7 Questions to Ask When Shopping at Warehouse Stores

Warehouse stores

Big warehouse stores offer bargains galore, but you’ve got to keep the reins on yourself or you’ll spend more than you intended and waste more than you could imagine! Sometimes the best buys are not at the big box stores. And you might actually find that some buys could be better elsewhere. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you put an item in that monster cart.

Is the Food Going to Spoil Before Your Family Can Finish It?


Those beautifully displayed boxes of perfectly ripe produce are tempting, but just how many peaches can you eat in three days? If you plan to share them with a neighbor, freeze, or preserve some of them, go ahead!

Otherwise, you’ll do better to buy those peaches at the grocery store, where you can pick a few that are ripe and a few that will be ready to be eaten within a couple of days.

Is It a Product You’ve Never Tried Before?


It’s good to be adventuresome, and you never know if you’ll like something before you try it, but what are you going to do with a case of pickled guava if the family turns up its collective nose at the first spoonful? We’ve had this happen before in the past, so think twice before committing to eating a 10 gallon drum of some random food item.

Do You Have Room to Store It?


Buying 3-4 gallons of milk might help you save a few dollars, but can your refrigerator accommodate them without displacing everything else you’ve got in there? The same goes for your freezer. Think hard before buying 30 pounds of hamburger meat unless you’re having a barbecue that very weekend. Warehouse stores offer some good deals, of course, but there are other ways to save on your food budget.

Are You Buying It Because You Just Ate a Free Sample?


That’s called an impulse buy, and it’s what the big box stores count on. The nice lady with the hairnet gave you an extra cracker with seafood spread on it. The least you can do is put a three-pound tub of the stuff into your cart. Really? Did you like it that much or are you just being polite?

Is It More Than You Can Use in 6 Months?


If you have to lift a carton with a crane, that’s a pretty good sign you’re buying more than you need. 😉 Even packaged food has expiration dates. Buying in bulk can be a good way to save money, but only if you buy what you can actually use.

There’s also something called the cost of inventory. If you spend $150 buying enough canned corn and stewed tomatoes to last until 2019, you don’t have that money to spend on things you need in the near term, and you also have to allocate space to keep it all that might otherwise be convenient for things you use every day.

If half your garage is given over to canned goods that will hold you ‘til the apocalypse, then the family’s bicycles are going to sit rusting in the backyard. Everything has a price — and saving money sometimes turns out to be expensive.

Can You Get It Home by Yourself?


If your purchase requires texting your spouse to rent a U-Haul and meet you at the store, you might do better off buying it in a smaller quality elsewhere.

Is It the Awesome Display or Do You Really Need It?


Ah, there’s that annoying battle again between want and need. Does anyone really need a 14-piece set of redwood furniture for the backyard? Or a massage chair that doesn’t match anything you own and won’t fit anywhere anyway? You went to the store to buy paper towels, batteries, and a chicken pot pie. Keep your eye on your shopping list and don’t be distracted by shiny things.

Also, no matter how cute that dress looks, remember that big box stores don’t have dressing rooms. That being said, stores like Costco do have a pretty generous return policy so you can return it if the item does not fit.

The big box stores are where you really have to have your antennae up. HUGE holiday decorations, HUGE boxes of ribbons, HUGE bags of candy, HUGE everything you can imagine. Because there’s so much of everything, you want even more of it.

When it comes to shopping at a warehouse store, don’t get sucked in by the mass amounts of stuff. You don’t want it so desperately because there’s not enough to go around and you don’t want to miss out. You want it because there’s enough for everyone in the world and then some. Big box store shopping carts are enormous because they want you to feel as if you’re not making the most of your trip unless you fill them. Beat them at their game by simply filling it with things you intended as opposed to filling it just to fill it.



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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more. If you're wanting to learn how to monetize your blog, check out my blog coaching services to see how I can help you take your site to the next level.

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