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Lives of Doctor Wives: Making the Most of your Sam's or Costco Membership

Friday, March 15, 2013

Making the Most of your Sam's or Costco Membership

- By Julie Newman

One of the leading topics on the LDW Facebook page is frequently how to survive on limited salaries during and just after the training years.  Those of us “on the other side” may appear to have forgotten those lean times, but believe me, they really do shape how we spend our money in the future.  For the first 2 years of residency, I had a much better paying job than my husband; unfortunately I lost that job during the recession of the early 1990’s, just as Princess Sunshine came into the picture.  Suddenly we were faced with a dramatically smaller budget and another mouth to feed as well as the other obligations we had made during the more robust economic times.  Fortunately my husband’s residency and fellowship programs allowed him to moonlight but the tradeoff was less time at home.  We made it work but it instilled in us a sense of frugality that we generally still follow. 

In order to pay for some of the things that we value (nice vacations, artwork, a nice house, education for the kids) we found ways to save on the day-to-day expenses.  One method is a membership at the local bulk warehouse store. We have been members of Bj’s Wholesale Club since 1990 when we knew we needed to start stockpiling diapers.  We have remained members of these kinds of clubs ever since.  I admit, sometimes I walk in just to purchase one or two items and walk out with a full cart, but it’s always things we need.  Overall I do feel like we have used our membership to its fullest.  A few examples (some of these may not apply given how far you may live from the store):
·       Gas for members is generally about 8 cents per gallon cheaper than other places.  Usually but not always.  That’s when the Gas Buddy app comes in handy.
·       Milk at my local groceries is averaging $3.79/gallon for 1%.  It was right around $3 at Bj’s.  Plus I get my son’s Lactaid for less.
·       I grew up in the DC area so to me, the best chicken has always been Perdue.  Bj’s sells containers of 6 individually wrapped packets (2 sizeable boneless, skinless breasts) for around $2.99/lb.  I’ll usually get 2 at a time and put them in my big old freezer in the garage.  Saves having to dash to the grocery and pay at least twice as much when I need to plan dinner.
·       We’re not big red meat eaters but I have purchased my tenderloin for the holidays there.
·       In general, if you’re OK with frozen seafood, you can get a 2 lb bag of shrimp for the same price as 1lb at the grocery.
·       I get my 2.5 lb bag of Starbucks French Roast beans (and usually wait for the coupon), which I can either grind there or at home.  I indulge in a Venti Latte about once a week.
·       I do buy some of my fresh produce there – 3 lbs bananas for $1.49; those mini carrots (treat for the dog, mostly); lettuce; berries; apples. Over the years I’ve noticed they’ve moved into stocking organic things as well.  The key is to buy the produce items you know your family consumes pretty regularly so there’s no waste.
·       Since DrH believes that no household should EVER be without toilet paper, we only buy it there.
·       In fact, we buy most of our household staples at Bj’s, including soap, ibuprofen, and my Tom’s of Maine toothpaste!

A couple of other tips:  Make sure you have enough room for storage because you’re usually going to get a large quantity.  For items like cereal, invest in the Rubbermaid storage containers (which you can pick up there!) so you don’t have those big boxes hanging around.  Once or twice a month they send out a coupon book and we tend to plan our purchases around those additional savings.  So even if I’m not completely out of Tide detergent, I’ll pick up another box with the coupon.  I don’t clip regular coupons but I understand they also accept the manufacturer ones on top of the club ones.  Try not to be tempted by the things you just don’t need or don’t use – I have gotten into that trap on occasion and ended up throwing those things out.

Although we really do maximize our $35/year membership fee (probably just on gas for our cars), I still have to go to the local grocery store once a week, but that bill tends to hover around $100 for a family of +/-4 (if you count the four legged kids).  The club membership is a great tool to have to help you cut your overall grocery bill but you have to use it wisely.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Saturne said...

The problem with club stores is that while they're USUALLY the best deal, not always. I've found it's helped me to make a list if everything I buy, even semi-often, printed it out, and went to both Sam's and Wal-Mart, wrote down the proce and size at both places, then made a spreadsheet of the items, price, and per ounce/pound/item price. This gelps a ton, because I know what's a deal there, and what's just bulk.

March 16, 2013 at 4:55 PM  

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