I was at BJ’s Wholesale Club in Henrietta during the first week in February, and the lines at customer service desk were still long with former Sam’s Club members joining. I spoke with one of the employees who told me that in the first week that Sam’s Club closed in January, they had 1,700 new members sign up.
It got me thinking about whether most people today have a buyer’s club membership as one of their many different ways to be a smart shopper and save money. Clearly not everything sold at buyer’s clubs is cheaper than at other stores — especially if something is on special that week, you have a coupon, or you often buy store brands that you feel are of equal or sufficient quality to a comparable name brand. Also, some things at buyer’s clubs are cheaper because you must buy them in bulk (that unit price thing that we talk about all of the time), and, in your particular situation, that may not make sense. Unlike that mouthwash, that big container of fruit may not be fresh by the time you, as a single person or a couple, can eat it all.
Yes, there is an annual membership fee in the $50-$55 range that you have to factor into whether you can really save money by shopping there. In my case, with all the driving that I do for the CARE Program and the Wild Wings Bird of Prey Sanctuary, my savings on gas at the Henrietta store covers my membership fee. Also, at least at BJ’s, they have store coupons and what amount to store brands.
The bottom line is, if you don’t belong to one, at least go and check them out. Check the offerings, those unit prices, the quality, and what items you can buy in bulk or larger sizes. See if you think that you are likely to be able cover the membership fee with savings over where you are buying some things now, so that you can then enjoy some additional savings. To be that smart shopper, even if you join or already belong to a buyer’s club, you should always be checking the prices at other stores and looking for sales, specials and acceptable cheaper store brands. And, yes, life really isn’t that busy that you can’t stop at a few places to save some money. If it is, maybe you should consider ... .
On a different subject, let’s revisit weddings. We have a nephew who is getting married in May, so it seems that I hear something about weddings every day. The national average cost of a wedding day in 2016 shot up to $35,329, according to a survey by The Knot. That's a jump by $2,688 from the 2015 average of $32,641. Increased focus on tailoring an unforgettable day for wedding guests is central to the rise in costs, says The Knot. Does it surprise anyone that millennials, who, to their credit, are more into experiences than “material stuff,” would try to outdo each other on that wedding experience? By the way, to their credit, our nephew and his bride are keeping it simple.
That being said, there was a recent report on the CBS Morning News that really got my attention. It indicated that more and more people were taking out “wedding loans” to create and fund those special experiences. Now just to be clear, there are no “wedding loans,” per se. At least, thankfully, I have not heard of anyone actually marketing them as such, but I would not be surprised if some institution did in the future, along with a pitch on our “great special interest rates.” It is just that people are taking out personal loans, in the $2,000 to $35,000 range, with banks, credit unions or online personal loan companies. In addition, in some cases, parents and/or those getting married, may be taking out home equity loans. Then, of course, there are those credit cards with the even higher interest rates.
Whether to go into debt, and take out a “wedding loan” in any form, is a very personal thing that should be considered carefully, but most financial advisors, I assume, would advise against it. It may not be the best way to start off a marriage, and for a parent, it is once again that issue of whether that debt at that time in life is going to compete with a retirement with dignity.
As we have discussed in the past, there are many resources online to help save money on a wedding, and one thought that keeps coming up is, why not postpone the wedding and save more money for it?
On a final subject, since we are on the subject of millennials, there have been a lot of positive financially related reports about them lately, like the fact that that they are saving more. However, a recent survey gave me cause for concern. If you remember, we recently discussed a survey indicating that 47 percent of U.S. students didn’t feel prepared to manage their finances in college. Now, as reported by USA Today, an Intuit Turbo with Cassandra survey of 1,500 millennials, ages 20 to 34, found that only 12 percent felt prepared for their financial future. We are continuing to do something wrong in not educating our youth enough about personal finances, and financial planning may be a future career that young people might want to consider more.
Next time: How do you work your way through all of those commercials and pick the right auto insurance company and coverage for your situation?
John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo