The Sam's Club Hacks That Will Truly Improve Your Shopping

Are you a regular Sam's Club shopper, or have you been considering whether or not it's worth shelling out for a membership? Sam's Club isn't for everybody — if you live alone, or eat out a lot, or have some specific preferences for brands Sam's just doesn't carry, purchasing a membership might not be worth your while. On the other hand, if you go through non-perishables by the caseload, or are in need of a cheap set of tires, or you really like free samples and are sure you can eat your membership fee's worth of those alone — well, Sam's Club might work out for you, after all.

Before you walk through Sam's swinging doors, though, check out these tips for how you can get even more out of your membership, since it would be a shame to have shelled out the big bucks for something you're not making the most of.

Don't pay full price for a Sam's Club membership

If you aren't yet a Sam's member, don't join the club before you've done a little research and found out how you can score the best perks and freebies and/or the lowest priced deal. Both Groupon and Living Social often offer Sam's Club memberships that are not only priced lower than Sam's typically charges, but may also include deal sweeteners such as free items and e-coupons. Even Sam's Club itself offers special promos for first-time members that frequently include freebies. SlickDeals lists a Sam's Club new member promo for spring 2020 which includes a free $20 gift card and a rotisserie chicken (and for what it's worth, Sam's chicken is thought to be pretty tasty).

Share your Sam's Club membership dues with a friend

While this one may be a wee bit unethical — at least, if maximizing the profits of Sam's Club shareholders is one of the moral tenets you're sworn to uphold — you could always take a somewhat out-of-the-box approach to determining what constitutes a "household member" for that second card you get free with each Sam's Club membership. If you're single, just look at this as equaling the playing field, since why should cohabiting couples get a two-for-one deal on membership, whereas live-aloners pay full price?

In addition to finding a friend to split the cost of a membership, you can also bring along what Frugal for Less calls a "bulk buddy." Under ordinary circumstances, Sam's Club will permit each member to bring along two guests per shopping trip. While your guests cannot make any purchases themselves, who's to stop you and your non-member pals from splitting up that case of Member's Mark Moscato once you're out in the parking lot?

If it makes you feel any better about pulling a fast one on Sam's Club by passing off your BFF as a pseudo spouse, don't lose any sleep over it. After all, it's not as if Sam's Club has always upheld the highest of standards, either.

Check online for Sam's Club "Shocking Values" and auctions

If you shop via the Sam's Club website or the app, you can have access to a selection of "Shocking Values" that are described as daily limited-time savings on what appears to be some of the club's pricier offerings — furnishings, appliances, sporting goods, stuff like that. You could actually save 50 percent or more on certain items, at least if you happen to be in the market for a pair of matching pink kayaks.

Sam's Club even offers its own auction site, and the Passionate Penny Pincher notes that most of the bids start at just $1 for electronics, jewelry, toys, video games, kitchenware, and other goods. A Reddit thread about these auctions warns, though, that shipping and handling fees on certain items can end up costing you more than if you'd just bought them in-club.

Shop early for day-old discounts at Sam's Club

Frugal for Less reveals that Sam's restocks their meat department every afternoon, so if you want the very freshest meat, that is when you should arrive. If, instead, you're looking for the lowest-priced cuts, then morning is your best time to score a sweet meat deal. All of the meat that's on the shelves or in the bins in the morning is still perfectly good to eat, but Sam's wants to make sure it's priced to sell before the new meat arrives so they'll have room to put the new day's shipment. It would be a darn shame if Sam's had to throw out all that perfectly good meat, so you might as well shop in the morning and buy it up for a bargain price.

Decode the Sam's Club shelf tags

Here's a hack that will make you feel like a super-smart shopper, or perhaps an industrial spy: Rather-Be-Shopping shares the secret behind those not-so-random letter codes you'll see on Sam's Club shelf tags. In the top right corner there's going to be a string of numbers followed by a space and then a single letter, and that letter's what you need to be paying attention to.

If the letter is an A, that stands for Active, and means the item is something Sam's regularly carries. If the letter is N, that means Never Out, so this item should always be in stock. S means seasonal, so the item may or may not be replenished before the season is over (if it's a Christmas item in November, then yes, they'll probably order in new stock if supplies get low; if it's December 24, however, restocking is highly unlikely). O is for One-Time Buy, so once those are gone, they're gone; and C means Canceled, which means supplies are limited to what you see, and may also be marked down. As for how you can tell whether something has already been clearance-priced, the price listed on its tag will end in 1. If a tag reads $8.99, that is the item's original price, but if a tag reads $8.91, that item is on sale.