These 10 tips to save money on your next trip to Costco, while pretty straight forward, are often difficult to follow because Costco has spending traps set up all over the store. But the good news is after you read this article you’ll know where they are located and the places they try to get you to spend more of your money. Shop smart and save on your next shopping trip to Costco.
1. Avoid Center of Store
The center aisles of most Costco warehouses are chalked full of stuff you had no idea existed, but clearly cannot live without. If you let your cart meander into these aisles you will easily end up spending an extra $50-$100 as this stuff is incredibly tempting. I am speaking from experience on this one as my wife and I now own a lifetime supply of Snickers, a kids playhouse in the backyard that has become a spider habitat, and a darn-near life size nativity set that goes on the front lawn in December and scares away children and possible intruders. Stay out of this danger zone!
2. Buy Kirkland Brand When Possible
The generic Kirkland brand provides an excellent value and offers a very high quality alternative to the more expensive name brands. Kirkland products that I absolutely swear by include the mac ‘n cheese, dog food (not to be confused with the mac ‘n cheese), batteries, toilet paper, baby wipes, coffee, and beer. Yes, I said beer. Costco actually has an agreement with a small brewery in the San Francisco bay area to brew beer for them and it’s excellent. It comes in a variety box of four different brews and it easily stands up to the more expensive imports.
3. Shop With a Plan
Do NOT walk into Costco looking to shop for dinner. You’ll end up with 12 New York steaks and a 30 pound bag of potatoes that will go to waste. Or worse yet, you’ll settle for their expensive already prepared meals. Instead, have a Costco shopping list at home and don’t set foot into the warehouse until you have at least a dozen items on it. Then when you enter the store maximize your time by only going after the items on your list. Don’t get distracted by the bright and shiny electronics in the front of the store, or worse yet, the center aisles of doom. (See Tip #1)
4. Stock-up on Household Items
Toilet paper, dish washing soap, laundry detergent, paper towels, diapers, batteries, light bulbs. Yes, yes, and yes. These household items are a great buy at Costco, especially when buying for a family of 4 or more. The reason? They don’t expire quickly and can be stored fairly easily. Price per unit is almost always better than a grocery store and typically compares favorable to Walmart.
5. Buy Meat in Bulk
Costco meat is some of the best I have ever tasted. Tender, juicy and thick. The best value on their meat comes in the bulk packaging. Buy in bulk and freeze in smaller dinner sized freezer bags and enjoy for several months to come. My family does this with their tri-tip and boneless chicken breasts and it’s a great way to save money on high quality beef and poultry.
6. Team Shop
Team up with a friend and split bulk items purchased from Costco. This works great if you have limited storage space as you still get the savings from buying in bulk without the dilemma of where to store the 50 rolls of butt wipe. 25 rolls is a little more manageable. This is a little harder to do with a 5 pound tub of Best Foods mayonnaise, but with some creative “tupperwaring” it could be done.
7. Membership Upgrade
Look into upgrading your Costco membership. Often times this will get you added benefits like cash back. A few years ago my wife and I upgraded our membership to an ‘Executive Membership’ which gives us 2% back on purchases. Figure out what you’d need to spend to break even on the cost of the upgraded membership. A man and wife with a couple rug-rats could easily cover the cost making a membership completely free. Also, look into other benefits of the executive membership like medical insurance for small business owners and travel discounts. Plus, your card may get you into the hottest new night club, just flash your ‘exec’ card and watch the bouncers escort you right in. Not.
8. Find Real Value
Sometimes the best values at Costco are right under your noise yet you walk right past them. Here are a few ‘did you knows’:
- Olive Oil – Did you know the Kirkland brand extra virgin olive oil is half the price of the Bertolli brand and rates much higher according to those in the know?
- Laptops – Did you know that Costco offers a 2-year warranty (manufacturers typically offer 1 year) on all laptops that go out their orange doors? Also, did you know that Costco offers free technical support for members. Includes laptop set-up issues and trouble-shooting.
- Wines – Did you know that Costco has a team of highly competent wine buyers? Neither did I. The end result is only good wines end up on store floors. The best news? They sell bottles at 15% to 25% less than the competition.
9. Eat A Meal While You’re There
Ever had a Costco hot dog? Perhaps the best tube steak I have ever put in my pie hole. Get the hot dog and 20oz. soda combo for a whopping $1.50. Incredibly, this price has been the same since 1985. What about the pizza? Don’t get me started on the pizza. You can get a ginormous pie for only $9.99 or a slice bigger than your head for less than $2. Cheese, pepperoni, or combo are your choices. Their pizzas are an excellent choice for kid’s birthday parties. Easily feed an entire backyard full of rug-rats for a 50 spot. Also, don’t forget to fill up on the various tasty food samples around the warehouse.
10. Use Photo Services
The Costco photo department is incredibly efficient and quite cheap. Try them out this Christmas when you are doing your family holiday card. I think you will find them cheaper than Shutterfly.com or Snapfish.com. Just login to their online photo department, start uploading your pictures, place your order, and pick them up the next time you visit the warehouse. Very easy and convenient.
Any other tips on how to save money at Costco? Looking forward to your comments.
By Kyle James