Can a Costco Membership Save You Money?

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Live cheaply.

A lot of people seem to have a love or hate attitude towards warehouse stores, but I’m a proud Costco member with a card because it saves me money.

With only two people in our household, we don’t do all of our shopping at Costco, but there are some great deals that keep us going back about once a month. So, is it worth the cost of a membership?

Here’s how I save money at Costco and avoid the (expensive) pitfall of overspending on bulk products.

How much does a Costco subscription cost?

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Annual Costco Gold Star membership costs $ 60, while executive membership is $ 120.

Executive membership allows you to get 2% back on most purchases at the end of the year. If you don’t get enough discounts to cover the cost of upgrading to the regular membership, Costco will refund the difference.

What I found is that with careful shopping, either level of membership can save you money.

How I save money with Costco coupons

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Our Costco shopping trips are based on the monthly coupon book they send out to members. Many articles are not a good deal without coupons, which tend to repeat themselves every three or four months, so by the time I miss an article, it is likely to appear in an upcoming book.

With Costco coupons, I find great deals on peanut butter, Starbucks or Kirkland coffee (roasted by Starbucks), canned soup, Ziploc bags, Kirkland eco-friendly laundry detergent, dishwasher tablets, cooking spray, DiGiorno or Costco takeout pizza. (which can be frozen) and kitchen trash bags.

What should you buy from Costco?

While coupons are great savings, some items, especially fresh produce, are always cheaply priced, with or without a coupon. For example, a huge 1 pound container of Earthbound Farms organic spinach costs $ 3.99 (the store also has a spring mix). The same container in a grocery store costs $ 5.99 or $ 6.99.

Of course, plus sizes aren’t a good deal if they go bad before you use them, so think about your family size and eating habits before purchasing the “economy plus size” of perishable items.

Bananas are a lot, but we often find they are too ripe for the two of us to consume them fairly quickly, unless I plan to cook with them. Six of their red, yellow, and orange peppers cost $ 6; the standard sale I see in the grocery store is three for $ 5. Berries can be found cheaply at different times of the year.

Other great deals at Costco (prices vary by region)

Customer walking past alcohol at Costco
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Butter: 4 pounds for $ 7.50, or $ 1.87 a pound compared to $ 2 a pound at the grocery store. Butter sticks freeze well, so I like having more around.

Grated cheese: A 5-pound bag of mozzarella at Costco costs about $ 11.50, or $ 2.30 a pound. At the grocery store, an 8-ounce bag on sale typically costs $ 2 or $ 4 a pound. When we get home, we divide the cheese into freezer bags and use 1 pound at a time. Shredded cheese can be frozen with no loss in quality or even texture, and you just need to take it straight from the large bag of Costco cheese and disperse it into Ziploc freezer bags without any further preparation. We make a lot of homemade pizzas, and the pre-frozen cheese works and is just as good.

Almonds: $ 4 per pound compared to $ 6 or more in groceries.

Baking soda: 13.5 pounds for $ 6.50, or the equivalent of 48 cents a small box at the grocery store. There are tons of uses for baking soda, so I like to keep a big bag handy.

Heinz white vinegar: $ 3.29 for a 1.32 gallon jug compared to about $ 1 for 16 ounces in the grocery store. I use white vinegar for cleaning, so it’s a big saving and more convenient.

Costco Cottage Cheese: 3 pounds for $ 4.99 versus $ 2 a pound at the grocery store

Organic olive oil: 1.5 liters for $ 9.99, which is half the price of comparable organic brands. Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one of the few brands that doesn’t blend with cheaper refined olive oil according to a study cited by CBS News, and Consumer Reports rated it “Very Good”.

Organic canned black beans: $ 6.79 for eight cans compared to $ 1 per can in grocery stores; sometimes Costco offers a coupon in addition to this price.

Kitchen trash bags: 200 for $ 13.99, and I never have a problem with them. There are also sometimes coupons in the Costco book.

High quality cheese: Prices vary widely, but Costco has some great deals on specialty cheeses, including a 19-ounce wheel of brie for $ 7 to $ 8, perfect for the holidays.

Costco Food Court

Costco Food Court
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If that culinary talk has made you hungry, you can try Costco’s food court. My husband sometimes sneaks in for a hot dog and a soda for $ 1.50.

You can certainly feed a family here for less money than at a fast food restaurant, and it could be a bargaining chip to get the kids to behave while shopping.

Clothing and other great deals at Costco

Costco Pharmacy
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A few other Costco buys we’re happy with: No-iron shirts and sweaters for men and women under $ 20, 50 photo Christmas cards for $ 14.99, two chunky baking sheets with lids for $ 14.99 and the lowest price we could find for car rental for a Hawaii vacation.

The store also offers some of the cheapest prescriptions, even for non-members. Unlike most drugstores, Costco puts prescription prices online so that you can find the best deal.

What not to buy at Costco

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Not everything is a good deal at Costco, of course. I rarely buy health and beauty items there because I can find better deals on drugstore sales using the manufacturers’ coupons.

We also didn’t buy electronics from Costco as we can usually find better deals online (although the store’s 90-day return policy on electronics is generous).

And while Costco has some decent deals on meat, I usually find better deals by shopping the sale at a few different grocers.

Costco Price Codes

Costco Wholesale Warehouse
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Costco doesn’t display selling prices except on certain coupon book items, but there are ways to tell if the items are discontinued or downgraded. Read the article “Secret Price Codes Will Save You Money At Costco. “

Costco Return Policy

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The store also has a very generous return policy, a 30-day price adjustment policy and a 100% risk-free membership guarantee – you can cancel for a refund if you’re not happy. These make a Costco membership a very low risk purchase and can be the final point that helps you decide whether or not to purchase a membership.

What is your shopping experience at Costco?

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, sometimes we receive compensation for clicking on links in our stories.

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