Costco

Make the most of your Costco membership with the latest tips, tricks and promo codes for saving money.


Tips and Tricks to Save Money at Costco

Not all bulk shopping is a steal. Neglect your warehouse membership and you'll end up paying more for the annual fee than you get back in savings. Or fail to take a careful look at the price per unit and you could pay more at the warehouse than you would at the supermarket. With this guide to shopping at Costco, you'll avoid the warehouse-store trap and pocket some real savings.

How to Get the Best Deals at Costco

  • Know the price code. Most Costco prices end in .99, but you can tell how discounted an item is by its price. Marked down items end in .97, and items that end in .88 or .00 are manager markdowns that the store wants to move quickly—these items might be returned or damaged or have smaller quantities. If a price ends in .79, .49, or .89, Costco got a deal from the manufacturer and the item is discounted, but not as much as the other markdowns. An asterisk in the upper right corner of the price sign means the item won’t be reordered once it sells out.

  • Shop without a membership. It is possible to shop at Costco without a membership, but you don’t get all of the benefits of cash back or cheap gas. Have a Costco card-holding friend purchase a Costco cash card for you. To use the card, simply show it to enter the store and then use it for at least part of your payment method.

  • Look at unit pricing. The tricky part about Costco shopping is that prices can seem better because the quantity is so high. However, some items are cheaper per item if you buy them in smaller quantities at other stores. Some items include the price per item, ounce, or pound on the price sign; otherwise, it is up to the shopper to decide if buying that item in bulk is actually a good deal.

  • Choose the right membership. Costco offers two main membership options—Gold Star for $55 a year and Executive for $110 a year. With the Executive membership, you get back 2% of all of your Costco purchases at the end of the year. Consider how much shopping you do at Costco and if the higher membership fee will be worth the rewards when making your choice.

  • Use coupons. Costco sends a coupon book to its members every month or so, and the book is also available in store. Certain items have high-value coupons available on certain weeks, but the good news is that you don’t have to clip the coupons because they are automatically applied to all transactions. It pays to know what items have coupons each week.

  • Return items. Costco has an incredibly liberal return policy and will accept most items for up to two years after purchase, even if it has been opened and used. Keep in mind this does not apply to electronics—items like computers, tablets and cell phones can be returned only within a 90-day window. If you aren’t completely satisfied, it’s worth trying to get your money back.

  • Share with a friend. Split the cost of a membership by sharing your bulk goods with a friend—it’s a good way to save money and avoid getting more food than your family can eat.

  • Use Costco Travel. All members get access to Costco Travel, which can provide discounts on travel packages, hotels, rental cars, and more.

  • Avoid the center of the store. Costco counts on customers to fall for its promotional displays and make impulse purchases, and the center of the store is full of impulse items that aren’t as discounted. The best deals and discounts are found on the outer aisles of the store.

  • Return in store for free. Avoid paying return shipping fees by taking your online orders to the store for your refund.

When to Shop at Costco

  • End of seasons. Because so much of Costco’s inventory is rather large, the store is in a hurry to get rid of items once they pass seasonality. Look for big discounts on patio furniture, pools, and grills towards the end of summer, and big savings on snowplows and coats towards the end of winter.

  • Holidays. Costco puts lots of holiday decorations on sale starting before Thanksgiving. It also offers great deals on holiday photo cards.

  • Weekdays in the middle of the day. Costco is a notoriously busy store, especially during the weekend. Stores are emptier during the week, especially in the middle of the day, which gives you more time to shop around and think about each purchase.

What to Buy at Costco

  • Gift cards. Costco sells discounted gift cards and movie tickets that are often the lowest available price.

  • Kirkland Signature brand. Costco’s home brand, often manufactured by name-brand companies, is sold under the Kirkland Signature brand at great savings. Top Kirkland Signature deals include laundry detergent, batteries, and diapers.

  • Prescriptions. Costco’s pharmacy sells medicine at prices that are lower than most other stores. There are also often valuable coupons available for over-the-counter medicines. You don’t even need to be a Costco member to cash in on these great savings.

  • Gas. Costco requires members to show their membership card before getting gas at its stations, but the savings can add up to significantly lower prices than filling up elsewhere.

  • Glasses and contacts. Most Costco locations include a full-scale eyewear department for eye exams, glasses, and contacts. Overall, Costco has a very large selection and the prices are much lower than buying the same products from other stores.

  • Flowers. Costco sells large bouquets of in-bloom flowers that are much cheaper than purchasing from flower shops.

What Not to Buy at Costco

  • Paper goods. Costco sells a lot of paper towels and toilet paper, but the unit price can be much lower at the grocery store. When you have a favorite brand, take the time to compare prices and be consistent about where you buy it.

  • Soda. If you love to stock up on your favorite brand, you may want to do it only at the supermarket, which discounts each brand at least once a month. If you time it right, you can usually find better prices per can than you do at Costco.

  • Office supplies. It can be cheaper to buy items individually at other stores than it is to buy office items in bulk at Costco.

  • Small cans of food. Costco sells pallets of canned vegetables, sauce, and other items, but the price per can be lower elsewhere.

  • Razors. There are often manufacturer coupons available for razors, which can be used at grocery and big box stores, but not Costco. The everyday unit price tends to be lower at other places as well.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.


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