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Jean Chatzky

Jean Chatzky: Warehouse club do’s, don’ts

By Jean Chatzky · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Posted: 6 am ET

On a recent visit to my local warehouse club, I stumbled upon a rack of discount movie tickets --10 for $85, a $4-per-show discount off the $12.50 my local theater charges for an adult ticket. I’d never considered buying movie tickets on a grocery run before, but as a frequent theatergoer, the price was too good to pass up.

As it turns out, warehouse clubs are a source of some surprising finds, says Benjamin Glaser, the features editor at DealNews.

warehouse-club-deals-duds

Below, 5 of the best deals, along with another 5 that really aren’t deals at all.

What to buy

Gift cards. The aforementioned movie tickets make a great gift, but if you’re in the market for a more standard gift card, you’re likely to find that, too, says Glaser. He’s frequently seen cards for smaller restaurant chains -- think Peet’s Coffee & Tea -- for up to 60% off and $100 iTunes cards for $80.

Medication. Glaser has seen 1,000 tablets of ibuprofen at Costco sell for $10, with similar products priced closer to $16 at other pharmacies. Raechel Conover, a staff writer at Cheapism.com, agrees. "At any membership level, medication prices were 2% to 40% lower -- when no insurance was used -- at Costco. In a 2013 survey by Consumer Reports, Costco was the cheapest pharmacy out of 200."

Organic food. In particular, pantry staples like pasta, sugar, olive oil, bread and honey can be found on the cheap, says Conover, who notes that Costco outperforms other bulk stores in this category.

Name-brand clothing. "We see good deals here, on brands like Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole and Levi’s," says Glaser.

Glasses. You can find prescription eyeglasses at a pretty significant discount, though these days it’s worth it to price-check online competitors like Coastal.com and Zenni Optical, as well.

What to skip

Seasonings. Salt can generally stand the test of time, but other dried herbs get stale and lose their punch before most cooks can use a bulk supply.

Electronics. "We see too many good electronics deals at other retailers, so it’s tough for anyone to top those," says Glaser. Electronics get refreshed so frequently that it’s fairly easy to find an older, but still fine, model on discount. The exception: TVs are sometimes well-priced at warehouse clubs, so it pays to compare deals.

Fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s not that the deals aren’t good; it’s that it can be difficult to use a bulk count of these items before they go bad, and most don’t freeze well. Unless you’re having a party or you know you’ll eat that 20-pack of bananas quickly, it’s best to skip it.

Books. The deals generally aren’t any better than those you’d find on Amazon, so if you can wait for the shipping, you’re better off doing so.

Anything you can’t store. You may get 100 rolls of toilet paper at a steal, but if you have to keep them in the middle of your living room, you should weigh the quality of life issue against the money saved.

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5 Comments
Jodi castiglione
September 20, 2015 at 7:42 pm

You do not have to be a member of membership clubs to buy your perscriptions there. Federal law says they have to serve all with or wot hour membership. Just tell them at the door you want to go to the pharmacy. I've done this when I'm to lazy to get my card out.

Unclemilt
July 14, 2015 at 5:23 pm

I never saw a 20 bunch of bananas. Usually they are between five and eight depending on size. Milk is $1.00 cheaper per gallon than anywhere else but you have to compare prices. However, they are more expensive on computers.

SueBee
July 14, 2015 at 4:06 pm

I can"t afford to drop my Costco membership due to their "uninsured" family member prescription program. It doesn't matter how many legs the family member has. Our four legged family member needs a heart medication. The first time I got it filled at an independent pharmacy, it was $26 for a one month supply. The cost at Costco is $6 for a month supply. The savings far exceeds the cost of membership. Thank you Costco!!

Brenda Reed
July 14, 2015 at 2:40 pm

I always buy new releases of books at Sam's Club because I don't want to pay shipping and it is even cheaper than Wal-Mart. When I am buying older ones, I go to Half-Price Books or Thriftbooks.com. I buy some of my quilt magazines there also.

Michael Lloyd Kuhn
July 14, 2015 at 1:02 pm

The best buy is baked chicken. I find the same prices at Walmart for other items. Mostly the convenience of buying large quantities.