I love Costco. We've been members for about 15 years, and we shop there just about every week. There is a membership fee, so it's not for everyone, but here are my favorite secrets for saving money at Costco.
- Automatic Coupons - Every month, Costco mails its members a coupon book full of items with instant coupons for the month. I get so excited when I find items that I regularly buy at Costco anyway that have a coupon. However, don't go overboard and buy tons of extra stuff just because there's a coupon for it. You'll also want to compare prices in the store to the name brand after coupon to the Kirkland brand without a coupon. Although Costco does not accept regular manufacturer's coupons (other than the ones in their coupon book each month), you can still save with the Ibotta and Checkout 51 cash-back apps.
- Kirkland Brand - The Kirkland brand typically has good quality and prices on staples like olive oil, spices, vanilla, peanut butter, etc. Sometimes, there are even coupons on Kirkland products, too.
- Large Organic Selection - Costco has a large selection of organic products at good prices, and they even make them easy to find with green labels on the shelves for organic. Kirkland (which is the Costco private-label brand) carries many organic products too, lowering the prices even more.
- Quality Dairy, Produce, and Meat Products - Costco has the best prices on milk in my area. Plus, I really like the quality of their produce and meat. The best deals are found on in-season produce. Plus, in my opinion, the Costco hams that I buy around Christmas and Easter are the best I've eaten.
- Discounted Restaurant and Activity Gift Cards - Costco sells gift cards to a variety of restaurants at a discount and they sometimes even have an instant coupon to help you save even more on the price! They regularly have one of our favorite BBQ restaurant's gift cards for $40 for $50 worth of gift cards. Plus, you can usually find discount museum memberships close to the holidays, discounted movie tickets, and more.
- Deals on Ready-Made Food in the Food Court - When I shop at Costco during the week, I usually make a point to shop around lunch time. You just can't beat the prices at the Costco food court - $1.50 for a hot dog and soft drink (which has been the same price for 30 years!) or $1.99 for a huge slice of pizza and only $0.59 for a soft drink. We also tend to order whole pizzas from Costco on Saturday nights - only $9.95 for a whole super large pizza (12 slices).
- Save on Prescription Eyeglasses - The first time we filled an eyeglasses prescription at Costco, I was blown away by the prices. We were used to using our insurance at the local eye doctor's office and paying 3 times as much as at Costco! Costco only accepts VSP insurance, but you can file out-of-network with your own insurance company.
- Low prices on Prescriptions - Since we have to pay for our prescriptions out of pocket until we reach our deductible, I shopped around for prices on prescriptions, and Costco had one of the best prices for our prescriptions. You can use your HSA or FSA to pay for your prescription.
- Cheaper Gas - Our Costco in Michigan consistently had gas prices about 10 cents per gallon cheaper than gas stations around us, so we'd always fill up at Costco. You do want to check your local prices to see how Costco compares. In TX, our Costco is competitive on gas prices in the area, but we have another gas station that's cheaper and closer to us.
- Best deals on New-Release Books - Costco has a limited selection of books, but they have excellent prices on the ones they do have - especially new release hardcover books. Costco typically has the lowest price around, but you can always use your smart phone to compare the prices to Amazon to be sure.
- Clothing Deals - I tend to walk through the clothing section at Costco when I shop just to see what's available. Costco is always rotating their clothing. I've found good deals on athletic shorts for my boys, Halloween costumes, women's shorts and shirts, dress shirts and pants for my husband, and more. The quality is usually quite good and you can find designer clothing.
- Check the Seasonal Displays - Costco usually switches out the seasonal sections quite often. One week, you'll see Christmas gifts and goodies, the next week furniture, etc. I usually walk through the aisles just to see what they have. You don't want to make impulse purchases, but you'll sometimes find a good deal on something you've been looking for.
- Low-priced Cakes in the Bakery - Costco sells custom half-sheet bakery cakes for only $18.99, which is less than the price of quarter sheet cakes in many bakeries.
- Vacation Deals - I've booked a rental car through Costco several times. The prices are the best I've seen (with a free size upgrade included), and you get a FREE additional driver. You can easily cancel your booking if you find a better deal elsewhere. I haven't seen too many additional promotions, but last Black Friday, I was able to book a rental car for Thanksgiving and get a FREE $20 Costco gift card.
- Costco Customer Service - I have always had good experiences with Costco's customer service when I've made returns. They've even given me money back when I've made a purchase and then noticed there's an instant coupon the following week without even having to exchange the item.
- FREE Samples - My kids and I love to walk around the store trying out all the samples. It's a great way to try out new things without having to buy the product. My kids have surprised me with some of the food they were willing to try (and liked!). Although we have ended up purchasing a few items because of the samples, I try to stick to my list since each impulse purchase at Costco tends to add about $10 to my total.
As with all stores, not every item in the store is a great deal. You'll want to compare unit prices to make sure you're really saving money. Plus, it's even more important to stick to your list at Costco and avoid impulse purchases since impulse purchases in bulk can ruin your budget. You'll also need to determine if you'll shop at Costco enough to justify the membership cost.
What do you think? Do you love shopping at Costco? What's your favorite way to save money there?