In practically every article about cutting down on spending, there's at least one mention of shopping at a warehouse store and buying bulk items. Signing up for a Costco membership is a well-known solution for anyone trying to save money.
If you're not familiar with the club, though, it can be overwhelming when you walk through the doors for the first time. Even long-time shoppers might not know all the secrets to saving money at Costco. Before your next shopping trip, look over this list of suggestions and make the most of your membership. The savings are right there, ready for the taking!
Get Your Household Items
One of the best ways to save at Costco is to stock up on all of your household staples. Whether you have a large family or live alone, everyone needs things like paper towels, toilet paper, toothpaste, and similar items. If you have storage space, don't be shy about stocking up.
You'll typically pay substantially less per unit at Costco than at other stores, and most household items don't expire. There's no concern about going through them quickly - you'll have them when you need them and pay less in the process.
Buy the Store Brand
Kirkland Brand is Costco's store brand. You can buy everything from dog food to beer from Kirkland Brand and save a decent amount of cash compared to name-brand products. Don't think you're sacrificing quality for the sake of savings, either. Price tags are lower, but the products are high-caliber when stacked up against their name-brand counterparts.
Some of the most popular Kirkland Brand products include:
- Laundry Detergent
- Olive Oil
There are plenty of others that make the grade, too, so don't leave Costco without giving a few Kirkland products a try.
Costco's rotisserie chicken has a fan club. Plenty of people swear by it. The devotion is largely because of its dependable, low price point, but it's also just delicious. You can walk into Costco with $4.99 (plus tax) and leave with an entire chicken that's cooked and ready to eat. It's mild enough to work in hundreds of other recipes, making it versatile, simple, and cheap.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a Costco member that doesn't consider the rotisserie chicken one of the best deals in the club.
Change Your Membership
Costco offers a couple of membership tiers: Basic and Executive Membership. There are two major differences between the two, and their relative value will depend on how frequently you shop at Costco or how much you spend.
The basic membership tier costs $60 annually, whereas the Executive Membership is $120. It's twice the cost upfront, but it does yield 2% savings on every purchase. If you spend enough money at the store, it will eventually pay for itself and then some. Upgraded memberships receive discounts on certain services, too, like Costco travel.
Upgrading your membership might not be a better deal for everyone. If you only stop by once a month or less and rarely drop more than $100 or $200, you'll probably be better off keeping the extra cash in your pocket. It's a different story for large families, businesses, or frequent shoppers, though, and those members might save hundreds of dollars in the long run.
Everyone has been warned against grocery shopping on an empty stomach, and Costco solves that problem. Like the rotisserie chicken, the Costco food court has a bit of a cult following. In 2023, where else can you get a full meal for a couple of bucks? A Costco hotdog combo is $1.50, which is probably less than half the price you'll drop for a similar snack at a gas station down the road. You can't even buy two items at Dollar Tree for less than two dollars! Top off a food court combo with some free samples around the store and you'll get a multi-course meal for pennies.
Know the Return Policy
Costco has an incredibly lenient return policy. You can return items for practically any reason, with or without a receipt. If you got it home and just didn't like it anymore, they'll take it back. This applies to dry goods as well as food, assuming it hasn't expired.
Certain big ticket items have a 90-day return window, so you'll have to hurry along with things like television and big appliances, but 90 days is still quite an extension compared to most stores.
Get Some Gas
Costo has thought of everything. Gas is one of the club's great deals - so much so that the savings will pay for your membership. If you pull up to the pump at least twice per month and fill up, you'll save enough to justify the basic tier membership. That's just from gas alone! Combine that with the major savings throughout the store, and it doesn't make sense not to shop there.
Spot the Possible Sales
Nothing lasts forever, and some items only grace the Costco shelves for a certain period. If you have your eye on something and see an asterisk (*) on the price sign, it won't stick around for long. You can watch it for price drops, as long as it doesn't sell out first.
This is true for seasonal items, too. Christmas decor, spooky Halloween items, and summer favorites like grills and lawn chairs only stick around for a few weeks. Once their season has passed, Costco drops prices to make room for the next wave of products. Check the store in the days immediately following a holiday to save money on next year's festivities.
This tip isn't as well-known as some of the others on the list, but it could be very beneficial. If you purchase an item from Costco and it goes on sale within a 30-day window, you can get back the difference. Costco will apply it as a reward toward your next purchase. Not many other stores extend that kind of generosity - if you miss a sale, you're just out of luck!
Get Cash for Shopping
While you can earn cash back with the upgraded membership tier, there are other ways to earn while you shop. Scan your receipts into cash-back apps like Ibotta or Fetch Rewards and you'll be instantly rewarded.
If you're shopping online, there are even more opportunities to earn cash. Sign up for Comrade, the new startup that makes brands pay you for your attention, and start earning money for every click. You're shopping at Costco to save money, after all, and having a little extra in your account never hurts! It's free to sign up and you can start earning right away.
Costco continues to stay at the front of the pack when it comes to savings. Standard grocery stores rarely beat it in terms of price per unit, and being a Costco member gives you access to all sorts of goods and services in one convenient location. If you're serious about saving money, consider the tips above to get the most out of your membership. There are plenty of other savings secrets to uncover, too. Have fun wandering the warehouse!
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