Why I Got Rid Of My Warehouse Club Membership

club warehouse shopping

A membership to a warehouse club like Costco, BJ’s, or Sam’s is something that you have to evaluate carefully, both before you sign up and each year at renewal time. If you’re going to pay to shop somewhere, you need to make certain that your savings will offset the membership fees. When we first joined our local club (a BJ’s), the numbers were in our favor. Times change, though, and this year I decided it no longer worked for us.

The trigger for me to reevaluate the membership was a rather large increase in the membership fee. When we first joined, we were paying $35 per year. Even at $45 per year, we stuck with it. The last bill, though, jumped to $55 per year for the basic membership. I had to run the numbers to see if we were getting our money out of it.

When I sat down and looked at our purchasing history over the past year, I determined that we wouldn’t get back the membership fee going forward. There were several reasons for this. The first was that their gas station was no longer the most competitive. We used to be able to save almost the entire membership fee on gas purchases alone. Over the past couple of years, though, more stations opened in the area sparking healthy competition. Our main grocery store also improved and expanded their gasoline rewards program, meaning that they were often the cheapest option. The warehouse club had actually become one of the most expensive options in this area.

Second, the club quit carrying some of the products on which we routinely saved the most money. They used to carry the ink for my printer at a price I couldn’t beat anywhere else, online or off. Then they stopped carrying it. Since I use a lot of ink, that was a big savings lost. They also quit carrying some of my preferred toiletry brands, pet items, and other items that we used frequently. Unless we were willing to switch brands (in some cases it wouldn’t have been a problem but for others I didn’t want to switch), we weren’t going to save as much.

Third, the prices on many items had increased to the point where they were no longer a good deal compared to other stores. While inflation has happened in every store, the inflation at the club pushed their prices to the point where the unit prices were more expensive than places like Target and WalMart. Buying in bulk isn’t always a guarantee of savings so you have to know and track prices at a variety of stores. I keep a price book so I knew that the club had pushed itself into the “bad deal” category.

As I looked back over the year, I discovered that we’d only shopped at the club five times in the past year. Other than a trip at the holidays to stock up on items for a party we were having, we’d mostly bought just laundry detergent and toilet paper, both items that I could do just as well on at other stores with sales and coupons. No way was it worth it to us to keep that membership anymore.

Now that it’s gone, I don’t miss it. I actually find I enjoy having more space in my pantry since it’s not taken up by giant-sized boxes. I shop the sales and use coupons to get the best prices on the things I buy. I still stockpile some items but I get them at “regular” stores rather than the warehouse clubs. The deals that make stockpiling possible are available at places other than warehouse clubs, you just have to look for them.

You shouldn’t just blindly pay the membership club renewal when the bill comes each year. A warehouse membership is like any other contract you have (cell phone, cable, etc.) The price can gradually increase while the value decreases. Sometimes we keep paying, assuming that things are still the deal that they once were. Things change, though, and assumptions and inertia can leave you paying a bill that you no longer need to pay.

Before you renew, take a moment and ask yourself whether you got your money’s worth in the past year. Check your records and receipts to see how much you spent versus how much you saved. Wander the aisles of the store as if you were a first time customer deciding whether to join. Check the prices and the products that are being carried to make certain that they are still the best deals and they are products you use. If you plan to buy their gas, make sure they’re still the best deal in the area. If you don’t think you’ll get full value for your money, let the membership go. You can always rejoin later if your needs change and you decide you want it back.

(Photo courtesy of seniorliving)

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11 Responses to Why I Got Rid Of My Warehouse Club Membership

  1. jay says:

    Totally agree. Several years ago we finally ran the numbers and came to the same conclusion. Aside from the issues you highlight, the hassle and driving distance became the clincher. I am so happy not to be part of the aggressive bustle and marketing, the unavoidable mentality that more is better, and the unpacking/storage ritual at home.

    I don’t think we’ve spent a penny more because we buy only what we need, when we need it.

    So, agreed: run the numbers. Include the cost of gas, your time, storage hassles, and all those unintended purchases that you could (and should) easily do without.

  2. Julie says:

    I visit Costco at lease every other week, sometimes more often. Their groceries are still competitively priced and we are feeding a family of 5 so I purchase at least half of my groceries at Costco. The rest are purchased at our local grocery store using coupons or looking for the weekly specials and stocking up.

    I also don’t think it is fair to add the cost of unintended purchases or gas unless it is quite a distance from your house. I can easily make a quick shopping trip to Costco (which is near my home) on my one morning per week that I don’t go into the office. The store is nearly empty at 10:00 AM on a Tuesday. I don’t make impulse purchases at Costco any more than I do from any other store. I just go in and buy the groceries that I need and leave.

  3. I agree. Buying in bulk doesn’t always save you money. We don’t belong to one of these stores primarily because we would have to drive nearly 2 hours to get to the nearest one, but I have plenty of neighbors who belong and who make the drive on a regular basis. Then they have to dedicate extra closets for pantry space.

    In my ideal world, I would go to the market each day for fresh food. (With three hungry kids living at home, having to go to the store every day would probably drive me insane, but it sounds so nice.)

  4. Wowitsawonderfullife says:

    The only way it was worth it for me is if I shared the membership with a colleague or a sister. Then the membership was half the price. I can only go on the weekends now and so I don’t have the time to wait in line so I gave it up.

  5. M E 2 says:

    My employer pays for BOTH of my memberships.

  6. hon says:

    I’m just noting some pros and cons of keeping Costo membership I’ve always shared with DSIL. I just discovered that shared membership has always been against the rules. I’ll review the sums spent but off the top of my head, I don’t think it’s worth the $ 55. fee.

  7. Bben says:

    As a bachelor living alone, and 20 miles away from the nearest BJs it really doesn’t make sense for me. Many times the giant ‘economy’ size will go bad before I can use it all. Any savings on gas is negated by the 40 mile round trip.

    There is a Target 1/2 mile from my home, and a Wall Mart less than a mile away. The Wall Mart has discounted gas, and is very often the cheapest around even without purchasing the discount card in the store. The Wall Mart usually has the least expensive groceries, but often one of the nearby local super markets will have specials on some items that make it worth while to stop off there just for those deals.

  8. denise says:

    One of the main reasons that I keep my Costco card is because of the Kirkland pet food. I know that it is made in china(most are,except premium brands)but you can’t beat the price for what you get. I only buy certain things, toilet paper, paper towel, chopped garlic, bread and milk. There are a few other things I buy because they are a good price. For me it’s worth the cost. Realistically if you really want to save money you need to shop at several stores. I live in a large urban area with plenty of access to any type of store. I would have to further evaluate the situation if I lived far from Costco.

  9. Bill says:

    Kirkland dog food is made by Diamond in the United States not China. When you compare it to to Blue dog food the savings are tremendous per bag. Nearly 50%. Just two bags of dog food pay for our membership and we purchase 20+ bags a year.

  10. jay says:

    I know this doesn’t matter to a lot of people, and for others the price difference isn’t worth it, but aside from the points I made earlier, I also try really hard to support local, small businesses. I know who owns our neighborhood pet store, I know the owners of the meat shop, and the 2 or 3 grocery stores I frequent. I know them because they’re also the cashiers, stockers, the “counter help”, etc. It does cost a bit more, but most of the money stays local, their employees are paid decently, and there’s generally a great deal of respect to go around- something I just didn’t see at big box stores.

  11. Andrea says:

    I would have to disagree my Costco Membership pays for itself in on shop where else can you get USDA Choice Select Prime Meats. Not to mention Kirikland Signature Toilet Paper saves me more even money. I buy all my fresh produce and I must say if something isn’t right Costco takes care of it. I also like the fact that they support all their local Mom And Pops businesses in the Community they are there to help keep those businesses in business. I also bought my car from Costco’s Auto Buying Service best deal I ever did saved $6000.00 on the price and the deal took all of an hour at the Local Dealership that was on their program. Now everytime I need service I save 15% on parts and labor just because I am a Costco Member. Oh did I mention I got back $189.00 on my Executive Rewards so in reality they paid me to shop. I have their American Express I get a check from them to it gives me 3% back on gas 2% travel 2% Resturants 1%everywhere else American Express sends me a Check and Costco let’s me cash it for cash or spend towards anything I want in the store. I would have to say I have no problem being a Costco Member it’s been very profitable for me exceeding $55.00 and like everything with Costco if ever I’m not satisfied I know I will be taken care of the have the BEST Membet Service!

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