I’ve belonged to a wholesale warehouse club store for nearly 20 years. Over that time, I’ve saved a lot of money, so I really can’t complain about much.

With that said, I have to own up to having an epiphany that’s been long coming; you don’t always save money at these stores. Not only that, but sometimes you’re going to spend more in these stores than you will at traditional stores. You also might have other issues to deal with that you hadn’t considered. Let’s take a look at some of these things.

1. You don’t always save money on paper products.

Years ago, the biggest benefit in going to warehouse stores was when it came to things like paper towel and toilet paper. I remember when you could get 36 rolls of toilet paper for under $10, whereas a 4-pack at the grocery store was $2.50. You also used to get 16 rolls of paper towel for under $10 when in the store it was $1.25 for an individual roll. That margin has lowered drastically, and some days you’ll even lose money buying at a warehouse store.

Let’s look at only toilet paper for a minute. Last week I priced toilet paper at the warehouse store; it came in at $29.95 for 36 rolls. At the grocery store, the price was $15.99 for 18 rolls, which comes to $31.98 for 18. Seeing how the grocery store is less than a minute away and the warehouse store is 10 minutes away. The price of gas right now is $2.65 a gallon and my car gets 21 miles to the gallon, I end up losing 63 cents if I buy from the warehouse store.

Now let’s look at paper towels. I priced paper towel at the warehouse store, and it was $25.99 for 12 rolls. I priced it at the grocery store and was $6.49 for 4 rolls. That comes to $19.47 for 12 rolls as opposed to $25.99; do you see something wrong there? The caveat was the rolls from the warehouse store were a little larger than those at the grocery store but not large enough to alter the price all that much.

There is one thing to consider; whether you buy brand named or store named items. I don’t play with toilet paper or paper towels; I want what I want. With things such as paper plates, it’s a much different game. At the warehouse store I can get 150 paper plates for the same price they cost me at the grocery store; that’s a no-brainer.

2. Storage can be a major issue.

Part of the idea of buying stock items at a warehouse store is that the savings come because you’re buying in bulk. That sounds well and good unless you don’t have the space to put all of that stuff.

I’m lucky to have a relatively spacious ranch house with a spacious pantry, but I don’t know a lot of people who could store 2 1-gallon jugs of distilled white vinegar, 2 13 1/2 pound bags of baking soda, 3 pairs of 1 lb 12 oz boxes of cereal and still have a lot of space left for much else to go on the lazy susan. The price by volume might seem good at first, but if you’re going to run out of space it might not be worth the savings.

3. How much can you really eat of one thing?

In general, most of the time you’re not going to save any money when it comes to produce, aka meats and vegetables. The only way you’re going to save money is by buying in bulk… and I mean enormous amounts of bulk.

Some years ago I wanted to make a large meatloaf, larger than I normally make. For some reason I bought 13 pounds of hamburger… you read that right! lol I ended up making a 6 pound meatloaf and had 7 pounds of it left over.

That 6 pounds of meatloaf ended up making 25 servings in its own right… without the extras like mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. We took 4 pounds of what was left and separated it into 12 oz packages we could use at a later time for things like spaghetti sauce, and made 6 oz hamburger patties out of what was left.

As you can imagine, that was a bit too much hamburger, even with the reality that hamburger is one of my favorite foods of all time. It was a major mess trying to fit all of that stuff into the freezer, considering we already had a lot of things in there. Luckily we have a second refrigerator in the garage, but we still couldn’t fit everything in the freezer.

In the long run, half of those meatloaf meals got thrown away and it took a long time to whittle through everything else we had. Because of the hamburger, we had to delay buying a lot of other items because we didn’t have anywhere to put them. This was a case where the savings wasn’t worth it.

4. Weekly savings at a grocery or other stores will alter any general savings at a warehouse store.

This one should be easy, yet I know a lot of people who still go to a warehouse store first when they’re ready to buy almost anything. I know this because I was one of those people.

Days ago I needed to buy a 128GB Micro SD card for my smartphone. I bought one off eBay that turned out to be a scam, but at least I got my money back. Next it was time to get out of the house and price these things on my own. I learned that they’re pretty expensive, something I should have figured out way before now; it happens.

I went to a technology store (I’m not mentioning names) and it turned out for that week I could get a high quality 128GB card for $80 that normally went for $225; wow! That same card at the warehouse store was $189. At any other time it’s possible that it would have cost me less at the warehouse store but in this case the savings were astronomical.

These days I find myself comparing prices of different types of items online for warehouse stores as opposed to the local grocery store. Depending on the week and the coupons of each, sometimes you’ll get a much lower price at a grocery store, whereas other times you’ll get a very nice deal at the warehouse store.

The only difference is that the prices online for the warehouse store will differ slightly from the price in the actual store; no idea why that happens but it’s true. At least they’re usually pretty close unless there’s a special online price for a few days; that’s when you’ll really get a great deal on a product.

None of this is meant to hate on warehouse stores by any means. There are still a lot of great daily deals you can get at one of these places than you can at a local grocery store. The idea is to encourage you to do a bit of research before you automatically assume you’re always going to get the best deal at a warehouse store. Nothing’s absolute; be a better shopper to save yourself time and money.

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