Join the club

Another major savings for us was joining Wholesale Clubs. You know the ones: Sam’s, Costco, BJ’s—those honkin’ big, ugly buildings, with their cinderblock exteriors, where you’ve seen hordes of people streaming in and out every weekend. There’s a reason so many people are there; big savings, as long as you can buy in bulk.

My mom had been after me to join Sam’s Club for years, but I never saw the value—until I had kids. Now, I only wish we’d joined sooner, when our girls were still in diapers, cause we would’ve saved a boatload of cash. As it is, the older the kids get, the more they eat, the more their friends eat when they’re over for a playdate, and the more hot dogs we inexplicably go through (despite my wife’s concerns about how unhealthy they are). We just had a campout for our daughter Lily’s YMCA Princesses tribe a couple of weeks ago, and I was on the hook to bring the hot dogs. Getting enough for her whole group would’ve cost about $20 at our local grocery store; it cost about $8 for the exact same items at Costco. I find that, if I can buy it in bulk at Costco, I’m generally getting twice as much for the same price as somewhere else (resulting in things costing half as much at Costco).

Huge savings also come from Costco’s gasoline. Even though it’s dropped from $4 a gallon back down to $2, Costco’s gas in our area still averages about 20 cents less per gallon than the cheapest I can find anywhere else. So I’m saving about $4 a week on fill-ups (or more, depending on our driving habits), which equals over $200 a year. How many TwoMorrows books could you buy with that $200 next year?

I prefer Costco, although we’re also members of Sam’s, because it’s closer to our home. Generally the two carry the same basic stuff. I still use our grocery store for items we don’t need in mass quantities, like fruit and milk (which’ll go bad before we consume a ton of it). But on things like laundry soap, ziploc bags, trash bags, toilet paper, tissues, tea bags, potato chips, car tires, vitamins, pharmaceuticals, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream, kids’ snacks, bottled water, and meat (which you can freeze), buying in bulk saves a LOT in a year. I’m looking at close to $2000 a year in savings on this stuff based on my estimates, and that’s bound to climb as our kids get older. So it’s like I’m giving myself a $2000 per year raise right there.

Another nice perk: Costco offers a great American Express card, which doubles as your Costco membership card. We now use it for just about everything we charge (and, of course, pay it off in full each month, so we’re not accruing finance charges). Whenever you use it, you not only get discounts on any purchases made at their partner companies (Federal Express is one, which saves us on shipping), but at the end of the year, Costco sends you a rebate check based on what you purchased at Costco the past year. That check has to be spent at Costco, but hey, we’re on track to get close to another $1000 this year in rebates, which I can use to buy more hot dogs for my kids to eat, or new car tires, or even a flat screen TV, or iPod, or lots and lots more toilet paper. (If, like me, you’ve got a house full of women, you know this is a major issue.)

Costco also has a great website where we can buy stuff they don’t have in our local store, including discounted theme park tickets (for our annual Anaheim, California trip after Comicon International), cheaper car insurance, car loans, even a car-buying service that’ll save you thousands if you’re buying a new car (it worked for us on our recent carpooling vehicle).

These clubs cost around $50 a year to join (we splurged for the more expensive business membership, which saves us even more each year). If there’s a club near you, don’t waste another day spending too much at other stores on the everyday, unglamorous, disposable stuff that you have to use everyday. Just be careful to only buy things you really need, and that you can use a LOT of fairly quickly. It’ll pay off big within a few months.