The Champagne Life on a DIY Budget Since 2007

Money Monday: Buying in Bulk

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Whenever I talk to my dad about budgeting, he always brings up the warehouse clubs…groan. Don’t get me wrong, I think warehouse clubs are a great idea in theory, but the reality is that the quality of the products you find there in bulk are sub-par to those you’d buy individually, with rare exception. Every time Dad brings it up, it’s like, I know he’s trying to help, but there’s just nothing we buy there! Just last Friday, we had the debate again and I explained how I’d happily revisit membership again when they start selling non-GMO, organic produce and grass-fed beef, for instance…

We’ve had both Costco and BJ’s family memberships in the past, and I can’t think of any occasion where I found those organic, environmentally sound, Made in USA products there at all, or even products that were close enough to justify the membership fee. Plus, when we lived in Boston, the closest warehouse club was about 30+ minutes away in traffic, and the only thing I ever ended up buying there were condiments for parties and bulk bags of Bully Sticks for the dog.

So when the AOL DailyFinance Savings Experiment posted this video about buying in bulk today, breaking down exactly howย Amazon Subscribe & Save program works, I was intrigued.

When we lived in the North End (Boston’s Little Italy) without a car (and in 485 square feet), we loved using Amazon Prime to order bulk & heavy items like all-natural laundry detergent and dog food, trading the 1 to 3 day wait for the free shipping (especially since the alternative was trekking 5 stops by subway to the closest grocery store or paying a delivery fee to Whole Foods). It wasn’t always cheaper than the local brick & mortar option, but we justified paying a few bucks more for the convenience โ€” and the ability to avoid the “Oh shit! Out of dog food/toilet paper again!” moment, which is no fun for anyone โ€” without having to give up precious cabinet/closet space for bulk items.

But, now that we live in Austin and have a car, and Texas living means we pretty much have to drive everywhere anyway, is it really a better deal? And how much does using a subscription/delivery/bulk service take away from the local economy and the independently owned stores we love to support?

I wish I had the answers but I don’t, so I’m opening it up to the floor for discussion on this first-in-a-long-time Money Monday: What you think of using warehouse clubs and subscription services to save on your monthly budget, in bulk or just to restock? Love to hear from you!

  • I just found your blog and was reading some posts. I know this is a really old post, so you might already know this but Costco sells LOTS of organic and non gmo products. I buy all kinds of stuff there from organic chicken and organic, grass fed beef to organic free range eggs, organic milk and organic produce. I recently bought local raw honey, organic rice, organic sugar and organic quinoa. I also bought organic extra virgin olive oil (good quality!) and organic coconut oil. They have environmentally friendly household cleaners like Ecover and Ecos. Oh, and I got organic canned stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce in BPA free cans, organic salsa and organic corn chips along with an Oregon favorite, Dave’s Killer Bread (organic bread made in Oregon). Costco rocks! Their prices are amazing and the quality is AWESOME, not subpar. They’re even the nation’s largest retailer of organic goods.

    • shoestringmag

      Thanks, Brandi. Do you work for Costco? Just asking for transparency’s sake (the level of detail in this comment seems a little spammy…maybe that’s just me?) You’re right, Costco does now have some decent organic offerings, though when this story was written a year and a half ago that wasn’t necessarily the case. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for stopping by! ~Melissa

      • No, lol. I’m a 911 dispatcher. But I do a lot of grocery shopping there and love them ๐Ÿ™‚

        I knew this was an older post and they’ve definitely expanded their selection a lot since then.

        • shoestringmag

          Haha, I had to ask, we get a lot of spam! Thanks for all you do – and especially for sharing your hard-won veteran advice. We just renewed our Costco membership for the first time in years, can’t wait to see how things have changed! Have a great weekend. ๐Ÿ™‚ ~Melissa