Costco Wholesale Discounts, Deals and Coupon Codes

Does Buying In Bulk at Costco Actually Save You Money?

You could be saving big at Costco... but only if you're shopping smart.
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While in the Costco checkout line last month (with a packed-to-the-gills shopping cart in tow), the cashier told me it was that time of year again -- my membership had expired. Shelling out the $55 annual fee always prompts me to ask my husband one question: "Does shopping at Costco actually save us money?"

His answer is always a resounding yes, but I wasn't totally convinced. So I decided to do some serious digging into the whole buying-in-bulk thing. If you've been thinking of getting a Costco membership (or considering ditching your current one), you'll want to see what I found.

Membership Fees

I started by zeroing in first on the membership fees. Costco offers two membership options for regular shoppers: the basic Gold Star Membership and the Executive Membership. The upgraded Executive Membership comes in at double the price of the basic membership with a $110 annual fee, but it also has some additional perks. The biggest draw is a reward certificate given to you at the end of each membership year worth 2% back on pretty much all of your Costco purchases. According to MarketWatch, the upgraded membership fee pays for itself if you spend roughly $230 a month over the course of the year.

You can reap even more rewards with Citi's Costco Anywhere Visa Card. It also doles out 2% cash back on all Costco purchases, along with 4% back on gas, 3% back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases, and 1% back on all other purchases.

In our house, we opt for the bare-bones membership and pay using cash or our debit card, but when I started actually crunching the numbers, it became clear that my husband was right -- shopping at Costco definitely saves us money, even without the 2% back of an upgraded membership.

How Much Can You Actually Save?

Turns out, it's actually quite a bit. Our approach is simple: We buy all of our grocery staples at Costco. Things like meats, coffee, paper towels, and toilet paper all fall under this category. Doing a price comparison with our local Publix grocery store easily shows why this is worth it.

Below is a side-by-side price comparison between my local Costco and Publix, purchasing store brands at both places whenever possible.

When I subtract the $55 membership fee, Costco still ends up saving our family more than $650 per year. Paper towels were the only item that came out a bit cheaper at Publix, but in this case, you get what you pay for. We've tried the Publix store brand before and found them to be less absorbent than the Kirkland brand.

Shop Smart to Save Big

It's definitely easy to over-spend at Costco and even easier to fall victim to deals that you don't need. To actually save on your bulk shopping trip though, you need to follow a few rules:

1. Make a List (and Stick to It)

Going into Costco without a list is a sure-fire way to go over budget.

"The way that you get sucked into spending a ton of money, and the way that I need to be mindful personally, is by the impulse buys," says thrifty lifestyle blogger Rachel Teodoro. "I still won't walk down the center aisles of Costco, or even the outside area where they've got all of the office supplies and home DIY stuff because all of a sudden I feel like I need six full-size rugs and 23 throw pillows."

Costco knows how to tempt you. Every time you go there, it's raining free samples. While there's no shame in making a lunch of Costco samples, don't let them lure you into purchasing things you don't need.

2. Be Aware of Their Price Protection Policy

A lot of people are unaware of Costco's price protection policy, which is pretty solid. If you purchase something that ends up going on sale with 30 days, Costco will refund you the difference if you have your receipt.

I called my local Costco to see if there are any exceptions. They only one they gave me is if the marked-down item is discounted because it was a display model. (FYI, Costco also has a really reliable return policy.)

3. Be Mindful of Waste

Do you really need a gallon of mayo? Costco is all about ginormous packaging, which is why I rarely pick up anything perishable there. (I individually freeze all the meats we buy.) On more than one occasion, I've had to throw away packages of rotten fruit, expired snack bars and the like, simply because we couldn't eat it fast enough. Unless you have a huge family or you're throwing a party, opt for items that either have a long shelf life or can be frozen.

3. Take Advantage of Their Discounted Gift Cards

Costco offers a whole slew of discounted gift cards and tickets, from local movie theaters to five-star restaurants. Stocking up on a few makes for great go-to gifts for friends and family. A great example is this Universal Studios Hollywood Annual Pass, on sale for $109.99. On the Universal Studios website, the cheapest available price is $129.

4. Shop Around

Since Costco indeed sells huge portions, it can be tricky to compare prices with your local supermarket, but I promise it's worth it. To start, always double check the price-per-unit if it's listed since that's the easiest way to compare costs. Additionally, check the weekly grocery store circulars for better deals. For example, I always buy laundry detergent at Publix. Why? They run BOGO deals all the time, which ends up saving me money in the long run. It's all about paying attention.

Shopping around is especially important when it comes to big-ticket purchases. Those amazing deals that pop up occasionally for things like TVs or appliances may be for low quality models or lesser-known brands. Teodoro learned this the hard way when she went through Costco to buy new tires.

"Tires seemed like a way better deal at Costco, but in the long run, it ended up being a really poor decision for us to purchase tires there," she says, adding that they ended up having to be replaced sooner than anticipated. Even so, she says that Costco is still a go-to destination for her family of five.

********

Does buying in bulk save you money? Share your shopping hacks in the comments below! And don't forget to check Costco's February coupon book for additional savings opportunities.



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About the Author
Marianne Hayes Contributor

Marianne Hayes is a freelance writer, wife and mother in Tampa Bay. After earning a degree in journalism and creative writing from the University of Central Florida, she spent nearly a decade getting lost in New York City and Los Angeles before making her way back home again in 2014. Marianne's writing has appeared in a variety of publications including The Huffington Post, Forbes.com, LearnVest, The Daily Beast and more. When she's not writing, Marianne is usually cruising her local bookstore with her two daughters.

19 Comments

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#2
Is there a link where this is posted? Because all I see is weird formatting text on my phone .
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#3
Quote from toolatedarling
:
Is there a link where this is posted? Because all I see is weird formatting text on my phone .
ignore it. this is a Costco shill pushing their membership. Costco will never save you money on fresh breads fruits and vegetables. your better off with a Aldi and normal grocer for that on top of it this post says you have to spend 230 a month to have your membership paid for. that's literally over 2,500 a year in frozen meat and dry goods. if your wasting a ton of plastic cups and plates it can work. those are cheaper. if you go online and do a price comparison you are way better off going to Walmart for some items per oz or item (diapers, feminine pads, etc).

I just priced diapers and a pack of number 3 was huge and over 13 cents per diaper for their store brand. I checked and a 222 pack of target brand diapers was .131 cents each. I checked Aldi and their big 96 pack was .1301 cents each. further if you wait you can get a target dead on diapers that gives you a gift card back etc.

in short watch slick deals for what you need and unless you really need to buy over 250 a month in 100% name brand stuff (cereal etc it's still cheaper at Aldi to buy their store brand per oz than the name brand from club stores) than stock with shopping around and stocking up on sales.
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#4
Is your mobile browser up to date?

Here's the link: https://slickdeals.net/article/news/does-buying-in-bulk-at-costco-actually-save-you-money/
Quote from toolatedarling
:
Is there a link where this is posted? Because all I see is weird formatting text on my phone .
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
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#5
Are we also Aldi shills? : https://slickdeals.net/article/news/aldi-the-supermarket-that-combines-quality-and-low-prices/ ;-) Oh, hey! It's the same author!

Also, 7 cents a diaper is a good price with 10 cents being the average for size 3: https://slickdeals.net/article/buying-guide/are-you-paying-too-much-for-diapers/

The $230/month spend is how you can benefit from the optional, more expensive Executive Membership -- most people probably won't get this; just small business owners. It has nothing to do with the normal membership level.

Thanks for reading the Slickdeals blog!
Quote from burner1515
:
ignore it. this is a Costco shill pushing their membership. Costco will never save you money on fresh breads fruits and vegetables. your better off with a Aldi and normal grocer for that on top of it this post says you have to spend 230 a month to have your membership paid for. that's literally over 2,500 a year in frozen meat and dry goods. if your wasting a ton of plastic cups and plates it can work. those are cheaper. if you go online and do a price comparison you are way better off going to Walmart for some items per oz or item (diapers, feminine pads, etc).

I just priced diapers and a pack of number 3 was huge and over 13 cents per diaper for their store brand. I checked and a 222 pack of target brand diapers was .131 cents each. I checked Aldi and their big 96 pack was .1301 cents each. further if you wait you can get a target dead on diapers that gives you a gift card back etc.

in short watch slick deals for what you need and unless you really need to buy over 250 a month in 100% name brand stuff (cereal etc it's still cheaper at Aldi to buy their store brand per oz than the name brand from club stores) than stock with shopping around and stocking up on sales.
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Last edited by andrew_chen February 8, 2017 at 02:47 PM.
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Our community has rated this post as helpful. If you agree, why not rep wateristasty?
#6
Quote from burner1515
:
ignore it. this is a Costco shill pushing their membership. Costco will never save you money on fresh breads fruits and vegetables. your better off with a Aldi and normal grocer for that on top of it this post says you have to spend 230 a month to have your membership paid for. that's literally over 2,500 a year in frozen meat and dry goods. if your wasting a ton of plastic cups and plates it can work. those are cheaper. if you go online and do a price comparison you are way better off going to Walmart for some items per oz or item (diapers, feminine pads, etc).

I just priced diapers and a pack of number 3 was huge and over 13 cents per diaper for their store brand. I checked and a 222 pack of target brand diapers was .131 cents each. I checked Aldi and their big 96 pack was .1301 cents each. further if you wait you can get a target dead on diapers that gives you a gift card back etc.

in short watch slick deals for what you need and unless you really need to buy over 250 a month in 100% name brand stuff (cereal etc it's still cheaper at Aldi to buy their store brand per oz than the name brand from club stores) than stock with shopping around and stocking up on sales.
Hey bud, Costco gas is consistently $0.20/gallon cheaper than any other station in town here.

The membership pays for itself on gas alone for my family.

Never mind the savings on good quality meat and clothes.

Find me better shirts for the price than what Costco sells.
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#7
Besides the gas, if you do lots of travel, the costco rental car prices are fantastic as well. You get 1 free drive (which is easily worth $10-15/day), plus generally the best prices. Even as someone that has a good corporate discount, costco can often beat that rate.

Also costco brand wines and liquors cant be beat. Absolutely fantastic stuff bottled under the Kirkland Label for 40-50% of the name brand stuff.
Quote from wateristasty
:
Hey bud, Costco gas is consistently $0.20/gallon cheaper than any other station in town here.

The membership pays for itself on gas alone for my family.

Never mind the savings on good quality meat and clothes.

Find me better shirts for the price than what Costco sells.
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people need to buy stuff...who the hell cares for few $$ here and there on annual basis...of it's closer to your home and have the items of your need. It's ok. If not like for me, it's not ok. I hate costco which treats customers like shop lifters and check the receipts at the exit by a fat/old person. To me it's very demeaning and disrespectful.
Are they so low tech?? every store has the electronic buzzers for that.
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#9
any deals on Costco memberships ? I see deals on Sams Clubs all the time.. Trying to decide if its worth the extra to join Costco over Sams Club... We don't spend over $1000 /year in Sams
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Quote from adibiz
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check the receipts at the exit by a fat/old person. To me it's very demeaning and disrespectful.
Yeah, um - Pot, meet Kettle.
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#11
Why buying tire at Costco is not a good idea?
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Quote from adibiz
:
people need to buy stuff...who the hell cares for few $$ here and there on annual basis...of it's closer to your home and have the items of your need. It's ok. If not like for me, it's not ok. I hate costco which treats customers like shop lifters and check the receipts at the exit by a fat/old person. To me it's very demeaning and disrespectful.
Are they so low tech?? every store has the electronic buzzers for that.
Every warehouse club (BJ's, Sam's, and Costco) have people checking cards going in, and checking receipts going out. I think it would be too easy to walk out of these places with something you didn't pay for.
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I'm sure the savings scenarios are regional. I drive by a Costco on the way to work, so buying gas there makes a lot of sense. The bagged salad and ground beef prices are the lowest around. I can always find paper products cheaper on Amazon. Kirkland laundry detergent is an awesome buy and it beat Tide in a Consumer Reports test. I often go there for lunch. You can get a hot dog, slice of pizza and a drink for under $5.00! Not the healthiest meal around, but it's cheap and reliable. I'm always tempted by the prepared meals near the meat section, but they are a horrible value.
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Quote from GGGG
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Why buying tire at Costco is not a good idea?
This paragraph really needs to be expanded upon or removed. What is the scoop on Costco tires?

Also 515 K Cups per year? Has the author looked at actually brewing a pot for a much lower cost per serving?
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I go to Costco for weekly gas, its on average 15 cents cheaper and my truck gets better gas mileage (I was getting 20 on average with shell, or Valero, I am getting 22-22.5 on their gas. We have done the comparison and based on what we buy, it saves us on average $75-$125 per month. In regards to tires, I would like to hear the commentary on that, I am going to be buying a set of tires soon. They charge 15 to mount balance and road hazard, you cant get that where I am for less then 30 a tire. Also, their car battery warranty is unreal, its 36 months no proration meaning if your battery fails, you go in and get another one, no charge.
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