth It? Pros vs. Cons | Be The Budget

There’s no doubt that wholesale clubs offer incredible prices on all sorts of products. Though, if   you factor in their annual membership fee, it’s reasonable to wonder, are wholesale clubs worth it? 

Wholesale clubs are worth it if you can make up the cost of the membership on the discounted price of items you would normally buy elsewhere. In many cases, the bulk pricing on groceries, alone, can make up for this membership fee. However, lower prices on gas, tires, and electronics can also make a wholesale club worth the cost.

If you are looking into purchasing a membership to one of these clubs, but you can’t quite decide if it’s right for you, you have come to the right place.

For the rest of this article, I am going to cover the pros and cons of wholesale clubs. Hopefully, my experience on this matter will help provide you some clarity in your decision.

Let’s get started!

How Much Is A Wholesale Club Membership?

Wholesale memberships vary between the clubs you are looking to join. So, before you can decide which is right for you, it’s important to know how much an annual membership will cost you. In the table below, you will find the most popular wholesale clubs, and their respective membership fees (at the time of writing this article).

Wholesale ClubMembership Fees
Sam's Club$45/year for Club Membership
$100/year for Plus Membership
BJ's$10/year for Online Access Membership
$55/year for Inner Circle Membership
$110/year for Perks Rewards Membership
Costco$55/year for Gold Star Membership
$120/year for Gold Star Executive Membership

For most of my adult life, I didn’t belong to any wholesale clubs. Whenever I ran out of food, I would just head to the closest grocery store. If my car was low on gas, I would hit the nearest gas station. Little did I know, I was spending significantly more money on these things than I should have been.Wholesale Clubs – The Pros 

It wasn’t until my wife showed laid out the numbers for me, that I finally decided to make the plunge into the warehouse shopping lifestyle. And man did it work out well. Since that day, I have come to love all sorts of things about wholesale clubs.

What follows are a few great benefits that wholesale clubs have to offer.

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Lower Prices

This might be fairly obvious, but wholesale club prices are hard to beat. Often times, we will save upwards of 20% on items that we normally buy at the grocery store. Especially when you consider that most of these items come in much bigger quantities. 

Though, of all the things you can get for a lower price at wholesale clubs, gas is one of the best. In fact, we never buy gas anywhere else. Seriously, there have been times when we spend $.20 less per gallon than the gas station across the street.

Less Shopping

When you shop at a wholesale club, you get a lot of items in bulk. That is a major part of their business model, and the reason they can offer such great prices. The best part about buying in bulk, is that it means fewer grocery shopping excursions for me.

I don’t know about you, but my wife and I love it when we only have to make one grocery trip per week. And our wholesale club makes that dream a lot easier to achieve.

Customer Service

In my experience, the customer service at wholesale stores is almost always excellent. I rarely encounter an unpleasant employee (which is commonplace at most of the other grocery stores near me), and it seems like there is always someone close-by to help you when you have a question, or need help finding something specific. 

Food Court

If you want a surprisingly tasty — and incredibly cheap — meal then you might want to buy a wholesale membership for the food court, alone. I know it might sound like a weird place to dine out, but trust me, it’s awesome.

In fact, when my wife was pregnant, all she craved was pizza. But that can get expensive when you are trying to live on a tight budget and prepare for the upcoming expenses of a newborn baby. Luckily, with our wholesale club membership, she could get a HUGE slice of pizza (that would often last her two meals) and a churro for $3.18. You just can’t find prices like that anywhere else these days.

Samples

One of the best things about wholesale clubs, is the samples you can get when you go shopping on the weekends. I mean, who doesn’t want a little paper cup of smoked sausage, or a few tasty tortilla chips while you shop? It’s like a surprise Saturday morning brunch.

Wholesale Clubs – The Cons

While there are many benefits to wholesale clubs, there are also a few things I’m not particularly fond of. And, if you are deciding whether or not you should join a wholesale club, you should be aware of the negatives as well. 

For me, these things don’t outweigh the benefits, but you might think differently. So, here are the cons of a wholesale club membership. 

Easy To Spend Impulsively

Seeing as this is a website about budgeting and living below your means, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the threat of impulse spending that comes with a wholesale membership.

Unlike normal grocery stores, wholesale clubs do a particularly good job of selling you on things you don’t need. Whether it’s the 75” TVs they place at the entrance, the beautiful gazebo they place in the front of the store that would look sweet in your backyard, or that shiny new Traeger that puts gas grills to shame, it’s pretty easy to bust your budget in a wholesale store.

So, if you do get one, just be sure to keep your wits about you whenever you walk in. 

Traffic (In-Store and In The Parking Lot)

If there is one thing I despise the most about wholesale clubs, it is the traffic. I mean, if you want to experience a stressful parking situation, just take a trip to Costco at 2 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. It feels like you’re taking your life in your hands when you walk through the parking lot.

On top of that, once you get in the store, pay close attention to your heels. Why? Because at any one time, there’s probably someone rushing up behind you with about 200 pounds of food in their cart, ready to run you over. 

Too Much Bulk (In Certain Cases)

There are times that buying in bulk just doesn’t make any sense. I mean, who really needs an entire gallon of mayonnaise? And, does it really make sense to buy a 25 pound bag of flour when my wife wants to make 12 cupcakes? I don’t think so.

Certain things just don’t need to be sold in bulk. And in those cases, a wholesale membership falls a little short.

Hours Of Operation

If you’ve ever gone to the grocery store at 6 AM, or 10 PM, you’ve probably experienced grocery shopping heaven. It’s like a ghost town. With the exception of the occasional employee stocking shelves, you might not see another person in the entire store. You can get in and out in a matter of just a few minutes, and on your way without a bit of traffic in the parking lot.

So, call me a little bummed that wholesale stores don’t offer these same kinds of hours of operation. For the most part, with a wholesale store, you only have the opportunity to shop when all the other humans are awake. 

So, if your preferred shopping hours are early in the morning, or late at night, then a wholesale club might not be worth it for you.

Final Thoughts

More often than not, the cost of a wholesale club membership is worth the money. With the low prices on gas and groceries, you can quickly make up for the annual membership fee through discounts on things you would normally buy retail. On top of that, the cheap, tasty eats you can get at the food court, and the phenomenal customer service make wholesale clubs an attractive opportunity. 

Then again, if you are the kind of person that hates crowded spaces, or does all your grocery shopping outside of normal retail hours, then a wholesale club might not be for you.

The choice is yours!

Are you a member of a wholesale club? Has it been worth it in your experience? Be sure to comment below!

Are wholesale clubs worth it? | Be The Budget

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About The Author

About The Author

Zach Buchenau is a self-proclaimed personal finance nerd. When he isn't writing about budgeting, getting out of debt, making extra money, and living a frugal life, you can find him building furniture, fly fishing, or developing websites. He is the co-founder of BeTheBudget, and Chipotle's most loyal customer.

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