By Andrea Woroch, Consumer Shopping Expert
Warehouse stores can be rewarding and extremely overwhelming – often at the same time! With an assemblage of bulk goods at seemingly unbeatable bargains, it’s difficult to decipher the real deals from the duds. Plenty of shoppers admit to overspending – by the hundreds of dollars – at these stores and find themselves with cartloads of impulse purchases. Though there are tons of great values to be had at warehouse stores, not everything is cheaper when bought en masse. To avoid being buried by bulk, shop smart with these simple do’s and don’ts.
Do Shop With a List
Scholars at Indiana University suggest making a shopping list to combat “shopaholism,” a compulsive shopping or spending addiction. Countless other studies show that consumers who shop without a list are more likely to buy on impulse. Avoid unnecessary purchases by sticking to your list. Smartphone users can find shopping list apps to use for quick reference on their mobile devices.
Don’t Stock Up on Perishable Items
No matter how great the deal, buying perishable food and over-the-counter medication in bulk inevitably leads to spoiled food and ineffective medicine. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American family tosses 880 pounds of food a year. Not only is that a waste of resources, it’s a waste of money! For perishable items, buy smaller portions from a local pharmacy or supermarket as needed.
Do Resist Impulse Buys
Just like traditional stores and supermarkets, warehouses create displays designed to entice you into making impulse purchases. Refer to your shopping list when the urge to buy something you don’t need takes over. Walk away from the item for at least 10 minutes to let the desire pass. If something appears to be a truly remarkable value, consider eliminating something from your cart or adjusting next month’s budget accordingly.
Don’t Ignore Online Shopping
When consumers think online shopping, they likely think about great deals on clothes, shoes, electronics and other non-edible items. However, e-retailers can be a great resource for food, medication and a score of other necessities. Before you assume that warehouse stores are the best place to stock up, compare prices and find online coupons for Overstock.com and other stores to see if you can land a better deal by staying at home.
Do Take Advantage of Final Markdowns
Most warehouses feature a final-markdown section containing items at clearance prices. These goods are usually shoved into a single shelving unit or placed in a specific area of the store. Before you start shopping, scope out any exceptional deals. And take advantage of recently reduced prices on meat, poultry and fish that are close to expiration as these items can be frozen for consumption at a later date.
Don’t Forget Your Coupons
Many warehouse clubs like BJs and Costco distribute storewide coupons vial mail to their members. Before your next shopping trip, select coupons for items you typically buy and place them in your purse or wallet so they’re with you at checkout. What’s more, BJ’s specifically accepts manufacturer’s coupons along with store-issued vouchers, which can be stacked for double discounts. Check coupon policies online before heading to the store, and use your smartphone to find coupons instantly with a coupon mobile app.
Do Weigh Bagged Produce
Federal law requires each bag of fruit or vegetables contain at least the advertised weight. What most shoppers don’t realize is that grocers sometimes toss in extra food to avoid underweight errors, making such bulk purchases an even better deal. Weigh the bags and pick the heaviest, keeping in mind your family’s capacity to consume the extra produce. Buy only that which you plan to eat and consider referencing online recipes to incorporate leftover fruits and veggies before they go bad.
Don’t Assume Best Value
We make the assumption that diapers and other paper products are cheaper at warehouse stores. However, you can actually find better prices at the local supermarket by using coupons and shopping on certain days. For example, grocery stores are known to mark down paper towels and toilet paper during the first week of each month. It helps to keep a notebook detailing prices on the major products you usually buy, and comparing them in-store.