Mar 302013

Do many of you belong to the warehouse clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club? Do you find it worth the annual membership fee? At this point in our lives, I’m not too sure.

We’ve belonged to Sam’s club for several years, and when we were holding rallies it was a good place to purchase bulk items like paper cups and napkins and coffee. But that bulk buying really doesn’t work for most RVers. I mean, what fulltimer needs a case of chicken noodle soup or fifty pounds of flour?

Last year we joined Costco, another membership warehouse club. The membership just came up for renewal, so yesterday we stopped at the Costco in Mesa to pay our renewal fee. While you may be able to save on some items, just a quick walk through a corner of the store convinced me that you have to be very careful and know what you’re shopping for.

They had TurboTax business tax software for $79.95, but I saw it the day before at Staples for $75. And the Winegard Rayzar flat plane digital TV antenna we bought for $42.99 at Camping Connection in Kissimmee, Florida was $49.95 at Costco. That’s a heck of a deal, paying over $60 a year for a business membership so I can by stuff for more than I can at other places that don’t require a membership! So where are the savings?

Thursday Terry made a delicious roasted chicken dinner, and yesterday her sister Lisa and her husband Jim came over for dinner and Terry used the rest of the chicken to make her wonderful chicken noodle soup. Terry makes her own noodles, which are thick and more like German spaetzel. Yummy!

I had to tease Jim, because while we were here last year we went shopping with them to pick out their first computer. Jim had absolutely no interest in a computer but Lisa wanted one, so being the good husband he is, he said okay. Well, it was probably more like “Yes, dear.” Now Lisa says Jim uses it more than her! I do believe he’s even peeked at the blog a time or two!

We always like spending time with Jim and Lisa, and I think if we lived in this area we’d hang out together a lot. In fact, we’re having a family dinner at their house this afternoon, which will include Terry’s parents and her other sister, Dani. And guess what we’re having? Fried chicken! So if you hear me clucking, now you’ll understand why.

After reading yesterday’s blog about politically correct terms, reader Marie Thomas sent me today’s thought for the day, which definitely applies in my case.

Thought For The Day – I’m not insane, I’m just mentally hilarious.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  22 Responses to “Where Are The Savings?”

  1. NIck we’ve found the same concerning Costco and Sam’s Club. We have both memberships coming out of a S&B house, but now as fulltimers, at least one of them will not be renewed. You are right about the prices. You have to be very price conscious because MANY times prices in those warehouse stores are not as good as somewhere else.

  2. We have the executive membership at Costco and I think it is worth it. We live in a small condo and do not have the room to store large quantities. So how can it be worth it? We buy our gas there which is usually 4 to 8 cents or more per gallon less than other stations, I buy our pork loins there and cut them into pork chops and then we get our prescriptions there. I recently had kidney surgery and was given a prescription for an antibiotic. We had to pass a Walgreens on the way home and we stopped there to get it filled and the thieves charged us $84 for 7 pills. I almost fainted. Well when I was in Costco a couple of weeks later I asked them what it would have cost me at Costco. The girl checked and she said that would be $12.43 cents. I thought she had made a mistake. So the next trip to Costco I took the bottle with me and a different girl checked and came up with the same answer. Kathy just recently started taking blood pressure medicine and a 30 day supply is $5.00. We recently received our rewards notice and we received $82 back. Is Costco THE store of all times ? NO, but they are good.
    Be careful on the road.

  3. Costco may not always come out ahead on all their “deals” but from what I have read, they pay their employees fairly, they provide health insurance and a decent work place environment. These are other factors that influence my choices beyond just “saving” a buck on everything.

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more regarding Sams anyway. I have found many times prices there to be more than at WalMart. When I ask them about this their response is will give it to you for that same price. How does that save me money when i’m trying to at least recoup the cost of my membership. They just don’t seem to get it do they. Then again they do have my money, so I guess they do get it.

  5. Finally someone coming out and saying what I’ve proven to myself before. If you have a big family, or do lots of volunteer work for your church or some such thing, then the bargain bulk buying might pay. For a a downsized family, or a couple of Senior RV’ers it just doesn’t pay.

    Keep tellin’ the truth as you see it. 🙂

    A retired photographer looks at life
    Life Unscripted on WordPress

  6. We recently started shopping at a Winco that opened near us and find the prices very good compared to Costco or Sam;s Club with no membership required. They only have groceries but they have many things in larger quantities and do have lots of items in bulk.
    Also, under Federal Law, you do not have to be a member of Costco or Sam’s Club to use their pharmacy.

  7. We’ve been Costco Executive members for decades now. Long before we went fulltime in ’08. As Executive members we get 2% back, which most years handily offsets our membership fees.

    That said, the main draw for us is the quality of their products. We love the cheese & other deli selections. Sure we have limited space but Costco sure works for us.

  8. Nick, your comments are interesting regarding the savings at Sam’s Club or Costco, and I think it’d be interesting to hear which memberships RVers have: Sam’s Club or Costco. Prior to our becoming fulltimers, we had both memberships, but lost Costco when we hit the road. There are certain items that Costco has that Sam’s doesn’t and we miss those items. But we felt that Sam’s was a better deal due to the possibility of dry camping in the parking lot, we already had the Sam’s Club discover card, there are more locations available, and there are certain items that Costco doesn’t carry as well. Looking forward to other comments.

  9. We used to belong to both companies, it was great when the kids were still at home and we had a freezer,once they left home and before we went full time we still used them occasionally, but since we only have a very limited amount of storage, we dropped both. Friends of our took us to Costco a few months back and we were amazed at some of the prices being so much higher than we pay on the outside. On this matter you must be very aware of prices.

  10. I agree Nick … my “business” membership, which I paid more for, used to get me in earlier to beat the crowds and allowed one additional employee (secretary) to use it for free. When my secretary was told her membership was cancelled, I called to ask why since I had received no notice. Seems now the “business” membership is the same as a personal one and my secretary (since she doesn’t live in my house) will now be $50 more AND everyone is allowed in early. With the increase in their prices, there are not enough savings to warrant the cost of the card. No more Costco for me!!

  11. We feel we get our money back from both memberships, especially Costco since we have rebates from both American Express and our Executive membership that more than pay for the card. Costco and Sam’s do carry items that no one else has that we buy. Costco toilet paper is RV friendly and we have room for the 30-roll supply since it comes as 5 6-packs, a 5 to 6 month supply for us. Sam’s has some great sausage deals, like variants of Italian sausage, and some have refrigerated gyoza (pot stickers) we like. Both have excellent meats. The extra warranty and coverage for electronic goods at Costco is definitely worth something to us. I do wonder why we have a Sam’s membership and then we end up somewhere without Costco.
    I have seen RVs overnighting at Costco, I think they allow it if the city does.
    I also agree on Winco, it can be a cost savings if you are near one. But Winco’s are only in the west. Note that Winco only accepts cash, debit and checks. Their meat can also be lousy, but that is also true of Wal-Mart.
    NIck: There is a new Winco in Mesa at Power Road and Southern and it has Umpqua ice cream, which you need to try. Umpqua’s Blackberry ice cream can be addictive.

  12. Love your blog Nick. We will probably never be fulltimers but would love to travel about 6 months a year after the kids are out of school and gone. On the Costco membership, we had one for our insurance office for years and dropped it after realizing that the “savings” were not savings after all. A few examples – toner for our laser printer is always $5 – $11 cheaper at Staples or Office Depot. A computer mouse I just bought for $39.95 at Staples was $10 more at Costco. A case of copy paper is sometimes a few cents cheaper, even as much as a dollar, but sometimes cost more. QuickBooks for small business was $9 cheaper at Office Depot. Overall, it was wasted time and money fighting the crowds to pay more for most items on top of the membership fee. We have found that the best deal overall id our Amazon Prime membership. We can order anything we want and have it in 2 days for less than any local big box store. Well worth the $80 a year membership. I just saved over $125 on a computer over local prices on Amazon Prime.

  13. If you ever need hearing aids or eyeglasses, at COSTCO they are pretty much 1/2 the price as other places. And their cooked chickens at $4.99- wow. Oh, BTW one does not need to be a member to go to their pharmacy which are probably the best prices anywhere.

  14. We find that cheese and prescriptions are cheaper at Costco or Sam’s but on hard goods (TVs, computers, housewares, etc) it’s cheaper at a lot of other places. But wife likes to go and look anyway so we have the membership.

  15. I love going to Sam’s on sample day! I can eat lunch for free. But never saved a dime there on merchandise.

  16. I agree on Winco. Recently discovered them and love shopping there. Good prices and good selection. We had both Costco & Sams before becoming fulltimers but dropped Costco because overall prices were no better than Sams and they are not all over the country like Sams is.

  17. I have never understood the concept of paying for a membership so I can save money. Mother-in-law is addicted to Costco and would live there if they had rooms available. She is dazzled by the huge selection. But just to prove a point, when I took her shopping a couple of weeks ago I kept the receipt and went to a super Walmart and a Frys here in Phoenix. Her total bill was $372.19 at Costco. The same items at Walmart were $351.82 and at Frys were $364.26. And no membership to pay! Now she’s mad at me!

  18. We had Costco & Sam’s Club but dropped them because no room to store big bulk stuff in the RV

  19. Have Sam’s as we have one close to our winter home base. We have saved money on 6 gallons of 15-W-40 (coach oil change), large TV for house, good quality meat (cheaper than other places and still butchered there), large cans of nuts, supplies for rallies I run, supplies for my local charity, etc. Not all items are cheaper so I only buy those I know are a good buy there. Also can overnight there while traveling in RV. Like any membership, it’s only good if you use it and we use it enough for it to be economical for us.

  20. Amazon Prime doesn’t save any money, it just gets you faster shipping than the “Free Super Saver Shipping” we use. Being RVers the streaming video is useless since we don’t have the bandwidth. Maybe we might use the Kindle Select Lending, but probably not. I buy lots of stuff on Amazon and do not have Prime, we just wait a bit longer for the items to arrive. Amazon is mostly cheaper, but not always, so it still helps to check prices. My wife just bought sale items at JoAnn Fabrics at a much better price than Amazon.

  21. We dropped our Sam’s when we found we weren’t near them often in our travels when we started fulltiming 12.5 years ago, and Costco had not reached east at that time. But locations of both have multiplied and with careful shopping we often find things at a good price or things we can’t get elsewhere. We took out a Costco American Express card when DH needed new hearing aids…they were about 1/2 the price of elsewhere and the AMX card gave us an extra year of warranty…and Costco pays the yearly AMX fee. Since then we have gotten new computers, cell phones, and televisions – all with the extra year of warranty, great tech support, and a decent price. We enjoy shopping there, but don’t make it our major supplier.

  22. The main reason we still are Costco members after many years is because of the tires. Hubby feels they are the best for the price, for our 2000 Intrepid. They do rotations for you, for free, for the life of the tires. And their work has always been satisfactory. We also have gotten large item things as well as food. Some of their food items we like are the rotisserie chicken, nuts, granola bars and such, and some prepared foods, like their roast beef. But not a lot of other items as with just us 2 now, it is just too large of a quantity. However it was a great place and helped us feed teenagers when we were in that time of life. It depends on what you are looking for. If we ever full-time RV, then it might not be worth it to belong, being they are not located all that much yet, across the country…guess we will see. We are not ready quite yet to hit the road.

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