Family, Kids & Relationships

19 ways to save your family money at a warehouse store — even if you can’t afford a membership right now

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Loyal customers will tell you that there’s nothing you can’t find at Costco, BJ’s Wholesale Club, or Sam’s Club. From pretzels to diapers to winter boots, these super warehouse stores have just about everything your family could need — and in large quantities. If you time your visit right, you can even handle snack time on the go with all those free samples! 

But are you interested in taking advantage of more than just stocking up on essentials? Or, are you wondering how you can see what all the fuss is about without having to pay that annual membership fee?  

Money is tight for many families these days, so here are some amazing hacks to getting the most for your money out of whichever warehouse membership club is near you — even if you don’t have an actual membership.

Can’t afford a membership? 

Before we get to the rest of the hacks, if you don’t want to shell out the yearly $50 or more for a membership,  know that there are some ways around it.

You can shop at Costco or Sam’s Club using a gift card if you don’t have a membership. All you have to do is ask a friend with a membership to get you a gift card online or next time they go.

Non-members can order online at Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s on their retail websites or via Instacart, for a small fee (that won’t be as large as the fees you’d incur as a non-member in the store). Note that this strategy is only cost-effective if you’re planning to just buy a few things — if you keep shopping, the fees will add up.

If you are considering a membership, many bargain bloggers suggest splitting the cost of a membership with another family. Warehouse memberships typically come with two cards, and may allow you to get additional cards for a small fee — so team up with people you trust as you see fit.

Also stay on the lookout for new customer promotions such as free trials and discounted membership deals. For example, Sam’s Club currently offers a 90-day free trial, and Groupon regularly offers deals on all of the major warehouse club memberships.

Health first

Federal law mandates that you can use the pharmacy without a membership, and prices for prescription drugs and toiletries are likely to be much lower at a warehouse store. Eye and ear exams are also available without a membership, as are other health services such as flu shots and diabetes screenings. Just know that to take advantage of discounted eye and ear products such as eyeglasses and hearing devices, you’ll need a membership.

Tickets, tickets, tickets

Did you know you could buy your movie tickets, theme park tickets, and even plane tickets and hotel stays through these warehouse membership stores? So next time you’re planning a family day out, or a longer trip, look first to see what membership perks or bulk deals these stores can offer. 

Gift card central

You can save on gift cards for teachers and family members, or even for yourself, by buying them through a warehouse club. While a typical store would charge you $50 for a $50 gift card to another dining, shopping, or entertainment establishment, these warehouse chains such as Costco and BJ’s can often get you gift cards for significantly less than face value — especially if you buy them in packs of two, three, or more.

Crowd control

Have you ever driven by a warehouse store only to be completely overwhelmed by the full parking lot? Experts say the best time to go is early in the day on weekdays and the worst time to go is pretty much any hour of the day on weekends!

Scope out sales

Costco will honor any price changes or coupons for items you bought up to 30 days after your purchase, no receipt needed. Sam’s Club will also make price adjustments on items bought online (not in stores) up to 8 days later. So even after you shop, watch their sale announcements and coupon catalogs to make sure you got the absolute best deal. 

Take care of your car

Beyond the home and grocery items you can find at a typical big box store, warehouse stores also boast low prices on gas, tires, and batteries for your vehicles. Car tires and car batteries tend to come with solid warranties, too, that could save you money down the line. Plus, did you know that these warehouse companies even have auto buying programs to help you negotiate pricing for a used car? 

Check your tags

Almost every loyal shopper has an item (or ten) that is their favorite. Know how your store’s price tags operate to make sure you can get it again and again. Items with an asterisk at the end at Costco will not be restocked, whereas items with a “C,” “O,” or “S” at the end of the code at Sam’s Club are soon not going to be available. If it’s a family favorite, you can grab extras before you miss your chance.

Get to know your sales

Become more familiar with the inner workings of your preferred warehouse store to catch wind of extra savings. 

For example, anything marked with $.97 at the end at Costco — or that ends in a penny at Sam’s Club, like $.41 or $.91 — is on sale, so you can be sure you’re getting a great deal if you’re one of those “I’ll only buy it if it’s on sale” shoppers. 

Meanwhile, BJ’s offers “flash deals” on Thursdays, where shoppers can take advantage of special sale prices on those days only. BJ’s is also the only warehouse club that allows you to stack coupons, so you can use manufacturer’s coupons on top of the store’s own coupons for extra discounts.

Tech support please

Warehouse stores are also known for great deals on computers, phones, TVs, and more. And if you’ve bought any type of technology from Costco, they offer free tech support on their products. Next time your wifi is acting up or your computer screen has a glitch, the store’s tech support can save you a fortune.

Boot buys

You know those trendy Hunter boots? Many warehouse stores stock them seasonally. If you’re willing to drive for a deal, checking the locations within driving distance can save you about $50 a pair.

The same is true for other types of clothing and outerwear, which can be surprisingly fashionable at warehouse stores, and includes good deals on kids’ school clothes.

Unreal return policy

Costco has one of the most generous return policies out there. You can return pretty much anything except electronics without a receipt and often for months or even years after your purchase. You can even return your membership! Sam’s Club and BJ’s also have pretty solid return policies that are less restrictive than most other stores. So if you later realize that an item wasn’t worth the money, you have options. 

Printing perks

If you have printing needs for work, family photos, or your kids’ school projects, the Costco and Sam’s Club printing and photo departments can save you a lot of money — and time, too, if you plan ahead.

Jessica Watson is a freelance writer, author and the blogger behind Four Plus an Angel. Mom to five kids, four in her arms and one in her heart, she tries hard to enjoy them every moment but sometimes dreams of a week alone with a pile of her favorite books. "Four Plus an Angel" -