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Is a Sam's Club Membership Worth It?

Sam's Club is such a cool place. My family loves going there. We go with a list in hand and try not to stray from that list. We also try to go ahead and eat a meal there, too, because there is no place cheaper to eat at than Sam's Club. Where else can you feed a family of three for under $10? The downside is that sometimes the closest Sam's Club is an hour away.

There are certain items that are just cheaper at Sam's. For my family, those are garbage bags, dishwasher tabs, paper towels, dog treats, and so many more things. These are all items I need to buy regularly so buying them in bulk for a cheaper price makes sense for my family. Let's take garbage bags, for example. To buy the Force Flex bags (made by Glad) at Walmart will cost you $20.98 for 120 bags, which is around 18 cents per bag. That same item at Sam's Club is also $20.98 but you get 150 bags, making them 14 cents per bag. It doesn't sound like much but little savings like this add up fast. Now let's try dishwasher tabs. I use the Cascade ones. At Walmart you can pick up a pack of 21 of these for $7.94, making them 38 cents each. At Sam's Club, you can get a container of 81 for $22.98, making them 28 cents each. That's 26% cheaper! Now let's move on to paper towels. I buy the 12 pack Great Value Ultra Strong ones with the split sheets at Walmart for $17.72, or around $1.48 per roll. Sam's Club calls their brand Member's Mark and you get 15 rolls for $19.98, which comes to $1.33 per roll. Not only is that a lot cheaper but the rolls at Sam's Club have 150 sheets per roll and the Walmart ones only have 110 sheets per roll - and they're the exact same quality of paper towel! Last, let's look at dog treats for those of us with dogs we love to spoil. We buy the big box of crunchy, bone-shaped treats made by Milk-Bone. At Walmart, you can get a 7 lb. box for $14.98. At Sam's, it's an 8 lb. box for $13.78. You get an extra pound of dog treats and save $1.20 by buying these at Sam's Club.

The other items I found significant savings at Sam's Club were over-the-counter allergy medication, bars of soap, dental floss, AA and AAA batteries, and most grocery items and produce. It can be quite telling (and entertaining) to have a seat at the Cafe in the front of Sam's Club and just watch people checking out to see what they buy. I already did this so you don't have to, and I can tell you that most people buy toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, bottled water, and soda.

To determine if a Sam's Club membership is worth it or not, you have to ask yourself a few questions:

Do you go to a city with a Sam's Club at least once a month? Driving 30 or 45 minutes each way just doesn't make sense if all you're doing is going to Sam's, especially with the price of gas right now. Shop at Sam’s when you’re already going to be near one instead of making a special trip.

Do you have room in your budget to buy in bulk? You will definitely be spending more money overall at Sam's Club because of the quantity of items you're buying. Most of the time my family spends around $300 with each trip to Sam's Club. Some families just can't afford that much on groceries and household supplies all at once, even if it means saving money.

Do you have good impulse control when shopping? It can be so tempting to put items in your cart at Sam's that aren't on your list. Who can resist Cheetos when they're so cheap? Stick to what your family needs and do a little “cart check” right before checking out to remove any items you realize were just impulse buys.

You also need to calculate the yearly cost of being a member at Sam's. Currently, it's $50 per year which includes a membership card for you and a card for a family member at no additional cost. You could potentially split the membership with a family member to reduce it to $25 per year. I was lucky enough to sign up when Groupon was running a special through their app and got a $20 Sam's gift card to help offset the cost.

This past year we had to replace our only TV. Not only was it a lot cheaper at Sam's Club, but Sam's also extended the manufacturer's warranty an additional year at no cost. Since every family buys different things, you can do some price comparisons by downloading the Walmart and Sam's Club apps. Both apps also allow you to do a pick-up order so you can just pull into a parking spot and have the items put right into your car. Pick-up orders are great for sticking to your budget since you know the total ahead of time and can adjust what you’re buying.

All in all, Sam's Club will save you enough money over the course of a year to pay for itself as long as you're not making special trips just to shop there and you are disciplined enough not to overspend on unnecessary items.


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