The Best and Worst Deals at Sam’s Club

SUZHOU / CHINA - JANUARY 19, 2014: Newly-opened Link city shopping center / mall features membership discount store 'Sam's Club' - Image.
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Americans have a few top-notch warehouse clubs to choose from including Sam’s Club. Dating back to the early ’80s, this megachain now boasts right around 600 locations in the U.S. Like other warehouse clubs such as Costco and BJ’s, Sam’s Club gives special benefits (largely in the form of lower prices) to those who sign up for a membership. The value depends on how often you shop there and, more specifically, what you buy

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Walking through the aisles or browsing the Sam’s Club site can be overwhelming. There are just so many products and so many hyped-up “deals.” What’s really worth your money and what are you better off purchasing elsewhere? GOBankingRates asked retail experts for their two cents on what to buy and what to skip at Sam’s Club, and also learned about some general savings strategies.  

Make Your Money Work for You

Buy These Items at Sam’s Club 

Here are some items you should always consider getting at Sam’s Club.

Quaker Instant Oatmeal

“Sam’s Club has a box of 52 packets in 3 different flavors for $10.18, which works out to 20 cents per packet,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews.com. “However, if you purchase the same brand of variety pack at big-box stores, you’ll pay around $5 for only 20 packets in the same flavors, which works out to roughly 25 to 26 cents per packet.”

Perrier Mineral Water

“At Sam’s Club, you can get a 24-pack of 16.9 fluid ounce bottles for $17.98, or about 75 cents per bottle,” Ramhold said. “If you shop elsewhere, you’ll pay around $21 for the same package, which is 88 cents per bottle.”

Find Out: 10 Things You Always (and Never) Should Buy at the Dollar Store

Cottonelle Toilet Paper 

“The warehouse club carries a bulk package of 36 ‘mega’ rolls for around $25, which is about 68 cents per roll,” Ramhold said. “If you shop elsewhere, you may have trouble finding a 36-pack, but a 24-pack will go for around $46, which works out to about $1.92 per roll.”

Make Your Money Work for You

Clorox Bleach 

“Sam’s Club has a 3-pack of 121 fluid ounce bottles which is priced at $13.98,” Ramhold said. “That works out to roughly $4.66 per bottle; if you shop at Walmart, you’ll pay around $6 for just one 121 fluid ounce bottle of Clorox bleach.”

International Delight Caramel Macchiato Coffee Creamer Singles 

“At Sam’s Club, a box of 192 will only cost you $9.44 or so, which is about 5 cents per tiny cup,” Ramhold said. “However, shopping elsewhere, you can expect to pay $13.88 to $14.48 for the same size box, or 7 to 8 cents per cup. And if you opt for smaller sized packages, you could end up paying 10 cents or more per cup.”

Tires

“Tires are a decent deal at Sam’s – and they offer roadside tire assistance,” said Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae. “Members can receive free flat tire repairs, even if you didn’t buy the tires there. They also will test your battery for free and install your wiper blades.” 

Travel

“Sam’s Club and other wholesale clubs offer discounted trips, which is a great way to save on travel,” Bodge said. “So, if you’re dying to get out of dodge after almost two years of lockdown, the packaged vacations at Sam’s Club are worth a look.”

Make Your Money Work for You

Avoid: Costly Mistakes People Make While Grocery Shopping

Skip These Items at Sam’s Club

Here’s a closer look at some items you should avoid buying at Sam’s Club.

Salad Mix

“While salad mix is a good deal at Sam’s, those delicate greens need to be eaten within a few days while they are at their best,” Bodge said. “Unless you have a big family full of salad lovers, you’ll be better off buying smaller quantities at the grocery store or farmer’s market.”

Brawny Tear-A-Square Paper Towels  

“This 16-pack at Sam’s Club will cost you nearly $31, or around $1.92 per roll,” Ramhold said. “If you shop at Walmart, though, you can find the exact same item for $29.89. While Sam’s Club isn’t significantly more expensive, once you factor in the cost of a membership, it makes this product price even worse.”

Spices

“Sure, you can’t beat the price of cumin at Sam’s Club, but if you’re cooking for a small family, it could take you years to get through that big [container],” Bodge said. “Spices tend to lose their potency after 6-12 months, so buy them in bulk mindfully.”

Snacks

“While that huge bin of pretzels or cheese balls look tempting, ask yourself, ‘How long will it take me and my family to eat them?'” Bodge said. “If you happen to be planning a gathering, those bulk snacks are a good deal, but if not, they could end up getting stale before you have a chance to reach the bottom. Bulk packages of single-serve snacks in bulk are a better option.”

Ziploc Sandwich Bags

“Sam’s Club has a 580 count package of these bags for just under $13 — they’re about 2 cents each,” Ramhold said. “If you shop at Walmart, you could ostensibly find a 300-pack where you can get them for as little as 1 cent per bag. It’s not a huge difference, but if you’re trying to decide whether or not to get a Sam’s Club membership, this may be one of those things that makes you realize you can find decent deals just by shopping at Walmart and skipping the warehouse club membership.”

General Savings Tips for Sam’s Club Shoppers  

Regardless of what you purchase at Sam’s Club, it’s important to know how to get the biggest bang for your buck. 

“There are multiple ways you can ensure you save more when shopping at Sam’s Club, though a couple of them will cost you more upfront or require you to apply for a credit card,” Ramhold said. “If you opt for a Plus membership, which costs $100 per year compared to $45 per year for the Club membership, you’ll pay more but you’ll also earn 2% back on all your qualifying purchases, up to $500 every year. If you shop at Sam’s frequently, this could make the more expensive membership well worth it.”

If you don’t want the Plus membership, you can always apply for the Sam’s Club Mastercard, as it’s available to all members. 

“Once approved, you can use your card to receive up to 5% cash back on gas anywhere Mastercard is accepted,” Ramhold said. “Plus members will earn 3% back in Sam’s Cash on Sam’s Club purchases while Club members receive 1% cash back. Plus, cardholders will earn 3% back on dining and takeout, and 1% back on everything else. The Mastercard will also double as your membership card, and it should be noted that it’s different from the regular Sam’s Club credit card.”

Sam’s Club offers other ways to save, too.

“Shopping the sales is a must, as you’ll save extra on top of the already low prices whether the sales are online-only or both online and instore,” Ramhold said. “Pay attention to the start and end dates on these so that you don’t miss out; as Sam’s Club is a warehouse club, its events don’t have the same runtime as what you might see at big-box stores. Be sure to also sign up for emails, as they’ll alert you to special deals going on that you’ll want to take advantage of before they sell out. You may find the Shocking Values page of particular interest as it has limited-time deals.” 

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.

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