A recent post in Quest for Four Pillars discussed the bulk-buying experience, if it's economically sound, and the ins-and-outs of storing large amounts of consumables. This got me thinking about our Sam's Club membership and if it's really worth the money we pay for it every month.
As a small business, last year our Sam's Club membership cost us $35, probably the same it costs anyone else - the big perk with a small business membership is extended hours. And from a business perspective, we probably recoup about half of that amount just in buying thermal credit card paper there (it's ridiculously expensive at Staples!). But other than the tiny paper rolls, there's no business-related purchases made. I guess we just get the benefit of having the business absorb our membership fees.
If you've spent any time on this blog, you know I love to be frugal. It's a necessity for us, as we're not in the financial position to be otherwise. And it's also become a hobby, hopefully one that will last throughout our lives and be passed on to our son. So Sam's can be a little tricky for us, since we thrift shop for clothes, have no need/extra cash for new electronics/jewelry/furniture/etc, and we don't gernerally buy name brand consumables.
So what I try to concentrate on when we do make our bi-annual restocking trip to Sam's is staples. A 25 lb. sack of flour, a 12 lb. sack of rice, frozen fish fillets, giant rolls of plastic wrap, and the like. We also gravitate towards the clearance rack in the back of the store, sometimes they have great deals there - but these will mostly be used for gifting. I love to look through the book section, if only to jot down ideas of books to reserve at the library. And usually we allow for an impulse buy in the produce section, this seems to keep Andrew behaviorally on-track and doesn't leave him reeling from sugar shock on the 12-mile ride home.
And, on that train of thought, I'd like to stop and backtrack a moment. Just down the street from Sam's is our family's favorite restaurant, the Golden Corral. One thing I absolutely refuse to do is to walk in to Sam's Club hungry (unless it's Sample Saturday, when we encourage growly tummies - can you say "free lunch"?). So, if Yasar's along for the ride, we're stopping to eat first. I'm convinced the $25 we'll spend at a restaurant will be money saved on impulse shopping later.
In the past we've purchased electronics at Sam's, two different printer/scanner/fax's and a few paper shredders come to mind. I'm not impressed with their electronics. You're basically forced to buy one of two or three models, and you're probably not versed on the pros & cons of those models. Out of those four purchases listed above, only one worked as expected. We've learned an expensive lesson, and generally purchase off the internet now. We may not save money, but at least we get to look at others' reviews of the products before we hand over our hard-earned cash.
And that's my last point about Sam's. We bring cash. Period. Sam's can be a money-sucking void if you go in there without parameters. One of ours is that we have a limited amount to spend. And Sam's helps this effort, in a way, since they only take Mastercard and Discover, and debit cards. Since we only carry Visa, and our check card isn't worth the plastic it's made of, we don't really run into too many unplanned purchases.
So is Sam's worth it? In our family, definitely. When you weigh it out, it's one place where Yasar doesn't mind shopping, there's usually lots to look at, the food quality is great, and savings can be generous with a little forethought. I wish we had a Costco to compare it to, but they haven't reached our area yet. It's okay, the moral of this story is sometimes less options are better.
Unless you're talking electronics.