(Continued from blog post Coupons, Clubs, & Clearance: The Birth of Excess – Part 1)
Now that we’ve extensively covered how to save money while NOT adding clutter to your home, let’s discuss wholesale clubs such as Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club. Now I know what you’re thinking: “But Jen – how can you be organized AND buy things in bulk? That seems paradoxical.” I implore you: keep an open mind and read to the end.
My husband and I have been BJ’s Wholesale Club members on and off since circa 2010. Our family has endured many changes over the years, and because of this, our needs have changed as well. We went from renting an apartment, to owning a home, to having a baby, and then having a second child… all in 7 years. But through the changes, we always figured that having a wholesale club membership would be beneficial to our needs and budget.
And we were partially correct: there were a number of instances where having a membership was advantageous, but others where being part of the club did more harm than good.
Part 2: Buying In Bulk
I had no experience with shopping in wholesale clubs before I married my husband. I had heard plenty about them, but had no direct knowledge of the benefit or value of being a member. However, my husband once worked at a Costco and was familiar with the set-up and perks of being in the “club”. Some of the benefits as discussed in this Money Crashers article included paying rock-bottom prices, having access to services and high-quality store-brand merchandise, and good return policies.
When we first joined it was just the two of us. It seemed like a no-brainer at the time, as there were plenty of non-perishable items that we could invest in to save money down the road.
This was our first mistake.
Is your living arrangement a good fit for a wholesale club membership?
At the time, we lived in an apartment that could not have been larger than 700 square feet. Financially it made sense, but our living arrangement really wasn’t conducive to stock-piling goods. The more things you have to find storage for, the harder it is to stay organized: you end up losing storage spaces such as pantries and closets and thus, things that were once hidden away are now evicted into visible areas.
Our home now (at just under 2,200 square feet) has plenty of space for everything. If you own a larger home with more storage options, then go ahead and buy a wholesale club membership. But don’t let owning a larger home be your excuse to fill every nook and cranny with excess – shop smart, and you’ll keep the clutter to a minimum.
Along these lines…
Is your family a good fit for a wholesale club membership?
We first bought into BJ’s figuring we’d save money on non-perishables such as toilet paper, cleaning / laundry supplies, and health and beauty items. But when it was just my husband and I, we didn’t go through these things as quickly as we do now. It might not be worth the annual membership fee if you aren’t buying items often enough. How often does your family buy non-perishables like those I listed above? If the answer is not very often, then the $50 or so it costs to be a member of the club might negate your savings. So, if you have to buy a ton of stuff (that won’t be used anytime soon and unnecessarily clutter your home) to justify the annual fee, a wholesale club membership is not for you.
Now as a family of four, it makes much more sense to have a membership: our larger family consumes the items we purchase much faster. Not only do we save money when buying frequently needed things, but the items we stock-up on don’t linger for long in our home.
UTTERLY IMPORTANT NOTE: Being organized does not mean you need to live a minimalist lifestyle. If that were the case, no one with kids would be able to say they are “organized”. One of the keys to maintaining an organized home is to designate a space for every item your family needs. If your family goes through TP faster than you can buy it, then designate a larger storage space for this item. If your family only uses a small amount of shampoo, designate a smaller storage space for this item. You are allowed to store things in your home: just be mindful of the quantity of what you’re buying so that you can remain in control.
That being said, there’s one last thing to consider…
Does it make sense financially for you to be a wholesale club member?
When you shop, are you coupon savvy? Do you wait for things to go on sale? Do you buy name-brand or store-brand? It takes some investigating to truly discover if your family will benefit financially from being a wholesale club member.
One thing you can do is compare unit prices of things you buy often to make smart and informed purchases. When we had our first son, my husband went down to the local BJ’s and grocery store (which, thankfully, were right next to each other) to research prices of all the things we purchased regularly. He made a spreadsheet comparing the unit prices of each item so we could see if it we’d be saving enough to justify paying the annual fee. It ended up working in our favor for now, but this might not be the case in another year or so.
ANOTHER PRETTY IMPORTANT NOTE: It’s important to remember that nothing in life remains constant. Not even your organization method is immune to change: if life is constantly changing, then your home and everything in it constantly changes as well. It’s important to reassess and re-inventory your home and life from time to time to ensure you’re getting the most out of it.
Stay tuned! I’ll wrap up this topic in my next blog post, Coupons, Clubs, & Clearance: The Birth of Excess – Part 3.