Shopping at Sam's Club? Avoid These Pricey Mistakes at All Costs

Sam's Club

Sam's Club by Ambrosia LaFluer (CC BY)

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Sam's Club
Sam's Club by Ambrosia LaFluer (CC BY)

Avoid at All Costs

There's an art to shopping at Sam's Club, and if you know the ins and outs, you'll be able to save even more money than you already are on bulk prices. While other shoppers make the same expensive mistakes over and over, you can save time and sanity by bypassing those long checkout lines, paying next-to-nothing for your membership, and ensuring you get the best deal on your groceries as possible. Here are the biggest mistakes people make while shopping at Sam's Club, and how you can avoid them in order to stretch your dollar.

Living Social Sam's Club Membership
Living Social

Paying Full Price for Membership

There are almost always deals on Sam's Club memberships that mean you won't have to pay the full $50 membership cost. Check sites like Groupon and Living Social if you're thinking of joining. Usually, you can score a membership for around $30 out of pocket, plus they might throw in some free groceries, like rotisserie chickens, cheesecakes, baguettes, pizza, and more on to your membership card. Depending on the deal available, you may even come out with a free membership in the end. 

Scan & Go Sam's Club

Not Using Scan and Go Checkout

The greatest thing about Sam's Club is that you can skip the long checkout lines completely. All you have to do is download the Sam's Club app and enable Scan & Go. As you put an item in your cart (or when you're ready to leave), you scan the product's barcode in the app, and it keeps a running tally. Enter your credit card information and pay right there on your phone anywhere in the store. It'll send your receipt to your email, and show you a QR code to show the receipt checker as head to the parking lot. It's ridiculous how exciting it is to walk right past all the lines of people waiting to check out and head to the exit.

Shopper leaving Sam's Club
Kat Wade / Getty

Going on the Weekends

While the Scan & Go feature goes a LONG way towards making weekend shopping less hectic, it's still a pain to deal with crowds. There's always that one family that blocks the entire aisle with their sideways cart and gaggle of kids, and the people who stalk the free sample carts like vultures. Just shop during less busy times if you can.

Sam's Club Chip Aisle
Lacey Muszynski / Cheapism

Assuming the Prices are the Best

Warehouse clubs usually have great deals on groceries, cleaning supplies, and other household items. But that's not always the case, so you should never go into Sam's Club assuming that it will always have the lowest price you can get. You should still compare prices (by can, or ounce, or bottle, etc.) to your grocery store sale prices, and certainly shop around on big ticket items like furniture or appliances, as well. Luckily, the Sam's Club website and app are great resources and tell you exactly what the price is in club to make planning and comparison shopping easier.

Related: The Most Expensive Items at Sam's Club

Sam's Club

Skipping the Clearance Section

There's usually a secret clearance section in every Sam's Club, but you just have to find it. Check back corners of the store, especially near where the employees bring merchandise out from the back storage area. You'll find a lot of one-offs there, including things with damaged packaging, some returns, and floor models. We've seen everything from toys to mattresses, and prices are cheap.

Related: How to Shop at Sam's Club If You're Not a Member

paying for gas

Going with a Full Gas Tank

Only members can pump gas at a Sam's Club station, and it's usually one of the cheapest prices around. Plan ahead a bit and make sure you're ready to fill up when it's time for your shopping trip.

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sams club cookies
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

Buying Things You Won't Get Through in Bulk

It can be really easy to load up a cart (or flatbed!) with all kinds of groceries, especially if you're shopping with your kids. But just because it's available doesn't mean you should buy it. Are you really going to go through gallons of ketchup and cooking oil, dozens of eggs or cookies, or a giant bag of almonds before they expire or start tasting weird? Definitely ask yourself that question before checking out.

Sam's Club cafe berry sundae

Eating Lunch First

Between the free samples and the food court, there's no need to heed the "don't shop hungry" mantra with Sam's Club. Even if you don't get your fill of samples (it's rough when there's only one or two carts out), stop by the food court on the way out for a $1.38 hot dog combo, a slice of pizza, or an amazing berry sundae. 

Costco Sam's Club Mac and Cheese Unbaked
Lacey Muszynski / Cheapism

Assuming Everything at Costco is Better

Sam's Club is sometimes seen as the red-headed stepchild of Costco, but as Cheapists who have memberships to both, there are plenty of things that are better at Sam's Club. There's more variety of bakery items (and they're cheaper!), a bigger selection of OTC medications and personal care products, tastier pre-made meals like mac and cheese, and an unrivaled selection of snack food. Don't fall for the Costco hype; compare the two stores yourself.