11 Ways to Stretch Your Holiday Budget at Costco, Sam's, and BJ's

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STOCKING UP


The holiday season can do a number on credit card bills and bank account balances. But members of Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's Wholesale Club can find savings at the warehouse stores on seasonal décor, food, and gifts for all, among other holiday necessities.

Related:16 Ways to Make Holiday Shopping More Affordable -- Starting Now
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DINNER

Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's sell ready-made rotisserie chickens, about 3 pounds each, for just $5 (Costco's is so beloved it has its own Facebook page). At that price, shoppers picking one up for a holiday meal may want to buy another to use later in chicken salad and other recipes good for serving a house full of family and friends.
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DESSERT

No holiday meal is complete without an array of dessert options. Pies, cakes, and the like are all available from warehouse clubs in large sizes perfect for parties. Sheet cakes at Sam's Club cost $40 and feed up to 70 people, while a variety of 4-pound seasonal pies start at $8 (for pumpkin).
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ALCOHOL

Sam's Club, Costco, and BJ's make it easy to stock up on wine, beer, and liquor for holiday gatherings on the cheap. A little-known Costco secret: Some $12 to $16 bottles of wine are actually $50 bottles that have been rebranded, and Costco's beer selection holds similar gems. How else would the makers get rid of extra stock?
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BOTTLED WATER

Every holiday celebration needs beverage options other than alcohol. While buying bottled water seems like a waste (hello, tap water), it cuts down on dishes after a party, and guests can grab one for the road. At Sam's Club, a 32-count package of Aquafina half-liter bottles costs less than a smaller 24-pack of the same bottled water at Kmart and several regional grocery stores ($4.88 vs. $5). The cheapest option is a 40-pack of store-brand Member's Mark bottled water for less than $4.
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GIFT CARDS

Warehouse clubs offer good deals on gift cards, which typically come in packs that can be divided among stockings. BJ's sells three $10 Menchie's Frozen Yogurt gift cards (a $30 value) for $24, for example. Other cards are good for movies, steakhouse meals, and Xbox and iTunes purchases.
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STOCKING STUFFERS

Splitting up bulk buys such as packs of socks can be an economical way to fill stockings. Some small items are sold individually, including gloves from Costco that work with touchscreen devices (on sale for $10 through Oct. 23). Variety packs of wristbands for the iFit Vue (less than $19 at Sam's Club) could be parceled out to family or friends who have the activity tracker (or will be getting one for Christmas).
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PARTY GIFTS

With so many holiday parties to attend, it can get expensive to bring a host gift to each one, but no one wants to show up empty-handed. A case of fresh-baked David's holiday cookies from Costco costs a lot up front ($100 through Oct. 23; regularly $120) but comes to $10 or less per tin. The cookie tins also make good gifts for mail carriers, babysitters, hairdressers, teachers, and anyone else on the list for a small gift at the holidays.
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HOLIDAY CRAFTS


For several years now, Costco has sold art jars starting at $16, complete with books on how to create various masterpieces. They're handy for keeping kids happy and calm at holiday gatherings, or as presents for children with a creative side or teachers always in need of art supplies for the classroom. It may even be worth grabbing an extra for the gift closet.

Related:24 Last-Minute Gifts to Keep on Hand All Year Long
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GIFT BASKETS

The warehouse clubs sell pre-made gift baskets starting at about $20, with themes ranging from Coca-Cola to "Star Wars," but consumers may be able to save even more by divvying up bulk purchases to create homemade gift baskets.
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PRE-LIT CHRISTMAS TREES

Artificial Christmas trees can get expensive, but a 7-foot tree from Sam's Club comes pre-lit with 350 warm white LED lights for $120. A couple of similar trees from Walmart are priced at $149; one is currently on sale for about $131.
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OUTDOOR DÉCOR

Don't forget outdoor decorations -- the neighbors won't. For a sense of the warehouse club savings available on holiday lights, consider that a set of three GE StayBright LED Super Spheres costs $20 at Costco compared with $10 for one at Walmart and $15 each at Home Depot.
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