January 4, 2011

Tip of the day—Bring a calculator or price sheet with you when you shop at Sam’s

Yesterday I tagged along with a friend who has a membership to Sam’s Club.  As you all know, we don’t have one for our family because we only make one or two trips there each year.  She let me shop with her so that I could comparison shop there for some staple items.  Below are a few tips that I find helpful when shopping at Sam’s and other warehouse stores:

  • If shopping with a friend, bring cash.  I had cash on hand so that I could easily have a separate transaction. 
  • Bring a calculator or your price sheet with you. A price sheet is a tool that some couponers use to familiarize themselves with the high and low costs of foods they usually buy.  The price sheet might have a list of foods and out to the side might be notes of where you found it the cheapest and when.  “Tuna fish—Walgreens 49 cts, Kroger 39-50cts/can; Black olives 99cts at Walgreens for 15 oz, $1 at Kroger.” I don’t keep a written price sheet, but I do have one in my head.  I know what items usually cost and what I can get them for after a sale and coupon.  The tricky part at Sam’s is that most of the products are super-sized.  It is easy enough to know that it is cheaper for me to buy tuna at Walgreens or Kroger with a coupon and sale because they are sold in packs of 12—all I have to do is divide the price at Sam’s by 12.  With a gallon sized jug of Worcestershire sauce, though, it is a little more difficult.  Pull out your calculator and see what the cost per unit is.  You might be pleasantly surprised or you might find that it is better to wait for a sale and to use a coupon.
  • Stick with your list and have a little wiggle room in your budget for really good buys.  I remember that when we had a Sam’s membership it was very easy to walk in the store and spend hundreds of dollars only to return home and find that we didn’t have the makings for supper.  It is great to buy a year’s supply of toilet paper, but if it zaps your monthly grocery budget, what are you going to feed your family?  Yesterday, I had a list of the items that we needed (dog food and Clorox wipes—the later of which being my guilty, non-green buy).  Then I had a list of things that I wanted to price, knowing what coupons were available, how much more I had at home of the given item, and what the cost would be at the grocery store.  Those items were extra virgin olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce, all of which I ended up buying because the prices were right.  The Worcestershire sauce I probably could have gotten free with the next triple coupon day at Ingles, but the price was good enough for me to go on and buy it.  I went off list when I found that the whole wheat bread and CFL bulbs were much cheaper than I would have found elsewhere.  Because I allowed myself an extra $20 for my trip and the bulbs and bread together were right at that amount, I didn’t bust the monthly grocery budget.
  • Having a few large reusable shopping bags makes it easier to bring the stuff to your car and in your house.  Most Sam’s shoppers find the extra boxes they have at the stores or just pack the products loose in their cars.  When it is cold outside, I don’t want to make a million trips to and from the car.  Using the shopping bags solves that problem.

What about you?  What do you like about shopping at warehouse stores?  What do you find are the best deals at stores like Sam’s?


  1. Gabe, I am kind of obsessed with the CompareMe iPhone app. It figures out what size of an item is the better price, and compares all units, metric and non. It cost me $2 but has paid for itself many times over! Would come in handy along with your price book whsn shopping at Sams!

  2. What a great tip! I'm so not in the know on all of the apps, and it sounds like a great one to have!!!