Big box stores like Walmart and warehouse shopping like Costco have many things in common. They both want to save you money and they do in their own ways. Both have advantages and disadvantages for the working family. The truth is, they are really not made for the same demographic. Just the fact that there is a Sam’s Club as well as a Walmart tells us that.
That said, how do you know which store fits you? It actually is not as hard as it might seem. You really only need to look at the pluses and minuses for each.
Find the coupon matchups for Target and Walmart on the Sale Shopping page!
Big Box Stores
If you are a loyal Target or Walmart shopper like most people, it is easy to know the pros and cons. They are pretty similar at most big box retailers.
Big box means bigger crowds because it is open to everyone. They also have slightly higher prices than warehouse clubs, though that is argued quite often. It certainly is not a clear, across the board difference on every item. Some things that are bought at Walmart or Target are cheaper than Costco.
The advantages are just as obvious:
- Big box gives you tons of choices and easy access.
- They are free to shop at and they accept coupons and price match items.
- There are many more locations to choose from so you generally won’t have to travel to shop.
Just being able to use coupons means a big advantage for big box stores in my opinion. Target has come out with Carthwheel coupons which are even more attractive to the digital savvy couponer (I personally love it!).
Warehouse shopping at places like Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's to name a few, has several great advantages. Before I get started, I have a confession that many people who attend our coupon classes already know.
We have a Sam's Club AND a Costco membership. I joined Sam's Club when we lived with my best friend as we were building our home. We were technically under the same roof and Sam's Club allowed it. I'm told that isn't their policy so not sure why they allowed us to share a membership. I then joined Costco a few years ago because I understood they had a better selection of organic products and since our family purchases some organic items, it was worth it.
In general, warehouse clubs make the most sense for shoppers that have freezers, large families and plenty of storage for bulk purchases. You do get a cheaper price in some cases, and will save money on things like gasoline in some areas.
When it comes to cons, it is a pretty long list.
- You cannot use manufacturer coupons at most of them. Sam's Club and Costco have store coupons valid for a month-long period and can offer great buys. However, the purchases are in bulk so you may not need the quantity required to get the discount.
- Several locations require a membership fee to shop in-store. This is the biggest drawback since the savings may not always be worth it.
- Many people rarely has pantry space for normal groceries, much less four thousand pounds of peanut butter bought in bulk.
- There are much fewer locations to shop at as well. I like the convenience of having a big box at every corner without making a special trip.
I can see how warehouse clubs offer value for larger families, or families that will use up the bulk quantities before they expire. If you have the storage and the need for large amounts of food and supplies, then the warehouse might be for you. Otherwise, you will likely save even more by shopping at the big box stores, along with grocery stores and drugstores which all take coupons.
Tell me, do you have a warehouse club membership?
What do you view as the benefits?