Costco is a global retailer with warehouse club operations in eight countries. This membership warehouse club has more than 50 million members worldwide and offers low prices on wholesale goods and quality brand-name merchandise. In addition, Costco offers a number of specialty departments for vision and hearing aids, photo development, and gas.
To start shopping at Costco, you’ll have to become a member. Costco offers three membership levels:
- Executive: $110 per year
- Business: $55 per year
- Gold Star $55 per year
And before you get turned off by the annual fee, you should know that Costco gives a full refund in case a member is not completely satisfied with his/her membership. Therefore, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
And to be honest, whether or not the membership will pay off depends on your shopping habits, the size of your family and how frequently you like shopping. In general, the Costco warehouse membership club will save you money if you shop smart.
10 Ways to Save Money at Costco
1. Shop Online
If driving to the store, looking for a parking spot, being in a crowded place and waiting in lines is not your favorite thing, then simply shop online. In fact, you never have to step foot in a Costco warehouse to save money with your membership – you can visit their online store instead.
Costco website offers huge discounts and plenty of special deals on everyday items and exercise equipment, large appliances and luxury items that you simply won’t find in the store.
You should also download the Costco app that highlights available deals and offers, and allows you to clip desired deals to your shopping list.
2. Learn Costco Price Codes
If you want to save money at Costco, you have to know their secret price codes as they indicate whether the item is discounted and specially priced.
In particular, you should look for:
- Items that end in 97¢ – these are marked down from the regular price, which usually ends in 99¢
- Items with pricing like 89¢, 79¢ or 49¢ – these typically indicate items that Costco got from the manufacturer at a special (discounted) price. Therefore, they are cheaper, but in most cases not as cheap as the 97¢ markdown.
- Items with the asterisk (*) in the upper right corner of the sign – these are the items that won’t be reordered. Therefore, if you really want them, you should buy in bulk.
- Items with 88¢ or .00 endings – these items have been discounted by the store’s manager in order to sell the product very fast
3. Use Costco Coupons and Rebate Apps
Even though Costco doesn’t accept manufacturer’s coupons as they already offer amazing deals and cheaper prices, you can still use coupons distributed by Costco. Therefore, before shopping, make sure to check online coupons and save even more money. And in case you need some help with your couponing skills, we have the perfect guide to help you get started.
In addition, you should also use rebate apps such as Ibotta, Checkout 51 and mobiSave that will increase your savings. With these apps you can submit receipts and get cash back (up to $3). And as rebate apps are a great opportunity to significantly reduce your shopping bill, we have an entire guide dedicated to them, so make sure to check it out.
4. Start buying Kirkland Brand
Kirkland is Costco’s in-house brand that accounts for about 20% of the products in the store. It includes everything from pet food to men’s clothing to laundry detergent.
Kirkland brand’s products are far from generic – in fact, they have remarkably high quality items at a significantly lower price. Moreover, some items come from the same factories where name-brand products are made. Their top-rated products are organic foods, bacon, liquid laundry detergent, toilet paper, batteries, baby diapers, ice cream and bacon.
Overall, the Kirkland brand is as good as your favorite name-brands, but comes at a cheaper price.
5. Look for the Discount Aisles
All stores pay special attention to the way they display their items. Everything has to be at the right place to encourage customers to purchase more items and spend more money than they initially planned. Moreover, the flashy displays that you simply can’t miss are always at the front of the store and contain expensive items.
However, all stores have the so-called discount aisles – a special section containing heavily discounted items. For Costco, that place is in the “center court”, so you should always look for the pallets in the middle of the store.
6. Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk usually saves you the most money. The only problem with this kind of shopping is the storage space and the number of items you have to purchase to get a bulk discount. Therefore, it’s wise to partner up with a friend or a family member and go bulk shopping together. You’ll split the bill and the products, which is the perfect scenario for everyone.
However, before bulk shopping, always calculate the cost per item to see whether it pays off to buy multiple items of the same product. If the savings are not significant and the deal is not right, then simply walk away.
In addition, be careful while purchasing perishable items in bulk. You should always consider whether or not you can properly store the item and use it for a long period of time. Also, only purchase items that you really need as there’s no point of having 30 turkeys if no one in your family likes them in the first place.
7. Snack for Free
If you like saving money, then a strange, but very efficient way is to go during lunch or snack time to the warehouse clubs and get free food. This is a great way to try new products without committing to the 5-pound bag. The sample sizes are surprisingly large and you can go back 2-3 times until you are full. Besides, even Costco will welcome you to try as much as you like.
And while free samples are amazing, make sure not to let Costco get into your head with their generosity. After all, there is a reason for promoting free samples – they help spark sales and convince customers to purchase something they otherwise would not buy. For example, Costco’s frozen pizza had a 600% sales boost after being offered as a sample.
Therefore, we always recommend shopping online or having a shopping list and sticking to it.
8. Shop During the Summer Closeouts
Costco is known for giving huge discounts on large summer items like pool toys and patio furniture right before the summer season is over. They need to free up space for the next season’s merchandise and therefore offer amazing deals that you simply can’t ignore. For example, you can purchase barbecues, camping equipment and beach chairs for less than half of the original price.
9. Shop Without Membership
If you are still hesitating and are unsure whether a membership would pay off (and it would), you can ask a friend who is a member to purchase a Costco Cash Card that works like a gift card and allows you to test the membership without becoming a member.
In addition, you can purchase prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco, visit an optometrist and eat at the food court – all without a membership.
10. Shop Elsewhere
Although this advice sounds strange as we are discussing ways to save money at Costco, but sometimes the best approach is to purchase items elsewhere. You have to realize that the store with the lowest prices on all items doesn’t exist. And even though Costco is cheap and great for most products, some items are cheaper elsewhere, especially if you can purchase them on sales with coupons.
With that being said, browse the internet and look at other stores to see what’s on sale and whether it’s cheaper.
What to Buy at Costco
The best way to save money at Costco is to know what items are generally cheaper. This list includes, but is definitely not limited to:
- Diapers & Wipes – when combined with a Costco coupon you can save $5-$6 per box of Kirkland brand diapers (Huggies makes them so they are great)
- Gasoline – it’s always cheaper
- Prescription & Vitamins – Costco sells the most inexpensive prescription drugs (no membership required)
- Cleaning Supplies – including dryer sheets, fabric softener, laundry detergent, wipes and Swiffer refills
- Paper Towels and Toilet Paper – go for the Kirkland brand (it’s the cheapest)
- Plants and Flowers – no one can compete with Costco’s price on plants, trees and flowers
- Dog Food – in general, it’s half of the price of pet stores
These were just some of the thousands of products that are incredibly cheap at Costco and worth your time. In the end, it’s up to you to find the best deals that save you the most money.
Costco is truly a goldmine for bargains. There are countless opportunities to save money, which can be overwhelming at first, but you’ll get used to it quickly.
So sign up for a membership and apply the above-mentioned tips and start saving money at Costco.