A and I joined COSTCO. I feel very suburban, but seriously, the savings are intense! A bought my VitaMix there and in addition to mine, we got one for E and another that we sold online (at just enough profit to pay for our Costco membership, thank you very much). When A saw the VitaMix there (which only happens once in a while), that was the tipping point to getting our membership.
The challenges in my mind about a place like Costco are:
1. Purchasing products that are manufactured by children in third world countries
2. Purchasing from a big box store/warehouse instead of a small local business
3. Purchasing things we don't really need just because they are less expensive
When I was guiltily discussing this with my colleague at work, she reminded me that I can still choose ethical brand names and that these companies love working with warehouse stores, because they know they will sell at volume. Number one - check. Regarding buying things just because they are less expensive, I already know that we're doing that, because we bought 40 ounces of pomegranate juice that neither of really enjoy drinking straight. I'm putting it in smoothies and mixing it with orange juice to use it up. I think it might be the nature of a place like Costco that when you first join, you overbuy, but I am confident that we will normalize our buying habits pretty quickly.
My second concern is a little harder to figure out, but my second Christmas gift from A is the best example of this that I can come up with. I have had a mild interest in sewing for a while and E bought me an old Singer sewing machine a few years ago. The machine needed a tune up, got pretty dusty sitting in my garage and has never been used by me. Now that my friend R has started sewing and I paid $12x2 for hems that I know should be a snap, my interest in sewing has increased again. So, I hauled my old Singer to the small locally owned sewing machine sales and repair shop near my house to see what we could do.
For $100, I could tune-up my basic 3-stitch machine, though any needed parts would be extra. I asked about trading in and they weren't interested and asked about upgrading and was referred to a computerized 120-stitch machine for $399. This was days after Thanksgiving and on sale mind you! Yesterday, we found the same machine at Costco for $170. I cannot justify supporting my neighbors small locally owned business by purchasing a machine there for more than twice the cost at Costco. I can buy fabric, thread, notions and classes there, but I don't even feel guilty about buying my machine at Costco - the price is just too much better.
So, that's my second Christmas gift - A bought me a Brother XR9000 sewing machine. He extracted a promise from me to sew on his buttons and hem his pants, but I think I can handle that. And I'm going to clean up my old machine and gift it to my friend T who would also like to learn to sew. So, everybody wins - even the local sewing machine shop, because I probably will take my machine there for service and may even take a class there so that I don't mess up every pair of pants that A every buys!