How Costco Saves Me Money (Grocery Geek)

FishPapa and I got a membership to Price Club the year we got married (1994). And we’ve belonged to Costco, the club warehouse formerly known as Price Club, ever since.

While some don’t see the point in paying a $50 fee to shop there, we’ve found it to be a great asset to our arsenal of money-saving ideas.

Here are some of the reasons I love Costco:

1. Great prices on a number of staples

Even when I combine coupons with great grocery store sales, it’s rare that the prices of milk, butter, cheese, lettuce, beans, and spices are cheaper anywhere besides Costco. Costco hits my stock-up price on those items practically everytime.

2. Increasingly large selection of organic products

It’s amazing how much organic Costco now carries. Produce, broth, canned products, dairy, and some dry goods are often available at better-than-grocery store prices — even better than the price of some conventional products. I can get better for less or the same amount of money at Costco.

3. A wide selection of gourmet foods at “best prices”

We love to eat a variety of gourmet foods, including breads, cheeses, and meats. Costco offers a huge selection at very good prices. Could I find the same prices elsewhere? Maybe, but not as reliably as at Costco.

4. The cheapest gas in town

Since the recent gas price jump, I’ve been buying gas at Costco. There’s usually a line, but it’s my turn within about 10 minutes. I just make sure to turn the car off rather than let it idle. Costco gas prices have been between 15 and 35 cents cheaper than the lowest gas station price. To me, it’s worth the wait.

5. Great food court

I am not a “food court” kind of person. In most cases, I’d rather eat at home, but Costco consistently has great pizza, kosher hot dogs, and ice creams. Plus, the prices are fantastic. $1.50 for a hot dog and a drink? That can’t be beat. If we buy takeout pizza, that is usually the kind we get. $10 a pie is the best deal I’ve ever found in California or Kansas.

6. Fair deals on “other stuff”

Costco sells a wide range of electronics, clothing, tools, gadgets, books, games, toys, and sundry other items. Some can be great deals; some fair; some abysmal. You gotta keep your eyes open.

We have bought gift cards at a discount that have made great gifts or given us lower prices on our own meals out. For instance, right now Costco sells $100 worth of gift cards to Pat & Oscars. They charge $80 for those cards, so you get a discount of $20 off your entire purchase. They’ve offered this for a number of restaurants, including Starbucks.

7. Free samples

Depending on what time you visit, there may be a number of free sample carts set up around the food aisles of Costco. Some days, you could make the Sample Tour serve as a meal.

Some of the samples I would never buy, but many of the foods they serve have provided opportunities for my kids to try things that they might not touch at home. And we’ve found some favorite treats by tasting the samples.

Costco is nowhere near perfect. And it wouldn’t be fair unless I told you the things I’m not crazy about.

It’s often busy.

That can be problematic, especially when you’re herding many children. Unless FishPapa comes with, I usually don’t take the whole flock — unless ice cream is involved as a bribe, er, reward.

Weeknights can be slower, but a recent nighttime trip showed me many empty shelves and many of the things on my list had been bought up for the day. Going right when they open has proven to be the best way to beat the crowds.

Packaging is heavy.

Unless I specify to the clerk that I would like the boxes packed light, I am in for some weighty issues once I get to the car. I threw out my back loading my Costco haul — twice, I think — so now I am very careful about how I load. That said, several clerks have told me that I can always ask for help. I’ve been hesitant to do so because of the previous point. But, I’ll keep it in mind in the future.

They want you to upgrade.

Costco offers standard, business, and executive memberships. The executive membership offers you a cash back incentive. We’ve done this in the past and found that it really wasn’t worth the heftier fee.

I’ve been hassled by Costco employees on more than one occasion, insisting that I upgrade. One even said, “If you would just upgrade, we’ll stop bugging you.” That alone makes me dig my heels in. No means no.

(Yes, we’ve spoken to management; yes, I’ve written to Costco. But, they must not need my business so badly that they’re going to do anything about it.)

So far I’ve been able to put other coping techniques into practice at the checkout and have avoided confrontation the last two weeks. But, I’m on my guard, and honestly, it does take some of the joy out of shopping there. Is it a deal breaker? Not yet. And I sincerely hope it doesn’t become one. I like my buck fifty hot dog too much.

But what about the $50?

To some people, paying $50 for the privilege of shopping at Costco may not be worth it. But, I look at it this way:

  1. We go there about once a week.
  2. $50 divided across a year is less than $1 a week, less than I pay for a newspaper full of coupons.
  3. I easily save that dollar in milk prices alone.
  4. Anything over that dollar is savings.
  5. For us, it’s worth it.

One caveat — it’s worth it, provided we aren’t tempted to pay higher prices on other things. It’s rare that we buy anything that isn’t not the known stock-up price, but it does happen. I still think it’s worth it.

What’s been YOUR experience with warehouse clubs?

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Comments

  1. I was getting frustrated with the pushing me to get a credit card/upgrade thing too, but found out from the checker that you can write “No Upgrade” on the back of your card, and usually they will leave you alone. I think I have only been asked about it once or twice since I wrote it on my card several months ago…

  2. I finally canceled out membership there. We live in Southern Oregon and have 1 Costco with in 2 or 3 hours. People come from far and wide to shop there. It is so busy it takes as long to park and check out as it does to shop. We had a premium membership before, but didn’t see much benefit in it either, so just got the regular one. I was so sick & tired of them hassling to us to upgrade, it’s annoying! We complained and they gave us a special sticker that was supposed to be let employees know not to bother us about it. It didn’t help…I explained to one employee on our last trip that we had the premium membership in the past and weren’t interested in upgrading As we were loading our groceries in the car he came and found us in the parking lot and said he had looked us up in their system and we had never had the premium membership and we were lying to him. I happened to still have the membership card in my wallet, because when they took my picture they included one of my children and it was cute and they liked to pretend it was their special card to get into the store and would play with it while we shopped…I got my pepper spray out of the car and threatened to spray him if he didn’t leave, made a complaint and canceled our membership. Shopping someplace shouldn’t be miserable!!! I’ll gladly spend an extra few bucks!

  3. I completely agree with all of your points, especially about how you’re able to get better products at the same or lower prices. I’ve found excellent prices on meat, cheese, yogurt, and produce at our Costco. I think you just have to be aware what the deals are at other stores in your area and see how they stack up to Costco prices. In our area, Costco is becoming a better and better deal as grocery stores seem to be putting out fewer really good deals and gas prices make driving to several stores a week less of a bargain (even if I wanted to with three little ones!). Great post.

  4. I LOVE Costco, I’m in the UK, and I live veeery far away from one, so we only get to visit once or twice * a year*, we still think it pays for only visiting this often, but if we lived closer I think the cost of living would be so much cheaper! I also love the US foods and good they stock!

  5. I live in Toronto, Canada, have 8 kids and am a weekly Costco shopper for staples such as milk, cereal, meat, bread etc. I even buy alot of my family’s clothing essentials at Costco. I think our prices, in terms of Canadian dollars, are slightly higher than yours, but for us, Costco is still the best deal. I have the executive membership because we figured out a long time ago than even on staples like milk and bread, the executive membership is the best for us. On the executive membership, I annually receive enough Costco dollars to buy the following year’s executive membership and one week’s worth of groceries.

  6. I love all the things you mentioned, too! My Costco doesn’t bother me about upgrading, though. They’ve never even mentioned it once, actually.

  7. We love Costco, too! For many of the reasons that you said. Yes, as you pointed out, you have to keep your eyes open, but for the basics – even organic basics – I really am hard pressed to find a better deal. That makes it worth the crowds and occasional pushy “upgrade” conversation for my family.

    In fact, Grandma’s Christmas present to us every year is money for our Costco membership (and then we pay it forward by picking up things for her when we are there).

  8. We are a family of 5 (6yr, 4yr and 5 month old) and shop at Costco weekly as well. Really, we buy most of our groceries there and usually only need a few items from the grocery store weekly.

    We save so much money for the exact reasons you mentioned and love the large offering of organic products and the variety of items.

    With 2 boys (who at 4 and 6 already eat a ton) I know that the benefits of buying bulk with outweigh the $50 membership fee!!

    And we have the rule that we can only buy one item that is not on our list. Last week it was some awesome hot sauce!

  9. I just linked to this post this morning! I wrote a post from the opposite view point earlier this week, but I loved your spin on viewing it as saving $1 a week! I don’t know if I will be signing up anytime soon, but it has made me think differently about it! I’m still an Aldi’s girl.;)

  10. We have a membership to Sam’s Club because that is what is close to us.

    Before I knew about the great deals I could get at the regular grocery store with coupons and sales, we would shop at Sam’s Club for most things. We still shop there now, just not as often – maybe every 2-3 weeks. For us, Sam’s has the best prices on milk, cheeses, butter and eggs. On other items, like some fruits and certain meats, the prices are good if I really need the item and can’t find it on sale at a better price at a grocery store. Sam’s also has the best deal I could find (local and online) on our contacts. So, for us, it’s definitely worth it.

  11. We have a Costco membership that is free because my parents pay for it but I never seem to go. Mostly because I’m afraid of spending too much! I’ve never priced things there. I probably should at least for the things you mentioned like eggs and cheese as we buy a lot of that. I’d love to see your list of things you buy there!

  12. Buying in bulk from Costco, or another warehouse club, is not only good for you wallet, it can be good for the environment too. Last year I talked about it in my post “Good for the Environment and Your Budget: Buying in Bulk” http://www.greenlifestyleconsulting.com/2010/01/good-for-environment-and-your-budget.html If you buy things in large size packaging you are using less disposable/recyclable things. This is especially true if you buy your cleaning products and things that come in heavy plastic containers there.

    One caveat to watch out for is to make sure that you don’t buy so much that your food spoils – then it’s wasting! I’ve actually been noticing a large increase in the number of organic products at BJs, where I usually shop over the past year. It’s gone from one or two items to cost effective organic foods in many categories that I buy there.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Alicia, with eight people, we’re able to eat things up pretty fast. Sometimes, too fast. Unfortunately the bulk buying doesn’t always save much packaging. Often it’s just four boxes of crackers, wrapped in cardboard and then wrapped in plastic which is more packaging than buying four individual boxes. Bummer.

  13. LOVE Costco! Last year we finally broke down and bought the Executive Membership ($100) to get the 2% back – now don’t end up paying for the membership because the 2% back ends up coming in just over $100. (We shop weekly for groceries and gas – nothing big, it just adds up!)

  14. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!! Grocery geek lives on! Oh, how i have missed it! I love how you broke this down. We do not have a Costco near us but we do similar places. I have contemplated joining wondering if the fees are worth it,

  15. I too love costco! But sadly, I can’t seem to go there without spending at least $200…and sometimes I go twice a week! We tried the executive (Cash back) membership for free one year and we found that it was worth it for us. The cashback cheque that we get pays for at least our membership card every year – and usually has a little extra! Try asking at the membership desk if you can try the executive membership “risk free” for one year – they may be able to help you!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @tpdval, I took your advice and asked when I went yesterday. We are considering, especially since we have a big ticket item in mind. But, I’ve never heard of the money-back guarantee being only for the first year. So, I need to double check that.

  16. We have a memebership to Sams Club currently. In the past we have had a BJs Club membership and I like them both. BJs takes coupons from the Sunday paper where Sams does not. We have certain things that we tend to buy there – our bulk items – paper products, soda, milk, bread, some meats, and produce. Over all I think the yearly fee that it costs to be part of one of these warehouse type stores is well worth it!

  17. We feel like the membership pays for itself in milk savings alone! We used to shop Sam’s and then switched to Costco because the milk does not have added hormones. (I also like the taste of CC’s milk much better). We have the executive membership and usually get about $85 back, which means we pay about $15 per year for our membership. Well worth it to me! And did you mention that Costco has coupons? Their cereal prices combined with coupons often times make the prices ounce-for-ounce unbeatable over what I can get at the grocery store stacking coupons with sales. Great article with great points!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Christi, for some reason, I never receive the coupons. I need to check on that. Yesterday the clerk “gave” me the coupon prices at checkout which was nice.

  18. We have four kids age 5,6,7&9 and we go through a lot of milk, cheese, etc. Currently, Sam’s is 60 cents cheaper on milk than any grocery store. When you figure we go through about a gallon a day, that’s a big thing. The cheese and pet foods are much cheaper too.

    We have a BJs membership too. BJs takes coupons and also carries some things that Sam’s does not. Even though my kids are no longer in diapers, I love baby wipes and the BJs brand are some of the ones we like best at a reasonable price.

    BJs has the 18 packs of the organic milk singles I like to pack for the kids for lunch. Even if I bought them on sale at Kroger for the lowest price they ever go, it’s still $3.89 cheaper to buy the 18 pack at BJs.

    Because I pack the kids’ lunches and snacks from home, I have found that the warehouse club packs of snacks work out well for us. When I factor in my time in shopping for good deals on cheese puffs, plastic bags, and rebagging them, its a better deal for me…and stress free.

    Printer ink is cheaper at BJs and Sam’s as well. Paper is cheap there but I usually get my paper free from rewards and bonus points at the office supply stores.

    If you have a business (or a blog which is your business) your membership fees just may be tax deductible as well.

    I rarely buy meats at BJs because I haven’t really cared for it too much and the prices are not fantastic; however, Sam’s has excellent meat at good prices.

    Finally, the gas prices are so much cheaper at Sam’s with BJs following in at a close second. Just yesterday, Sam’s was 14 cents cheaper per gallon than the gas station I used to go to — on a 30 gallon tank, that really adds up. Even with having two memberships (at a combined cost of $70.00 per year), we still save money, and equally as important to us, we save time and stress.

  19. I agree with buying a membership if you’re going at least once a week. We live about 6 hours away from the nearest Costco so it isn’t really worth it.

  20. I wish we had a Costco around here (Eastern IA) but we only have Sam’s Club. I have been trying to figure out if it is worth renewing our membership there. In fact, I recently analyzed this very question on my blog where I compared some of Sam’s Club prices to Aldi prices. You can see that here if you are curious:

    http://simplifylivelove.blogspot.com/2011/03/which-is-cheaper-sams-club-or-aldi.html

    I LIKE shopping at Sam’s Club. I don’t get the bulk of my groceries there because I have found them cheaper by shopping loss leaders at more local grocery stores. However, I have decided to keep the membership because Sam’s Club is a place we enjoy going from time to time. I like their bulk nuts, spices, and pizza at lunchtime is a cheap way to feed our family of 6! :-)

  21. We tried a Sam’s Club membership once but found it really wasn’t worth it. The grocery store that we go to typically is the lowest price in the area, at least for what we buy, even when compared to Wal-mart and Sam’s Club. Plus I just don’t have the time right now to make multiple stops so I just need to go to the one store that I feel overall gives me the largest selection for the lowest price.

  22. Jennifer says:

    I agree with everything you said. I’ve never been hassled to upgrade though. Strange.

    Other good buys are: yeast (store it in the freezer, it lasts for years), vanilla/other baking goods, & peanut butter & jelly.

  23. I have lots of items we buy at Costco that make it worth the annual membership fee. Also, in our area Costco has several programs where you buy big ticket items through them and get a discount. When we bought our van they were in such demand in our area you had to order one and pay full price since they were never on the lot. However, since we went through the Costco Auto Buy program we saved thousands. It was a great deal and it’s free with your member ship.
    Also, our garage door broke. We got several estimates. The lowest for the door we wanted was too high and we were considering living with a broken garage door and just going around and through the house instead. However, I found out that Costco sells garage doors. They go through local businesses. We got the exact door we wanted for $700 less than our lowest estimate (over 30% savings). I figured that paid for our membership for a LONG time!

  24. I just bought the $100 membership to Costco. You get a check after a year for 2% of what you spend and at least $50 to meet the basic membership fee. I don’t understand the marketing behind this. VERY curious. Any thoughts?

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      I think the cash back incentive encourages people to buy more. It’s easy justification.

      • @Jessica Fisher, Perhaps an added temptation, but there is already plenty of goodies on those shelves to tempt… I took the upgrade, and over the past two years have gotten my membership fee covered, plus a bit more. During the same two years, I’ve been shopping to build my pantry and cook much more from scratch, and dropped our grocery bill by about 30%… I don’t think careful shoppers will be swayed to buy more.

        • Jessica Fisher says:

          @Kerry D., I agree. My point was just to explain why I think it works from a marketing standpoint. We grocery geeks are a marketer’s nightmare, are we not?

    • @Cary Heise,

      I have the $100 membership as well. You get 2% back upto $50 dollars. If in case you don’t spend enough to reach $50, they give the difference back as well.

      Last year, I got the check for $17, went to the customer service and they credited my account for $33.

  25. Love Costco! We always had the Executive membership and it would pay for itself in the end. We dropped down to the 50 one because we also belong to Sam’s Club.

    I agree with it being busy so we try and go very early as in roll open the doors and we are there! We have children with food allergies and special needs so our diets and meals are all over the place. It is much cheaper to buy those products there.

    We are a family of 7 and buying in bulk saves us money. But we don’t just grab everything. My husband is always calculating the actual price per item before plopping it in. The clothes for the kids are good prices too but I tend to go overboard sometimes so I pass it up!

    Thanks for this post! Reminded me why the kids always love the dollar Churros at the end!

  26. I have been to Costco and am glad that we do not have a membership. We are careful with our grocery purchases. I think we would spend a lot more on things that we do not really need and may not be very healthy (for example, all the convenience items they offer). My grocery list is typically very small; I like creating flavorful meals from simple ingredients.

  27. We love Costco! They offer many gluten-free choices and at a better price than many other stores. Just as a side note you don’t have to be a member at Costco to go the the foodcourt or the pharmacy, anyone is welcome just tell the greeter that is what you are doing. The pharmacy in many cases is the cheapest place to go, so it may be worth it to check prices.

  28. Barb @ A Life in Balance says:

    We love Costco and shop there monthly because the closest one is about 25 minutes away. I always try to get there right at opening on a Friday morning or a Sunday morning.

    I’ve never been bothered about our membership, but my sister, my mom, and I split our Executive membership between the 3 of us. The first year it was $100 between 3, and last year because of the cash back reward, my sister and I only paid $21 each. Unfortunately, our Costco does not sell gas yet. I keep hoping.

  29. We just found out how wonderful Costco is for buying your cell phone plan. We switched from Verizon to T-Mobile and there was a penalty for breaking the 2 year contract on one of the phones. Costco gives a rebate that covers that penalty so we didn’t have to worry about it! Plus there were no activation fees at all. Super deal!

    The other thing I love about Costco is how easy it is to return things. I always seem to lose receipts even though I have a special box to keep them in. It’s not a problem at Costco, though, because all they need is your membership card to look it up. They’ve never given me a hassle about any return. It’s so wonderful!

    I too upgraded to the executive membership – again, the cash back check covers it every year!

  30. I love Sam’s. I checked out Costco and walked through it fairly quickly and decided to renew my Sam’s membership and stay with what I know. I have 7 children and Sam’s saves me money in many ways mentioned above. But it also saves me money because I don’t have to go to the grocery store as often and I save money that way.

  31. I love Costco! However, as many of you have said, you do have to be careful. I used to buy much more at Costco than I do now, but once I became a stay-at-home mom, I started looking into saving money on our groceries, and realized that Costco is not always the cheapest game in town! However, they do have wonderful deals on some things. We found that the executive membership was worth it for us, especially when our eldest was on formula. I also love Costco’s deals on cheese and ground beef – they have the super-lean ground beef chubs for about $0.50 a lb cheaper than any other place – even the discount places like Grocery Outlet. I wish I could get my hubby to drink Costco milk, because it’s SO much cheaper than Savemart! :-( He doesn’t like the taste, and I tend to be lactose intolerant, so I have no say. :-)
    Sometimes my mom and I will go together (very dangerous!! haha!) and split some of their fruit – we can’t eat three lbs of kiwi before they go bad, but if I split if with my mom, it makes sense.
    There are some things that I get at Costco that are maybe not the cheapest price, but it’s worth it for the convenience. I do get some of our paper products there, because the tradeoff of having a 3-month supply of TP and not having to be hunting for the cheapest sales was worth it, IMO. That’s the choice that we’ve made… If I find a cheaper deal on TP or paper towels, I will get them anyway, because that stuff doesn’t go bad! lol

  32. Wonderful points and I agree with nearly all of them! Our Costco is close by and I am usually in on average every other week to stock up. We do have the American Express cash back option and we do not pay for our membership, even though it is $99 – we earn well over that in our cash back. We are a family of 6 – purchase nearly all our gas at Costco when possible and stock up on regularly used items. You cannot beat milk, yogurt, cheese, and produce – you just can’t do it! Often I will treat myself to flowers too, those prices are superb as well. Thanks for sharing this :-)

  33. I would add 2 more “pros” -
    1. coupon books usually make great deals on items we like but don’t need every week (paper goods, chocolate chips, some individually wrapped treats, packaged meals, etc.)
    2. their return policy and customer service can’t be beat

  34. I love Costco and I love the Costco AMEX and the rebate we get every year! But I actually hate the samples. I hate when I’m actually trying to shop and everyone is crowded around the sample table blocking the aisle. But I think I’m alone in hating the samples!

  35. One more positive for Costco is that we’ve found that prescriptions are a little cheaper there, too.

  36. i never, ever get hassled about the upgrade…but i think they see that i don’t spend enough to make it worth it! :) i love it for the produce, yeast, real vanilla extract and butter! and the samples are a definite bonus!! :)

  37. Costco guarantees that you make atleast $50 back (the difference between the two memberships) using the Executive Membership so you can really only make money on the deal. If you spend $250 or more a month it is definitely worth it. That being said, if associates were pestering me about it all the time, I’d probably dig in my heals too.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Megan, I’m a stubborn old broad. :) But, I did check with the cust serv desk before I shopped yesterday so I would have an idea of if it would really save us money. Once I get over how pushy they’ve been, maybe I’ll upgrade. LOL

  38. I have been asked before but not pestered about the upgrading at our club. We did upgrade 2 years ago when we bought a big screen tv so the exec membership is worth it if you are buying some big ticket items. Also, the concierge service that comes with the electronics has really helped us on 2 different products, they called us back several times and called the manuf for us to help us fix the problem with the electronics so definitely worth it to not be put on hold and have someone want to help you fix the problem was great!

  39. I found they were only “bothering” me about the upgrade because they see your spending and showed me that I would have received at least $50 back. I just got my check for $86 yesterday and it is just my husband and I.

    Krissa – I also can’t stand the samples! I’m a get in and get out kind of person!

    I love Costco now that I know exactly what is a deal and have my staple items.

  40. Debbie Hawley says:

    I would like to know which saves you more money Costco or Sam’s Club?

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Debbie Hawley, one year when we lived near both, we got memberships to both. I liked Costco soooooooo much better. Sams was always crowded – their aisles are about as narrow as Walmart’s. And the selection was much better at Costco.

  41. I love Costco too and finally got my own membership after years of being on my in-laws card.

    About the Executive Membership – When I signed up I was told that they guarantee you get at least $50 back (the cost of the Exec Membership), so you may want to ask about that next time you’re in the store.

  42. Your food court is Outside! We love Costco. Have you tried the new almond-chocolate covered ice cream Bars?

  43. I agree, I love Costco. We bought the executive as we spend A LOT there. I do daycare and feed anywhere from 12 – 14 people a week. I get that $100 back and more every year. It is also the only place that I use American Express and I get a great percentage back for that too. Make sure to pay it each month so you’re not paying interest though. Costco rocks. :-)

  44. Denise C. says:

    I am fortunate to have a Costco about 4 minutes from my home. One of the days my son is in school, I take my daughter & go. She gets a snack from the table they set up in the front, & off we go. I too, like to get there first thing when they open their doors (I like getting errands done in the morning, in general). The $50 is worth it to me. Plus all those boxes…I bring a new one home, & let me kids play with them (don’t ever underestimate the power of a cardboard box!) :)

  45. KatieBee says:

    We were just discussing how many years it’s been since we had our Costco membership…about 7 years without it. I spent a lot of time walking those roomy aisles with my 2 tots back in the day…

    We canceled our membership when our kids got out of the diaper stage. But now with teens, we’re giving it much more thought…we go through a lot of fruit, vegs, meat and dairy!

    I have successfully done the coupon queen job off and on for many years, but it is time consuming. So now we’re thinking about dropping the $50 on a basic membership again.

    We think the time we save in clipping, planning and driving might be better served by stopping at one place, buying what we need for 2-3 weeks, and supplementing at the farmer’s market for fresher produce when we need it. We’ll see.

    Thanks for your sharing your pros and cons – it was a really helpful article for me today!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @KatieBee, if they sold everything, it might be the only place I shopped. But, I still have to go to the grocery or Walmart for some food items.

  46. We’re a Sam’s Club family since it’s closest. I have my usual items I buy there (cheese, butter, flour, spices). Sam’s Club has their items and unit prices online. I can check which store (local grocery with coupon versus Sam’s Club)is cheaper before I leave my house.

  47. We love Costco too. We have one less than a mile from our home. I used to feel “hassled” about the upgrade too, but decided to try it one year. I was SHOCKED at how big our rebate check was. I’m a believer now in that Executive membership for our family, at least while we are a family of 6. We buy a fair amount of food there (those items that beat the grocery pricing), but also clothing, books, a variety of bigger items once in a while. Their customer service is completely awesome. They refunded us when our washer broke just outside of warranty and gave us a new one. Unbelievable customer service.

    I too hate the samples though. Our local one is massively crowded, and those sample carts just make it worse.

  48. Great post we are in the midst of deciding to get a membership. We need to buy a new camera (the model I want is about $70 cheaper at Costco) and a car DVD system (which is about $50 cheaper at Costco) so it is going to be worth us to get the membership for these 2 purchases alone!

  49. I love Costco. I’m not sure I save much money shopping there, but I love it anyways. Milk is always less expensive, and I like that. But I can rarely get out of there for under $100 — no matter what was on my list. We do have the executive memebership, and this year we got a rebate that covered the cost of the membership, so for us it was worth it. However, we were buying diapers for my twin boys. Now that they are potty trained, and I plan on using cloth for the baby I’m expecting in June, I’m not sure it will pay for itself in the next year.

  50. I love our Costco. In order to make the MOST of our executive membership I share a membership with my sister-in-law. We are each the main cardholders (and even live in separate states). Since our hubbies are not big time ‘by themselves’ shoppers it works out just fine that we go together if they even want to be there. The only bad thing for my SIL is when there is a coupon book I have to let her know ASAP so she can get a copy at the store.
    I too am guessing that when they scan your card they are seeing how much you spend in the year. Knowing that even if you don’t make the full $100 in the 2% back, you will at least make the $50 and still only be paying $50 while getting to come in an hour earlier? Ergo making the executive membership a better deal due to the cash back feature. I too have heard of the risk free first year that if you don’t at least make $50 back in the first year they will pay the difference. While I would not say this membership makes me ‘spend more’ at Costco, it does make me more conscious about my big purchases. Meaning if I need something that is a ‘bigger expense’ than the norm, I will check Costco.com to see if they have the best deal. OR sometimes they even have stuff from Lowes or Home Depot that I will look for there first since it just makes to buy higher quality with the no questions return policy! I bought a mattress there because I have had horrible luck with them. I bought it for way cheaper than the mattress store with the peace of mind that if it didn’t meet my expectations they would take it back and give me my money back no questions asked. So far we like it very well though! Another trick to make the most of your cash back feature (if you ever do decide to ‘drink the koolaide’ LOL) Pay for your food court items at the check out register! Have them include it in your initial transaction so it counts toward your end of the year! We used to make a weekly event/incentive to take the kids out to a costco dog so this made the cash back add up too! ;o)

  51. I just spent $12.95 for 25 pounds of pinto beans at Costco after discovering 10 pounds is $10.99 on sale at more grocery store. great deal. We love Costco. We get the executive membership and we ALWAYS earn back the fee plus some. As long as we are in the diaper season of life we will keep the expensive membership. Honestly the gas and cheese may be enough to make the executive membership worth it. Oh and Dave’s Killer Bread I get 2 loaves for the price of one at the regular store. I love their 2 pound bag of brussels sprouts and mushrooms and pre-cut butternut squash. Yeah we are happy with Costco. Ours only asks you to upgrade when your purchase takes you over the amount you’d need to earn back that extra $50. It happened to be very close to renewal time, and it somehow gave us a month free, so we did the upgrade and have been very happy with it!

    • @Heather B, I forgot to mention…the inconsiderate sample eaters clogging the aisle with their carts are annoying, but I have discovered some great products I would never have purchased other wise (Pesto, for one). I have also avoided stuff I wanted to buy by tasting it and realizing I did not like it (laughing cow cheese smear).

  52. I love Costco and agree with all of your points…except we have never experienced the upgrade pressure; which I’m thankful for. That would totally stress me out!
    One of my other favorites about Costco that totally makes it worth the fee to me is their photo center. Great prices and good quality digital prints. I use it all the time!

  53. Kathy C. says:

    We belong to B.Js here, and it’s been really helpful when we have had 2 in diapers. We only have 1 in diapers, but the prices are still great and we like their baby wipes. Another bonus that no one here mentioned is that they have the carts that hold 2 kids at a time. My daughters are 18 months apart and when they were a little bit younger, it was the only place that I could take them where they could both be in a cart (I don’t care for the car shopping carts at the grocery store). It was nice to be able to shop with both of them in a cart and not have to worry about where my oldest was toddling off to.

  54. Danielle says:

    Would you still get a membership if you were only able to make a monthly trip? The closest one is 2 hrs away. A weekly trip is not in the budget.

    • @Danielle,

      I go to Sams every 4-6 weeks, I think it is worth it for the tire savings alone (got 4 tires for 230 and they offer free tire rotation). I think if you “stock up” on a months worth of supplies at a time it’s worth it.

      Since the store is so far away, you may want to split the membership with another family.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Danielle, do you make that 2 hr trip for any other reason? If you do, then yes. But, if not, no, I don’t think it would be worth the gas and time.

  55. I love Costco and probably go every 2 to 3 weeks. Yes, it can be expensive IF you dont’ have a list and find yourself browsing because those little extras cost approximately $8 each so if you picked up 4 things that’s $30 more than you anticipated. I shop with a DETAILED list, by MYSELF most of the time. In and out. A few things I hate: samples (crowds), old people who push the big cart along and only thing they are getting is the rotissierie chicken AND are sampling (lunch anyone?), lines to get out (love the self checkout but that doesn’t accept CASH). Another way to save a little money is to commit to cash only (leave debit and credit cards at home) … love the produce, cheese, milk (although, a few weeks ago, the milk was $2.99 instead of $2.29) and a few other things that I only buy at Costco. Sure, clipping coupons is still a good thing BUT figure that you spend at LEAST $1 a week for the newspaper and have to go store to store to save, so lately, I’m more inclined to just do Costco … I always publish a post on my Costco trip :)

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @jan, in defense of the old people, some need the cart to help them make it through the store easily. ;)

      • @Jessica Fisher,
        :) Yes, and I was afraid that maybe, just maybe, someone would take that part of my comment the wrong way, so let me rephrase: Myrtle and Ethel seem to make it an afternoon event, daily, each grabbing their own cart, scooting over to pick up the best rotissierie chicken they see and then proceed, side by side, to stop at each and every sample table to chat and eat :) I know that one day, I will be in that same situation :)

  56. I LOVE Costco! You have to use the membership, though, to make it worthwhile. I routinely buy our butter and milk there. Dog food–premium dog food-is MUCH cheaper there. Video games for gifts typically run $2-5 cheaper per title. Our biggest save? Kirkland brand Zyrtec. It’s priced at $15.49 for 365 pills. Yes-a YEAR’S WORTH for under $16. With 3 adults taking Zyrtec, that is a HUGE savings as store brand elsewhere is about $15 per month. The Zyrtec alone pays for our membership. LOVE LOVE LOVE Costco!

  57. Wondering if any of you can tell me, does Costco take manufacturer coupons? If so, can you stack these with the Costco coupons? Thanks!

  58. I have been on and off Costco membership and it is currently off. My reasons:
    - I wanted to start using recycled paper products as I cannot go completely cloth yet and Costco did not have them
    - I can buy many of the things I bought at Costco at Amazon.com at a comparable price and they deliver
    - One of my child has multiple food allergy, Costco did not carry most of the items that he can have

    But my biggest problem is:
    - I cannot seem to stop buying things that I end up not using, often in bulk!

  59. I love Costco for all the reasons you’ve mentioned. We did upgrade our membership to executive a couple years ago and because of the rebate you get at the end of the year we have not paid for a membership since upgrading. You can a percentage back from your purchases and we’ve always earned more than the membership fee. Pretty cool! But of course this really depends on how much you spend there.

    It might be worth adding up all your receipts to see how much you typically spend in a year to see if you’ll earn that $100 back. I buy a lot of “business expenses” there: flour, sugar, spices, nuts, oils, butter…all my baking supplies come from Costco because they’re cheaper than the grocery store and provide a great one stop shop for me.

    I love that they have started offering more organic produce. Their apples are delicious and cheaper than the grocery store organic apples. Everything is always so fresh.

    About the heavy boxes, they have been asking for the last few months at our store if I would like boxes. I say yes, but only for the lightweight/small things.

    Can you tell I love Costco?

  60. Adrienne says:

    There are so many things we love about Costco…especially the meat and the produce. Every now and then I find a totally cute article of clothing for half of what you would find it in the stores or online. My husband can always find some electronic or item he MUST HAVE for his garage as well.

    I have to say that I am VERY envious of your $3.69/gallon gas. Here in the bay area, the Costco price is $4.19 and that is the cheapest around!!!

  61. I really like Costco too!!! But, I have never been hassled about upgrading….but we do not spend alot there! I spend maybe $15 -30 every 2-4 weeks there. There are certain things I really love there, but otherwise, I do not have the money to buy everything I wish I could sometimes! I buy Romaine lettuce there always, cheese usually, milk, #10 cans, and stuff like that!

  62. I am so surprised to see that people are being hassled about upgrading so much. I live in the pacific NW and have never been hassled nor have I seen anyone else hassled. We are executive members already though. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t BUT on the year’s it doesn’t the extra cost of the membership has been refunded to us so I see this as winning either way. I pay the extra $50 at the beginning of the year for the executive membership but if my reward rebate is less than $50 I always get a “reward” for $50 which is simply my refund.

  63. I don’t know if this applies to Cosco, but I work at a doctor’s office and the local Sam’s Club ALWAYS seems to have the lowest prescription prices whenever we call and do comparisons. The most recent price comparison saved almost $50/month by moving their script to Sam’s Club. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it is worth a phone call to see if you can save big on your prescriptions too.

  64. I didn’t realize cheese was so cheap at Costco! I thought Sam’s usually had better prices. I may need to check things out again. :) Thanks for the informative post!

  65. We saved around $2,000 when we purchased our Acura by using our Costco membership! I can’t remember all of the other car brands that participate but it’s definitely worth looking into!

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