How to Get the Most from a Costco Membership

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With so many stores offering bulk packaging without an additional membership fee, wouldn’t it be smarter to shop those stores and skip Costco?  Not necessarily.  That membership can pay for itself several times over if you know these few tips and tricks to scoring the best deals at Costco.

  • 1) Buy Without a Membership!


    • Hit up someone you know who has a membership to buy you one of the Costco cash cards.   You can get in the store and make purchases with that Cash card without having a membership.





  • 2) Know Your Prices!


    • No matter how many tips or tricks you read, nothing will help you as much as knowing what the pricing should be on your favorite items.  Don’t just compare Costco’s price to the everyday shelf price at your grocer; compare it to their best price over the quarter.  Knowing the best price on your favorite items will help you determine which items are a great buy at Costco, and which items you should buy elsewhere.




  • 3) Get Your Prescriptions at Costco


    • Their prices are usually better than drug stores and big box stores.  Plus, you can fill a prescription there without an annual membership.  It’s definitely worth a call!
      • A Consumer Reports article shows Lipitor is $17 at Costco.  Compare to $56 at Sam’s Club, $68 at Walmart, $65 at Walgreens, and $84 at local grocery stores.




  • 4) Grab Gift Card deals!


    • Score discounted gift cards for events, entertainment, and more.  For instance, you can get a 4 pack of Regal movie tickets plus two $10 concession gift cards for $49.99.





  • 5) Use Your Coupon Book!


    • Costco mails their members coupon books regularly that make their everyday prices even lower, or even better check out their new app to get all the coupons there!





  • 6) Buy their Generic Brand.


    • In a lot of cases, the Costco generic brand, Kirkland, is manufactured by the name brand guys but you’ll pay much less.  The batteries and diapers, especially, get rave reviews.






  • 7) Try New Things with their Unlimited Free Samples!


    • Costco is known for being a sample oasis.  You can practically have a whole meal with all the samples you’ll enjoy.  Here’s the trick, though.  Those free samples are meant to get you to try new brands and stay in the store longer.  The longer they keep you in the store, the more chance you’ll spend more green.  Be a smart shopper and stick to your list while chowing down the free samples.




  • 8) Shop the Middle!


    • Unlike most stores where endcaps host all the great deals, Costco puts its best deals in the center aisles of the store in what as known as action alley.  These center spots are prime realty so look for enticing pricing from vendors.





  • 9) Watch for Close-Outs!


    • Costco prices usually end in $0.99 meaning that any other number is likely a deal.  Prices ending in $0.97 are markdown items, and if you an asterisk on the tag as well, they’re not going to restock.  Those are typically the best deals!  Prices ending in $0.49, $0.69, etc are usually special vendor deals.  They’ll give you a bargain, but not as much as the closeouts.  If you find a price ending in $.00, that’s a manager markdown.



  • 10) Save on Gas


    • Save at least $.10 a gallon on gas when you fill up at Costco.  That’s a deal!






  • 11) Ink Refills!


    • Quit paying $50+ per ink cartridge and take your empties up to Costco.  They’ll refill them for as low as $7.49! Saves your pocketbook and the planet.





  • 12) Costco Services


    • Costco offers competitive prices on more than just bulk food.  They have partnerships that will get you nice deals on furniture, automobiles, vacations, and more.  While some of these services won’t be the right price for your family, they’re definitely worth an inclusion in your comparison shopping.



  • 13) Best customer service!


    • Hands down, Costco has the best return policy around, and that includes their membership.  If you’re finding that Costco is not a good fit for your family, they’ll refund the membership fee!  Most electronics have a 90 day return policy, plus many come with a 2-yr warranty at no extra charge to you.  You have to love a store that doesn’t try to push an overpriced warranty.  On top of that, they have a 30-day price guarantee.  If you buy something that drops in price within the next 30 days, you can bring your receipt in and get the difference refunded to you.


  • What Not to Buy:


    • We want to hear your opinions on what items are not a great buy at Costco.  Here are a few products we would suggest getting elsewhere:
      • Soda – If you wait for deals at your grocer, you can beat Costco prices pretty easily.
      • Books, CDs, and DVDs – Amazon will beat them almost everytime.
      • Canned Vegetables – If you buy the huge cans and can store them, you will get a great deal, but if you’re buying the bulk packs of the normal 15-16 oz can, you’ll get better pricing at your grocer.
      • Meats- Okay, this is a tricky one because if budget is your primary concern, then their meats are not priced very low.  If quality is what you’re looking for, you can’t go wrong with Costco meats.
      • Cereal – Another win for the grocer.  My local grocers sometimes go as low as $.99 a box and if you add on coupons, it squashes Costco pricing.
      • Produce – If you have a smaller family or can’t eat a 9 lb bag of oranges before they perish, you’re not getting a good value.  You’ll also find that prices on produce stay relatively the same year-round meaning you’re missing out on those in-season pricing deals (Note that if you have a larger family that consumes a lot of produce, you can find really great prices on these items so this would be moved out of the items not to buy).
      • Printer Paper – Office supply chains will give you a much better bargain and usually will ship them free.
      • Health & Beauty Items like razors and shampoo – Target, drug stores, and even grocery stores offer much better deals.
  • Best Buys:


    • Rotisserie Chicken at $4.99!
    • Hot Dog and Drink Combo for $1.50 – same price since 1976!  All beef.  YUMMY! Tip- You can pay for it with your other stuff and show the receipt.
    • Birthday Cake Half Sheet for $18 – grocers sell half that for more!
    • Diapers – wait for their coupons.  It’s such an easy way to save money on diapers.
    • Kirkland batteries
    • Olive Oil
    • Trash bags