These days, most of us order so many things online that paying $45 or more to join a membership club feels so 1988.
Why pay a fee, then have to carry large-sized packages of diapers, detergent, and deli meat to your car?
Because it can save a bundle of money, according to a number of recent comparisons.
Just look at a parking lot of Sam's Club or Costco, where every Saturday looks like Black Friday.
"I come for paper products, toilet paper, paper towels," one shopper told us. "Tide. I always get my detergent here," another told us.
Inside, we found mom Lindsay Erickson filling her cart with large boxes of Pampers.
"I come here and stock up about once a month," she said. "I have two little kids, so I need a ton of diapers, wipes, and all that stuff."
These may not be the stores for you if you are single, have a small refrigerator, or just prefer small-sized portions. Sam's and Costco are for people who go through a lot of items, have some storage space, and don't mind buying a few months' worth of something for the savings.
But when it comes to things like paper products or baby products, you really can't go wrong when you buy these bulk packages, since they can last for months.
Things that are almost always cheaper
So with the help of recent comparisons from GoBankingRates.com and The Penny Hoarder, we found almost a dozen things that are almost always cheaper at a warehouse store than at the grocery store, Walmart, Target or Amazon:
- Diapers/Baby wipes/Baby formula
- Rotisserie Chicken (typically $4.99)
- Maple Syrup
- Vanilla Extract
- Peanut Butter/Nutella
- Pet Food/Kitty litter
Overall, a number of studies have shown you can save 25 percent or more per year buying these items at a warehouse club instead of your local supermarket (or eyeglass or tire chain).
Sam's Club, Costco or Amazon?
But what about Amazon, which offers the convenience of diapers delivered right to your doorstep? And free shipping?
You pay for that convenience, one recent The Krazy Coupon Lady study found.
Joanie Demer, one of the founders of The Krazy Coupon Lady blog, says in their comparisons, Sam's Club and Costco "were about 10 percent to 15 percent cheaper overall than Amazon." And that doesn't even take into account Amazon's higher membership fee of $119 per year for Amazon Prime.
Louvana Russia, looking at the tables of clothing in the middle of Sam's, told us she always finds an unexpected bargain.
"I like everything, everything here," she said.
The lifestyle blog "Giveaways4mom.com" suggests that new moms join either Sam's Club or Costco because of the savings they offer on baby items, and the fact that you can do all your shopping in one store -- a real plus when you have a 3-month-old with you. Buying Pampers or Huggies at a warehouse store can save you as much as $200 a year, compared with supermarkets.
So now you are thinking of taking the plunge. Which store should you join?
Open up your phone's map, and you'll know.
Business Insider recently compared Sam's and Costco and concluded that they are so similar (on selection and price) that it recommends joining the one that is closest to you.
Costco membership starts at $60 a year, while Sam's starts at $45 (sometimes $35 with a special promotion). But Business Insider says choose based on location rather than price: if you have to drive 45 minutes, you will rarely go.
And that way you don't waste your money.
"Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
Follow John on Twitter ( @JohnMatarese )
For more consumer news and money saving advice, go to www.dontwasteyourmoney.com