15 Things You Should Never Buy at Sam’s Club

If you’re very frugal, you probably rely on warehouse clubs such as Sam’s Club, BJ’s, and Costco to help you stick to your budget and save money. When it comes to some household items, Sam’s Club can provide instant savings. However, there are other items that aren’t worth the trip. In some cases, you’re better off shopping at your local drug store or grocery store.
Here are 15 things you should never buy at Sam’s Club.

1. Toilet paper

Closeup photo of woman sitting on toilet and using toilet paper
Smart shopping is better than buying in bulk when it comes to paper products. | Artfoliophoto/iStock/Getty Images

When you think of a warehouse store like Sam’s Club, one of the first things you might think of purchasing is paper towels and toilet paper in bulk. Although it seems like it makes sense to purchase these items here, you can actually get a better deal at the grocery store.
Andrea Woroch, a consumer and money-saving expert, says you can get the best grocery store deals during the first and third weeks of the month, reports Dallas News. This is because these items usually go on sale during this time. In addition, Woroch recommends using manufacturer coupons for a deeper discount.
Next: This product won’t last forever.

2. Detergent

Female Hand Pouring Detergent In The Blue Bottle Cap
If you don’t do big loads of laundry regularly, you don’t need to buy detergent in bulk. | AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

Believe it or not, some cleaning products expire or break down. That’s why buying some household laundry products in bulk can be a bad idea. Good Housekeeping reports liquid and powder detergent stored in a cool, dry place will stay good for roughly six months to one year after the product is opened. Fabric softener (liquid, dryer sheet, or a dryer bar) will stay good for roughly one year.
Next: Knowing when to shop is key to saving the most money.

3. Electronics

If you can wait until Black Friday or the Super Bowl, you’ll get a great deal on a new TV. | Gpetric/iStock/Getty Images

Sam’s Club offers good deals on electronics, but there are other places you can get a better deal if you know when to shop. When it comes to getting a low price, you’ll find the best offers in November on Black Friday. You can also find deals on higher-quality televisions when you shop shortly before the Super Bowl (late January or early February), according to Consumer Reports. You’ll save even more if you wait about a month after the Super Bowl when new models arrive in stores and older models go on sale. In addition, scout for savings on deal sites such as Deal News and Brad’s Deals.
Next: Use caution when shopping for new baby products.

4. Baby wipes

Baby boy lying on the blanket with many toys around
Don’t go overboard buying baby products in bulk. | AGrigorjeva/iStock/Getty Images

Baby wipes are another item that can be troublesome if purchased in bulk. This is because they tend to get dry after a while. It’s difficult to properly clean yourself or your baby with a dry baby wipe. In her column for Credit.com, Consumer expert Trae Bodge also warns against overdoing it when it comes to baby products:

Try to avoid going overboard at the price club. Forty dollars for 180 diapers seems like a great deal until your baby grows out of them halfway through the lot. Wipes will eventually dry out, so you may also want to refrain from buying a box of 1,100 when potty training is right around the corner. With baby formula, remember that your baby will start eating solid foods soon enough, so all that formula could end up expiring before your baby drinks it all.

Next: Your local Walgreen’s or CVS might be the best place to shop for this product.

5. Skincare creams

Beautiful Woman applying facial moisturizing cream
Many skincare products have a short shelf life. | ThomFoto/Getty Images

Skincare creams such as lotions and sunscreen are often less expensive at your local drug store. They also don’t have a very long shelf-life. “Face creams are really at their best when used within a three-to-six-month period, and that’s a lot of cream to slather on in such a short period. For sun products, SPF is most effective if used in a year so,” recommends Bodge in her Credit.com column.
Next: This item is best in smaller quantities.

6. Condiments

jars of mayonnaise
Can you really use all that mayo before it goes bad? | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It’s likely you have condiments that have been hanging around your kitchen for a while. However, you might want to check the expiration dates. Condiments such as ketchup and mustard only stay fresh for about a year. Heading over to Sam’s Club to make a bulk purchase of condiments isn’t a good idea unless you have a large family who tends to heavily use these items.
Next: Grocery stores have better deals on this item. 

7. Name-brand cereal

selection of cereal in store
Cereal rarely goes on sale at the bulk stores. | Karen Bennett/The Cheat Sheet

Although you can find a variety of name-brand cereals at Sam’s Club and other warehouse clubs, it pays to look elsewhere for your breakfast. Warehouse clubs usually don’t put cereal on sale, so the grocery store is your best bet. You can save even more money by using coupons. In addition, cereal has a long shelf-life, so go ahead and stock up on your favorites. Joe Regenstein, a professor of food science at Cornell University told NBC that unopened cereal is good up to one year after the expiration date.
Next: Don’t buy this in bulk.

8. Milk

milk at aldi
It just doesn’t make sense to buy dairy in bulk. | Megan Elliott/The Cheat Sheet

Purchasing dairy products in bulk is a bad idea. This is an item that will go bad quickly unless you have a family who drinks a lot of milk. In addition, Southern Savers found that milk tends to cost less at the grocery store, especially when purchases are combined with a manufacturer’s coupon. They found that milk at Sam’s Clubs runs about $3.19 per gallon, but costs $3.32 per gallon at the grocery store.
Next: Some people would be really upset if they ran out of this item.

 9. Coffee

Man pouring coffee
The only thing worse than running out of coffee is expired coffee. | ktasimarr/iStock/Getty Images

If you’re a coffee lover, you probably have a lot of your favorite coffee beans sitting in your kitchen. It’s likely one of your biggest fears is running out of coffee. However, it’s best not to buy too much at once. What you might not know is that coffee can lose its freshness if you keep it around too long. Jeanette Pavini, a savings expert with Coupons.com, told GoBankingRates that although coffee tends to be cheaper at a warehouse club, it’s going to be tough to use all the coffee within its period of freshness. “While you’ll certainly save buying the 2-pound bag of coffee, it may not be optimum quality by the time you reach the bottom of the bag,” said Pavini.
Next: This item can be found on sale at the dollar store.

10. Party supplies

It may be convenient, but you’ll be spending more buying party supplies in bulk. | iStock

When it comes to buying party supplies and decorations, you can’t beat the dollar store. You can get everything from cups and plates to colorful party favors at a great price. You’ll get better deals here than if you went to Sam’s Club or Costco. Just steer clear of the plastic table covers. Studies have shown that some plastic products found at discount stores may contain carcinogens.
Next: Don’t let a name-brand fool you when it comes to these items. 

11. Shoes and clothing

Sales clothing rack
Even brand name clothes are suspect at warehouse clubs. | wikoski/iStock/Getty Images

Are you looking to buy a new pair of shoes or a new outfit? A warehouse club isn’t the place to get them. Shoes and apparel might be less expensive at one of these stores, but you won’t always get the best value for your money. Shoes and clothing sold at warehouse clubs tend to be low quality.
Jackie Warrick, former chief savings officer and president at CouponCabin.com told the Today Show that even designer shoes and clothing at warehouse clubs isn’t the best. Said Warrick, “If you spot your favorite designer clothing on the racks at a warehouse store, be wary. Most famous designers make less expensive summer lines just for warehouse clubs and outlet stores — and these lines may be lower quality. So. if you want long-lasting, well-made clothing by top designers, shop elsewhere.”
Next: Try before you buy.

12. Mattresses

Would you really want to buy a mattress without testing it? | Getty Images

Mattresses can be expensive, so it’s understandable why you’d want to make this purchase at a warehouse club. Deals at Sam’s Club can be great, but there’s a big problem. You generally can’t try out a mattress at a warehouse club. Mattresses are usually stacked on top of each other, so there’s really no opportunity to try before you buy. Your best bet is to visit a furniture store.
Next: Be careful where you buy this item.

13. Over-the-counter medications

Aspirin bottle with tablets
People don’t realize that over the counter medication can expire. | Source: iStock

If you see a good price on pain relievers or cough syrup, you might be tempted to stock up. The only thing is, you might not be able to use all the medications before they expire. It might make you feel secure to have an extra stash at home, but medications tend to lose potency over time. Although a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration says some drugs have an extended shelf-life, it’s still best to stick to the expiration dates. Drugs.com notes it’s sometimes hard to determine which drugs this extension applies to. In addition, once a drug is repackaged, which sometimes happens at the pharmacy, shelf-life is reduced.
Next: These items have a short shelf-life. 

14. Rice, spices, and olive oil

Bowl of steamed rice.
Rice has a shelf life of about six months. | vlad_karavaev/iStock/Getty Images

If you love rice, you probably think it makes sense to head on over to Sam’s Club or Costco so you can load up on your favorite rice. Rice is great to have around, but too much can become a problem. Brown rice, for example, doesn’t last very long. It only has a shelf life of roughly six months. Spices last anywhere from six to 12 months. Olive oil also lasts just six months.
Next: Consider your health and your wallet.

15. Snacks

The more snacks you buy, the more likely you are to binge on them. | eskaylim/iStock/Getty Images

Unless you’re having a big party, stay away from the bulk snack purchase. Will you really be able to restrain yourself from eating a jumbo-size box of cookies or huge bags of potato chips? If you make this a habit, illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity could not only ravage your health but also your wallet. The medical costs for those who are obese, for example, are $1,429 higher than those who are a normal weight, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
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