Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Grocery Game and Warehouse Clubs: A Frugal Debate

I used to subscribe to The Grocery Game, and while I loved the ease of the click-to-add shopping list, nearly every time I went to the store to purchase my goods, they were completely blown off the store shelves. I would be left to hang on to the coupons, finding similar deals on my own later. Eventually, I cancelled my subscription.

Now that we live in a slightly more rural area, I've thought about joining again, but I'm not sure if I want the nearly $200/year investment (6 local stores, including CVS and Walgreens). I don't know that being in a rural area makes that big of a difference, but I've been able to find abundant Grocery Game-type deals on my own in my local stores, and that makes me wonder what more I would have access to if I subscribed again. I'm just concerned to shell out the dough to subscribe again and end up in fierce competition, ultimately doing without the good deals.

I guess I'll never know for sure without just trying again, but I'm wondering if I can get the same kind of benefit just from taking advantage of the free message boards at The Grocery Game website, from a similar (but free) click-to-add shopping list from Coupon Mom, and from deals mentioned by all the generous bloggers at Frugal Hacks.

Thoughts? What have your experiences been with this stuff?

On another note, I've been giving some thought to Discount Clubs, like Sam's or Costco. Years back when James and I were self-employed, we became Sam's Club members and found many of our office and shipping supplies at a discount rate. Two years ago, our Sam's Club membership gave us access to an extraordinary travel discount to Disney World in Orlando. Since then, we primarily use our membership for photo developing and the occasional pantry stock-up, and we use our Sam's Club membership more than our membership to Costco.

As we approach renewal time, I've been wondering if maintaining a membership at these clubs was truly worthwhile. I think sticking with Costco probably is not, because though I prefer the photo printing there, every other bulk thing I prefer is found at a better price at Sam's Club. I do like some of the occasional specialty options at Costco, but I think I could find similar products at BulkHome, a bulk shopping website. I think that rules out Costco for 2008. As for my Sam's Club membership, it has proven to be valuable time and again. I mentioned previously that we booked a trip to Disney World in 2006, and as a result, we saved an amazing amount of money, even when compared to travel deals we could find online.

In addition to the savings I acquire on those day-to-day pantry items all year long, along with the occasional travel deals, a few days back I saved money on tires for my car. I had to replace three tires at once, and went to Discount Tire where the fourth one had been replaced about five months back. Since my tire replacement, the price of the tire I needed went up nearly $20 each, so a $60 increase in total based on my current need. When I called James, he suggested trying Sam's Club or Costco, and though I know both places sell tires, I never before considered them to be an option for me.

I came home and visited the tire section of each store's website. Costco only offered one style of tire in the size I needed, and it cost $18 more than the tire option at Discount Tire. The Sam's Club website, however, offered many options in my required tire size, so I picked the price range I wanted to remain in and dropped by the store to talk to the clerk. The tire I wanted cost $24 less than the tire at Discount Tire (so $4 less than the Discount Tire price I paid five months ago.) The clerk assured me that the tire was very good, and as a well-known name brand tire, I'm sure he wasn't pulling my chain.

I had to special order the tires online, but the site was easy to navigate and payment wasn't required until the installation was complete. Additionally, I was told there could be a 3-5 day wait, the three tires were in the store about 48 hours later. I went in for installation at lunchtime on a weekend day and the three tires were all installed in under a half-hour. (At Discount Tire during off-peak hours in the middle of a workday I was quoted an hour or more wait.) Bub and I barely had time to finish our $2.48 pizza and drink combos before it was time to go. I saved $72 on tires and had the fastest service I've ever experienced, and that in addition to any day-to-day savings makes me feel it's worthwhile to maintain a membership for a long time to come.

9 comments:

  • Kim

    I do think you'd be able to do great deals on your own. There seems to be so many forums out there whose goal is to buy 100 things for $7 :)

    I get my CVS info from the DISboards, the Disney Budget board. Seems like an odd place to get info, but we talk about the ads a couple of weeks in advance and that helps a lot with planning :)

  • Someone Being Me

    I'm not familiar with the grocery game but I am pretty happy with my Sam's membership. I use them for gas, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, formula, etc. Pretty much everything but perishables. I think it is worth the $50.00 a year membership.

  • taralynn819

    It's funny, I just commented elsewhere about Costco (BJ's for us), and I had said we recently reevaluated whether it was worth it to continue our membership. After calculating everything, it turns out the membership is worth the BJ's gas prices alone (and only a few cents less than the second lowest). We always look at unit price and buy elsewhere like Walmart or Target or Shoppers, that is key. Also, milk is the cheapest around at BJ's, and bagged, frozen chicken breast. We also get, among other things, soup, juice, paper products (like tp and paper towls), and sometimes shampoo, vitamins, and body wash. However, I am about to jump on the CVS bandwagon. I purchased a newspaper yesterday and gleefully clipped coupons all afternoon. I am a total newbie, but I'm going to give it a whirl. But when it's all said and done, we plan on keeping our BJ's membership. And it's just myself and Jeromy! Of course, Costco/Sams may work a little differently in some ways. Anyway... :)

    Oh, did you snag some pudding snacks to get some Peter Pan coupons?? I thought of your post a while back...although I'm sure, as a much more seasoned frugal shopper than I you were already "in the know".

  • Playful Professional

    I get the CVS deals off the Money Making Mom blog. As for the warehouse stuff... what about if you split a membership with someone? I definitely think it's worth it, but I guess it really depends on what you buy there. We only buy about 10 things there, but those 10 things save us our annual membership easy.

  • Emily (Laundry and Lullabies)

    I love Sam's Club - we pay for our membership just in the savings on the milk we buy!

    The grocery game is more helpful, I think, when you only use one or two stores. It is cheaper and less overwhelming.

  • Babsi

    Hi! A couple of things... I did a local kind of Grocery Game for Western Michigan. There were a few deals I missed when I looked at the fliers Sunday night but I didn't think that constituted the $20/month I would need to pay. They also have a free discussion board anyone can read. The online blogs on saving money, especially Money Saving Mom, alerts me to any deals I haven't noticed on my own. So, no, I'd say keep your $200 and keep reading those online blogs!
    We have a membership at Sam's we've never really used to it's fullest potential. You discussion on vacations and tires, I wouldn't even have considered! Kudos to you! If you decide to renew... stock up on your pantry items and let the membership slide as long as you can, then renew. Perhaps that added time will stretch your annual membership.
    Thanks for the great write up!
    Babsi

  • MGD Cyndi

    Hi All:

    Saw this post and wanted to make sure you all knew about our site MyGroceryDeals.com which is FREE!
    We cover all chains including CVS and Walgreens and are localized to every ZIP Code in the U.S. We allow you to compare deals to find the best ones, make a list and then shop at your local stores.

    Yes, I work for MyGroceryDeals, however, I am also a bargain shopper myself. I have learned my lesson about Costco, just watch the unit price! Many things at Costco are NOT bargains, but some still are. It's that unit price that is the key. If you don't generally keep track of unit prices, you may want to keep a price book for a couple of months to collect that kind of information. If you don't have a price book or don't know what it is, feel free to email me at ckennedy@mygrocerydeals.com and I'll be happy to send you ours and/or an explanation!

    Happy deal hunting and don't forget to visit us soon!

  • jduckbaker

    I'm late in the game of commenting. Got to your blog through your comment on my blog. Thanks for the heads up on Coupon Mom!
    At this point with 2 kids under 3, and just learning the process of couponing and deals, I am sticking with The Grocery Game, until I can find some time to check out all the other good links you have here.
    I am a big fan of the Grocery Game Message boards, especially around Christmas time! There were some great deals people pointed out!

    I'm glad to read your blog.

  • David Worley

    Hi! I'm the guy that built www.BulkHome.com

    Needless to say, I think using my site is a GREAT idea.

    Thanks for linking to my site. We're trying very hard to listen to our users and make something that's really useful and time and money saving.

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