I recently had to hit a big box store. I say ‘had to’ because I needed some high-end dark chocolate as snacks on the counter for a work-related trade show. My guys like dark chocolate, what can I say. I wanted to get a good deal on it so I hit a local big box store. I decided that I should pick up a few more things for home while I was there. Some $204 later I walked out of the store thinking there was a darn good reason I generally avoided big box stores.
They are spend traps.
For us frugal types, it is always good to know where our spending weaknesses lie. For me, clearly one of those traps is found in the big box store.
I know many financial experts say to buy in bulk but unless you are raising a large brood or live in a multi-generational home, buying in bulk — and frequenting the big box store — can be a spend trap.
I decided to take my own advice and poured over my receipt — something we frugal types should do often — and then dissected my buying habits. First, I had not been to this big box store in quite some time and my membership had lapsed. it is something I believe in spending money on once a year so I renewed. That was $60 for the year so if we set that expense aside, we are now looking at $164.87. So, what did I buy? For starters, $33 in bottled water; meaning a bit more than $1 a large bottle which is half the price of what my partner normally pays. My partner is forever buying this particular brand of bottled water and from my frugal point of view, spending way too much. Even at $15.99 a pack, it is still the best price around. So, that takes us down to $134 give or take. Another $30 for detergent pods. We use a specific brand and were down to our final few. Quick math while shopping told me this was a great price even when factoring in what we usually pay at the discount grocery store. We both fret over a perceived detergent pod shortage that never materializes. I also bought a few things that I know we consume in relative volume, two kinds of nuts, broccoli, strawberries and butternut squash along with a generously sized tub of cottage cheese which never goes to waste. I also picked up some puppy jerky treats that were on special. They are usually $10.89 but I snapped them up at $4 off so a bargain for the dogs. There was a salad kit for work lunches that means that I will have spent just $4 on two lunches so not a bad price. Seems the only items in question were the cheesy crackers I love and pretend I never buy plus a bottle of versatile teriyaki sauce that cost $3.69 instead of the usual $4.99. Oh and finally, a $5.99 large carton of plain low fat Greek yogurt. This is something that I know I cannot get for anything close to that price at my local grocery discount store.
So, overall, not a bad haul and when picked apart, I realize that the occasional trip to the big box store is not going to break the bank or put a tangible dent in my budget. Even so, I still know it is a spend trap. We are a family of four only; two people, two canines. We don’t need to purchase a lot of volume or bulk products. Living in a town home also means that we also don’t have a lot of storage space for such things anyway. So I will continue to be vigilant and remain wary of big box stores for my little brood. Dry goods are fine; we get our toilet paper, paper towels (which I rarely buy anyway) and other dry goods at the big box store. I do not buy, with regularity, a lot of perishable goods at the big box store however. For my family it does not make financial sense. Once every few months is probably ok for my family but more than that and I risk coming home with 25 pounds of cashews or 15 pounds of bananas that will surely go to waste.