KSL INVESTIGATES

KSL Investigates: Is your warehouse membership worth the cost to shop?

Feb 28, 2018, 1:50 PM | Updated: 9:59 pm
...

SALT LAKE CITY — If you have a family, you know grocery shopping can eat up a big chunk of your monthly budget.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a family of four that’s counting its pennies can wind up spending more than $600 a month. A family that’s not as thrifty can wind up spending as much as $1,300 a month.

With that in mind, the KSL Investigators wanted to know if purchasing a warehouse membership would shave a significant amount of money off a family’s grocery budget.

The cost to shop at a warehouse club depends on the type of membership a customer purchases. The basic annual membership for Costco is $60, and at Sam’s, it’s $45. An enhanced yearly membership costs more — $120 and $100 respectively — but earns cash back with purchases.

With a list of 58 items — from eggs, to milk, diapers, batteries, snacks, poultry and a whole lot more — the KSL Investigators hit aisles at Winco, Smith’s, and Walmart. They also researched the cost of similar items at online retail giant Amazon.

They wanted to know how prices at Costco and Sam’s Club stacked up.

To keep their survey as fair as possible, the team compared regular, not sale prices; and did not use any coupon discounts for the test. They also stuck with name-brand items instead of the traditionally less-expensive store or generic brand.

After hours of pushing carts around while jotting down prices and quantities, they grabbed calculators and started tallying price per ounce, price per item, price per pound.

And with the results, the team was sold: If a family wants to cut its grocery budget, a warehouse membership is worth the cost to shop.

Teresa Hunsaker, a consumer science educator at Utah State University, agrees.

“It’ll pay for itself,” she said.

Sam’s Club offered the best deal for 34 items, or more than half of the items on the team’s shopping list. For example, milk was $3.21 a gallon cheaper than ordering it from Amazon. The team saved $1.60 on 10 yogurts compared to Smith’s. Sam’s beat Costco’s price on lunchmeat by $2.50 per pound.

Overall, Costco’s prices came in second and Winco was a close third. Amazon and Walmart finished behind Smith’s in our survey.

Bottom line: regular trips to the grocery aisles at the warehouse club can recoup the annual fee and, in the long run, save money on groceries. But there’s a caveat.

“It’s probably worth it if I have done my homework on prices, if I have taken a look at what we actually need, in the quantities that we will actually use them,” Hunsaker said.

Warehouse club memberships can cost from $60 to $120 a year.

Warehouse stores sell items in bulk and, in some cases, even a family of four might not eat through a gallon of ranch salad dressing before it spoils or a six-pound bag of pretzels before it goes stale. And figuring out where to store 45 rolls of toilet paper can be … well, challenging.

In fact, a recent study by Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business said warehouse shopping can make you spend 5 percent more because you can overspend. Again, buying in bulk can mean you’ll end up feeding your garbage disposal with a lot of food that’s gone bad before it’s eaten.

Plus, consider all those impulse buys that can happen inside a warehouse store packed with everything from kid’s clothes to office chairs. So, maybe it’s not always about price per ounce.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

FILE...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt: How cybercriminals use social engineering to get us to hand over our sensitive info

You can have the strongest, most secure password in the history of cybersecurity, but the bad guys know there is one weakness they can use to hack into your system - you!
4 days ago
Delric Ellington and Kael Ellington talk about a stray bullet that entered their Salt Lake City hom...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

Amid increase in youth shooting deaths, Utah pediatricians push for tougher gun laws

The number of Utah children and teens killed by gunfire reached a record high in 2020, in part because of a spike in homicides. Two Utah pediatricians are calling on the state to pass what they see as solutions to the troubling trend.
7 days ago
Albee Bostrom and Sissy McDade turned their love of thrift store shopping into a business: Thrift H...
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Second-hand shopping, selling surge as Utahns try to beat rising prices

Data shared with the KSL investigators shows Utahns are trying to bring in more money and reduce spending as they try to bust inflation.
7 days ago
Bry Hansen visits his son's grave in South Jordan. (Tanner Siegworth/KSL TV)...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

The number of Utah kids and teens dying by gunfire hit a record high in 2020

The state hit a devastating milestone in 2020, recording the highest-ever number of shooting deaths among Utahns 18 and younger.
7 days ago
...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt: What can you do if you pay someone to do work but they disappear with your money?

Imagine paying a deposit only to have them take your money and ghost you.
9 days ago
Photo illustration (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)...
Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: Your credit card can up your interest rate without telling you

If your credit card company raises your interest rate even just a little bit, it could have a significant impact on how long it takes you to get out of debt. A relatively new law means your credit card company can do just that and they do not even have to give you the heads up.
10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
KSL Investigates: Is your warehouse membership worth the cost to shop?