Coupons

I often am asked if I shop regularly at warehouse clubs, or if warehouse clubs will save money instead of shopping at the supermarket. I previously had a warehouse club membership before stepping up my couponing skills, I let it lapse after I realized I was bringing groceries home for lower prices by watching supermarket sales cycles and matching coupons to those sales.

Warehouse clubs offer a lot of interesting items that often are exclusive to the club, and in addition to food and beverage items, you likely also will find deals on everything from clothing to tires to mattresses. Some clubs even have a jewelry store inside or an optical center where guests can get eye exams and discounted glasses or contact lenses. Other warehouse club locations even have a club-only gas station on the premises with discounted fuel. If these items interest you, weigh the costs of joining the club with the frequency you’ll shop there and how long it will take to recoup the money spent on your membership.

My parents have had a warehouse club membership for many years, and earlier this summer, their club sent a bonus, free membership offer to share with a friend or family member. I welcomed the chance to return to warehouse-club shopping and see what deals I could find.

It’s important to remember warehouse clubs sell items in bulk, but buying in bulk doesn’t always translate to financial savings. Always keep the average prices you would pay at the supermarket in mind when you are comparing similar items at the club.

For example, I saw good per-pound prices on meats and deli items at the warehouse club. The vitamin aisle had better prices than the grocery stores or drugstores in my area for private-labeled vitamins and supplements. Large spice and seasoning shakers were well-priced, too.

That said, other items, including crackers, peanut butter and canned soups were not nearly as good at my warehouse club as the prices I can purchase them for when they’re on sale at the supermarket. This is why it’s important to watch per-pound and per-unit pricing, as not everything sold at the club (or, for that matter, at the supermarket) is a good deal.

One of the fun aspects of shopping at the warehouse clubs is the fact clubs often offer exclusive items. Our warehouse club has a selection of flavored, name-brand popcorns. The supermarket carries the same brand, but many of the different popcorn flavors are exclusive to the club. We purchased a brand of Italian ice our family likes. The package at our supermarket comes with lemon and cherry flavors, but the warehouse club’s version included a club-exclusive mango flavor.

I also found good prices on skincare items. I like a specific brand of body lotion, and the warehouse club was selling a two-pack of it for only a few dollars more than a single bottle sells for at the drugstore.

Most warehouse clubs do not accept manufacturer coupons, but you might find during certain promotions, some clubs do offer their own coupons, either electronically or in a printed flyer.

Several well-known warehouse clubs also have excellent satisfaction guarantees, allowing you to return any item you are not fully satisfied with. These guarantees are attractive to many shoppers, allowing them to freely try whatever products they are interested in, knowing that if they don’t like something, there is no financial risk to purchasing it.

If you’re interested in joining a warehouse club, I highly recommend looking for a promotional offer. Shortly after I received my club membership from my parents’ membership, the same club offered a “Join for $45, get a $45 gift card” promotion. This effectively made a year’s membership to the club free.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.