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I have always been someone who loves a great deal. I try to keep my eyes peeled for opportunities and great prices for things everywhere I go. I always check my flyers and a few other apps, but one that I don’t check nearly often enough is Groupon. While most things on the site aren’t really a necessity or something I want, every once in a while, you can find a hidden gem. After all, it’s how I scored a Costco Membership for only $15! They had a special promotion, where if you bought the $60 membership, you’d get a $45 gift card which could then be used on anything in the store (a.k.a. groceries I was already going to buy.)
A Costco membership was something I’ve debated for a while now. While you have to be careful not to get carried away (ever heard the running joke that you can’t leave without spending at least $200?), a Costco membership can actually make a huge savings.
Knowing Your Prices
Having a general knowledge of what items are typically priced at a typical grocery store, will help you know if the Costco price is actually a discount or really just a higher volume of products at the same price. Having flyer apps like Flipp on your phone where you can immediately check the price difference really helps with this!
When you only buy the things that actually are a discount, and you know you and your family will go through, then it can definitely be worth it.
You’re not saving money if it goes to waste
Sometimes buying in quantity is great, others not so much. One of the biggest problems people run into with buying in bulk, especially when it comes to perishable items, is that it won’t all be consumed before it goes bad. As someone who lives alone, I must be especially careful of this.
So, anytime I’m debating something, I ask myself, will I eat all of this in a week? If not, can I freeze it before it goes bad, and will I eat it after it’s frozen? If the answer is no, I won’t do it. Just because I’m getting more for my dollar, doesn’t mean I need to spend those extra dollars. If the answer is yes, and it sticks in my budget, I’ll get it.
Having a budget
A grocery budget is going to look different for every family. After all, there are so many factors to consider between income, family size, where you live, and your needs. As a single woman living alone (dog not included), I try to stick to about $250 a month. (For some great grocery budgeting tips, check out this article I wrote about what’s on sale and when.)
One of my favorite tips to stick to a grocery budget is to make sure I eat before I shop. With that cheap little food court, every Costco has, I know that almost every time I go, I’d buy their hot dog, that’s always $1.50. After all, it’s a fun treat, tasty, and even cheaper than a coffee. So, something I’ve started doing is grabbing a hotdog before my shopping. Not only does this cut back on my impulse shopping due to hunger, but it also stops me from ordering more food than I need or want after shopping because I spent too much time trying samples and becoming starving. Within my own shopping, I notice at least $20 less of impulse shopping, no matter what store I go into. And considering I always try to keep my weekly shopping to $50, that’s a significant chunk of change.
If there are different things I love snack-wise at Costco, I try to alternate the weeks I buy them. One week I might buy 1 bag of chips that’ll last me a solid 2 weeks, another time, I might buy the giant jar of mayo, because it’ll easily last me a couple of months, and it’s a good snag.
So what do I actually buy?
While I love so many things that Costco sells, there are only some things I buy there.
I actually buy almost all my dairy at Costco. And by all, I mean my coffee cream. I use about 1 small carton of cream a week between my coffee and cooking. Costco always has the lowest price on cream. Even when it’s on sale at other stores, the Costco price still usually averages $1-$2 cheaper. That savings alone would pay for my membership in a year.
Breads, wraps, and naan, oh my!
I find that if you eat any type of bread, tortilla, pita, or anything of the like, it tends to be cheaper at Costco. Keep in mind that you’re going to be getting triple the amount, so, if you’ll go through it, or have the freezer space, it’d definitely be worth it.
While I personally don’t get bread (I maybe go through one loaf a month), I buy the naan every 1-2 weeks. I find it extremely versatile, and as someone who absolutely loves pizza, it makes for a delicious 5-minute personal pizza in the air fryer. I honestly eat these mini pizzas most days, in some form or another. Usually with broccoli since it’s my favorite pizza topping. (I’m not kidding, just ask my mom and sister. It’s always been my favorite.)
Whether you use K-cups, ground coffee, or whole beans, Costco usually has a better deal. I personally drink Folgers coffee, and I quickly came to learn that Costco carries the big containers of it, for the same price (and sometimes cheaper) than the small containers of the same brand in a traditional grocery store. Since I drink half a pot of the stuff a day, that extra savings is well worth it!
Not every Costco has a Costco gas station, but when they do, it’s a great place to get gas. In Canada (where I live), I have found that, on average, the gas at Costco is about $0.10 cheaper a liter than any of the other local gas stations. In the United States, it varies from about $0.05 to $0.30 cheaper a gallon (averaging at about $0.15).
A few more do’s
Here are a few more things that I will often buy at Costco, that are either cheaper or the equivalent of a sale price at other stores:
- Rotisserie Chickens (Usually $2-4 cheaper than an uncooked whole chicken, and absolutely delicious. I easily can make a week full of meals out of it)
- Cheese (especially if it’s on sale!)
- Some produce (make sure to check comparable prices at other stores. You’ve got about a 50/50 chance of getting it cheaper elsewhere.)
- Pet Food (If your pets will go through it fast enough, the Kirkland brand pet food is usually a great price and a pretty good quality for what you’re paying)
- Cleaning supplies (oftentimes, if you can afford to buy in bulk, it’s worth it)
- Energy Drinks (While I’m not a big fan of them, for those who are, Costco usually has the best price)
- Batteries (I personally don’t go through enough, but if you go through a lot of them, such as for toys or video games, it might be worth it!)
- Passes (From movie theaters to amusement parks, if you’re already planning to go, Costco usually has a deal that can quickly add up to big savings. This also makes for great gifts!)
- Over-the-counter Medications (I’ve found that with things like cold medicine, allergy meds, or pain relievers, it tends to be a better bargain. Just make sure it’s something you’ll actually go through before it goes bad.)
A few things to consider about Costco
While getting a Costco membership, or an equivalent, like Sam’s Club, can be a huge money saver, sometimes it can wind up costing more. If you don’t have one that’s local, or it’s a significant drive you wouldn’t otherwise be making, it may not be worth it when you factor in the price of gas and time to get there and back. While I do drive about 25 minutes to get to Costco myself, I live in a town without a grocery store, so I’m driving 25 minutes, regardless of whether it’s to Costco or another store.
Do you shop at Costco?
What do you think? Would it be worth it to you and your family to snag a Costco membership? Do you already have one? What are some of your must-haves from Costco, and the things that you find are often cheaper elsewhere? Let’s discuss this in the comments!
About Chloe Morgan
Chloe Morgan grew up living with a tight budget. In her late teens and early 20s, all the lessons she’d learned started to slip, as it does for many college-age students on their own for the first time with their first credit card. As she’s gotten older, she’s started to deal with the repercussions and has taken on a frugal way of living, keeping her costs low, as she pays off debt and saves for her future. Chloe lives in Northern Ontario, Canada, with her dog, Rhea.
Check out her work on TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com where she writes about food, frugality, finances, and self-reliance, or her work on Medium, where she writes about lifestyle, mental health, and writing.