FAQ: Is Costco cheaper than coupons?

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I get many emails in my inbox everyday from you – and I’m frequently behind in getting everyone an answer. That being said, there are some questions that come up again and again. So every day through Friday, I’m going to be tackling a different FAQ.

Today’s question: Isn’t Costco a better deal in the long run than coupons?

My short answer: no.

By paying attention to store sales cycles and deals on Amazon, you can almost always best the prices you find at Costco. (And without having to pay a $50 annual fee!)

Some people may guffaw at this, so let me give you a real life example. Diapers. It seems people always think buying diapers at Costco is such a deal. Perhaps it’s because they come in a big box and you have to have an exclusive membership to shop there, so you think you’re getting a killer deal.

So here is Huggies Snug and Dry, Size 4 diapers according to Costco.com (and I know this price is consistent with what I’ve seen in stores before, too).

What you always want to pay attention to is unit price. In this instance, each diaper is $0.20.

I decided to compare this to the price on Amazon today (11/3 is the day I wrote this post).

Check it out: the diapers there (same brand, same size 4) are $0.19 each when you join Amazon Mom (free) and sign up for the Subscribe & Save service (which is a no obligation service). Plus, free shipping and no driving or membership fee for you!

I still think this isn’t a stellar deal, because I’ve seen diaper deals at the drugstores for as low as $0.10 a diaper. When you see a deal like that, you stock up. But at least this simple example illustrates that one can best Costco’s prices without too much effort.

But Costco Gives you Coupons!

To clear the matter up, Costco does not accept manufacturer coupons that you clip from the Sunday paper or print from a site like Coupons.com. However, once a quarter they will send a book of manufacturer coupons that you can redeem at their store.

So every now and then, I’ll have someone say “aha! see? Costco does take coupons!”

Hold the phone, Charlie.

Remember that the secret to couponing success is combining coupons on sale items. This means being able to shop around for the best deal to use your coupons on. When Costco issues you coupons for their products, they are controlling the show. They can change the price on those items to compensate for the coupon, should they choose.

Let me say this. I have left stores like Alberstons, Fred Meyer, and WinCo with a cart full of food for $20 or less many a time. I’ve never achieved this on a Costco shopping trip.

Costco is a Marketing Machine

I’ve written this before, and I think it’s worth saying again. Costco knows what they are doing.

Consider this. When you walk into Costco what is the first thing you see? Electronics. Now most of us aren’t going to buy a brand new TV on a whim, but chances are, you’ll take note of those TVs.

And while you don’t have $500 to blow on an unplanned purchase, you’ll next encounter other, much less expensive treats. In fact, the only way you can get to the grocery section is by walking through seasonal, books, toys, clothes, or other such temptations. These may be harder to resist.

So how is one to survive? I do have a few tips.

If you must shop at Costco, have a plan!

I know that in spite of what I say, some of you just like shopping at Costco, and I’m not about to tell you to close your membership. Heck, our family has a membership so you may on rare occasion even see my husband or I in there.

So here is my best advice about shopping Costco and avoiding coming home $200 poorer.

  1. Shop without a cart. This is perhaps the best advice I can offer. Bigger carts mean more room to put stuff in. Just go in an out for the baby formula or muffins you stopped in for.
  2. Shop with cash and a plan. Leave the credit card at home!
  3. Shop with limited time. You don’t want to browse at Costco. That’s like playing with fire. Stop in when you know you only have 20 minutes until your dental appointment. Make trips to Costco quick.
  4. Watch unit prices. As mentioned above, do break down the unit prices.
  5. Do not follow the path of the store! Do your best to not follow the path through the store that Costco has cleverly made for you. As soon as you go in, make a beeline for the groceries, avoiding the books, movie, and seasonal sections at all costs. If needed, wear horse blinders.
  6. Try Cash & Carry. This is a great alternative to Costco, if you have one in your area. They offer many of the same items, prices, and quantities as Costco and without a membership fee. While it is geared for businesses, I’ve confirmed with them that consumers can shop there as well. Please note that you can’t use personal checks there.

Concluding Remarks

You know what I find the most humorous? People often poo-poo couponers for buying 20 cans of soup at a time at the grocery store. This is surely hoarding, right? And yet, another shopper will stock up on 20 cans of the same soup and pay 50% more at Costco, but somehow this is considered smart shopping. This makes no sense to me.

I really think people have been conditioned to think that buying from a club warehouse is automatically a good deal. (Much like folks thinking thatΒ shopping on Black Friday means getting the best deal.)

Please don’t hear me say you need to run and cancel your membership post haste. I am saying, make sure to take a good look at what you are spending and saving by shopping there and consider other options as well.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a membership to Costco (or a store like Costco)? If so, what are the best deals for your family? Do you have any other tips on saving money at Costco?

61 thoughts on “FAQ: Is Costco cheaper than coupons?”

  1. We have a Costco membership through work that we don’t pay for. So weighing the cost of membership to savings is not a factor to us. We do shop there, maybe once every month or two.

    I do watch the unit costs and there are a few things that over all are best priced at Costco. Some things just don’t go on sale very often – or the specific brand/quality doesn’t. Costco is also my ‘fall back’ when I need something and I haven’t been able to find it on sale.

    Some of the things I buy from Costco:
    Tillamook cheese ~ although it does go on sale cheaper, I haven’t seen it cheaper than Costco recently.
    Wholesome Sweeteners organic sugar ~ for organic sugar, this is a good price.
    Tortilla Land uncooked tortillas ~ the only other place I’ve found them is @ Fred Meyer and they are a lot more.
    Smoked Turkey Breast ~ for slicing into lunch meat. It’s the cheapest nitrate free meat I’ve ever found. (Even cheaper than a lot of regular ‘cheap’ lunch meats.)
    Their meats are a decent quality & price if you didn’t stock up enough on the last sale. They also have a good prices on SOME of their produce (but you definitely need to check the unit price on this!).

    I’ve learned to double check the price every time you go, as the prices will change and it may no longer be the cheapest option. For a while, we were buying coffee from there because it was the best price for Organic Fair Trade coffee, but then the last time the price was up. I’m not sure if prices are up everywhere or not – so I need to do some research before buying again. Like anywhere, you can’t just assume it’s the best price.

    • Hi Diana! Do you have a Walmart? I can get Tortilla Land uncooked tortillas at Walmart for the exact same unit price (0.18/tortilla), not counting the fact that Walmart will take coupons (I found some on Ebay) and seems to have them in stock more consistently than my Costco does.

      • Anna~ thank you!!! We just recently moved to an area with a Walmart (and no Fred Meyer or Albertson’s, I’m not sure it was worth the trade off….) So I will definitely check there. And I hadn’t seen any coupons, so I will look for those as well! Thank you much!

    • Diana – the price of green coffee has increased over the past year, so every coffee roaster will be passing that on to the consumer.

  2. I don’t have a Winco or a Walmart nearby so I shop at Costco for the year round prices of maple syrup, vanilla extract, herbs, spices, children’s vitamins, zyrtec, some snacks and such. I went around Costco one trip and wrote down prices of different products that I get all the time. If I miss a sale or don’t have the coupons of some products (My area doesn’t always get the same coupons as I see posted at various blogs) and I desperately need something then yes Costco is the better price in certain scenarios.

    Electronics, clothes, pharmacy and such are sometimes a good deal. Costco has a great warranty and return policy. I’ve returned things a year later with no trouble.

    I have the Costco American Express and it pays for itself and then some with using it for gas and such. Plus, we like to take family trips to Costco to walk around and see what’s going on and get samples and end with a sausage.

    A person just has to be careful at Costco and realize what is a good price and what is not and for some of us that live in areas with limited stores that’s what we have. I mean I could drive 30-40 minutes to Winco and Walmart. They are in different towns in the opposite directions from where I live, but I’m looking at gas prices and hauling kids with me. I’m staying with Costco for some things.

    • That makes complete sense to me!! πŸ˜‰ And I agree – it’s about what’s knowing is a good price, and knowing when to walk away. πŸ˜‰

  3. I have to totally agree with you!
    Another example where you think you are buying brand named chicken cheaper (Tyson boneless, skinless frozen breasts) but I actually pick them up regularly at Winco for less without a coupon or monthly Fiesta Foods had fresh for $1.49/lb.
    Due to an unexpected surgery for me this summer without health/Rx insurance, my daughter and her husband assisted me getting my medications that cost pennies on the dollar. It would have even more savings if I would have had my own Costco membership. The cost at Walmart, Fred Meyers, Rite-Aid and Walgreens was prohibitive even with their discounts for no insurance ($91 vs $15).

  4. I’m new to couponing, so take what I say with a grain of salt. However, in the three months or so that I’ve been doing this, I still find that some things are a better deal at Costco, such as dairy products and some paper products. For instance, I get giant bags of pre-shredded cheese at Costco for the same unit price that I get block cheese at another store – even WITH the dollar off cheese coupon that we get in UT and ID. It’s already pre-shredded so I can put it straight into a container in the freezer and pull out what I need for weeks.

    I also think its important to consider quality, such as with toilet paper. I took advantage of the Cottonelle deal at Walgreens last month, and got 12 rolls for 0.15 each (or so). It was a really great price per roll, but I swear each one of those rolls only lasts a day or two in our house (of only two toilet-trained adults!). I actually made a really dorky spreadsheet where I can compare how LONG products last me and how much I use per month so I can be really deliberate in my stock-piling, and TP is one of the first things I’m comparing. I’m starting a Costco roll of TP this morning, so we’ll see how it goes. πŸ™‚

      • I thought it was an amazing idea too, but from the look I got when I told my husband that for a few months he had to inform me every time he started a new roll of TP, tube of toothpaste, or bar of soap… apparently he doesn’t agree with us! πŸ™‚

    • I have to agree with you. I bought a ton of the Cottenelle because it seemed to be a better deal than what we were paying at costco and our rolls lasted a day! I have been following another blogger who did do a spreadsheet of TP prices at different stores and costco’s Kirkland Signature brand was the 2nd cheapest. We have done less shopping at Costco but I will be going back for their TP because for where I shop and what is closest to me, this is the best deal by far. The other item I found the cheapest at Costco was their maple syrup which my family consumes a lot of.

    • Anna, I am 100% with you on Costco’s TP and shredded cheese. Somehow we let our membership expire last summer and I cannot tell you how much I missed my Kirkland TP! Just 7 years ago I was exclusively Cottonelle girl. I will buy TP at different stores if sales are great but so far I cannot find anything even close to Costco’s brand. That alone will be enough for me to buy their membership, LOL. After I started couponing and following several blogs, our trips/spending at Costco drastically went down. Besides TP, cheese and a few other items, we get their gas. My husband just renewed our membership (after it expired 4 months ago) and signed up for their AmEx credit card. I will be paying it down every month but we wanted to see how much in their rebates we’ll end up at the end of the year. I am also happy that it does not have an annual membership fee unlike other AmEx cards.

      • For what its worth, we got back about $35 last year and we’re two adults who buy some, but not tons at Costco. (We’re buying less there now that I’m couponing.) We try to get all our gas there, but we inevitably have to settle for a higher price sometimes when we’re not near a Costco.

    • Only once in my career of couponing have I got Kraft shredded cheese for free with coupons. It was $1.50 a bag, then there were $1.00 off 2 blinkies, then when you bought 10 bags you got a $5 Catalina. I got 100 bags total and it lasted it about a year. The rest of the time I have purchased it at Costco.

    • My husband works for Kimberly Clark they make Cottenelle and Scott BUT also the Kirkland toilet paper and he said its by far the best of all of them because of the stuff in it eucalyptus and the size of the rolls etc and stuff about toilet paper I never knew about lol so its actually the best deal out there.

  5. I would agree with Anna about the contonelle TP deal at Walgreens. I swear we went through it so much faster then the TP we have been getting at Costco, not the Kirkland brand. Also I agree on eleronics. We were looking for a new laptop. If you buy it at Costco you get a two year warranty with it, at Office Max a very similar laptop was about $75 cheaper, good savings, but to get a two year warranty it was more than $200. If you buy eletronics with a Costco Amex then you get a 3 year warranty, so an extra year, for free, Office Max was over $300. At that point I felt the extra $75 was worth it.

    • My stock up price for TP is $.25 for a double roll. If I can get a 12 pack of TP for $3.00 I think that is a good deal. Sometimes this can be arranged via Albertsons double coupons or a Catalina deal like on the Cottonelle a year ago at Safeway.

  6. I shop at Costco about once a month, for very specific things. The main item I love at Costco? Cat litter. Costco’s lemongrass cat litter is the very best I’ve ever found. It costs $8 for 30 lbs, and it’s only available at Costco. Worth the membership fee? Not by itself. We also buy Hebrew National hot dogs there, which again is around ten dollars for a huge pack. Occasionally I’ll find them for a similar price at the grocery store, but it’s rare. It’s also hard to beat their packs of four rump roasts for $13 or so. Batteries. Cat food. Occasionally laundry or dish detergent. All in all, I probably spend $500 or less per year at Costco. But I do believe that the things I buy there are the best deals I’ve found on these quality items.

  7. Did you know that Costco will let you have a “spouse” on your membership who isn’t really your spouse? I share a membership with a friend. Only one of us gets the monthly coupons but the other just grabs the book from customer service, it’s never a big deal. This does mean that my husband doesn’t have a Costco card but we’ve managed to work around that just fine.

    We live 1 mile from a Costco and I regularly use it for the following:
    -Tillamook shredded cheese (as a previous poster mentioned as well). Tillamook is one of the only affordable cheeses that is truly vegetarian and that we actually like the taste of. A deal isn’t a deal if it tastes like rubber and fills my family with unwanted ingredients.
    -Bread – we like particular brands that, even on sale, aren’t as cheap as Costco. Again, this is a quality issue about what I feed my family. The loaves at Costco are cheaper and longer than in the stores so it is a better deal all around.
    -Kirkland brand soy milk – Can beat the shelf stable deal. I never get enough coupons to combine with sales to keep us well stocked from stores.
    -S&W organic diced tomatoes – just last month they had a bogo free deal on their cartons of tomatoes. They were less than $.50 per can for organic diced tomatoes . . . . just in time for me to make lots of freezer meals!!

    Finally – because we live so close, we often get a pizza from the food court on Friday nights. One $11 pizza feeds the family dinner then lunches for the next 2-3 days. We haven’t found a frozen pizza brand that we like except my homemade ones and I can’t always stay ahead of my boys’ pizza obsession.

    • I will say that the food court has some strong deals! Plus, I like going on free sample day. I just have to be careful to not be tempted to buy lots of items I didn’t plan on! πŸ˜‰

  8. We have a Costco membership. With using the American Express Card, we get cash back. The membership pays for itself, so there is really no out of pocket expense. We have 6 children who I homeschool.

    Add to that we only have one vehicle, which my husband drives to work every day, and since he works long hours, I don’t have a vehicle and the ability of going store to store for lowest prices. I shop at Costco once a month, stock up on what I need, then I don’t have to follow sales at so many other stores. I may not get the absolute rock bottom deal on toilet paper, but then again I have plenty sitting in my pantry and I don’t have to worry about finding it on sale. That beautiful mental “space” is so freeing!

    And I save alot on gas, because I don’t have to drive to different stores each week. I get the rest of what I need at Fred Meyers (following this blog; thanks, Angela!) using their VISA card so I get double rewards.

  9. I think Costco is like anywhere else — you have to be aware of what a typical price is for an item so you know if it is really a deal or not. Some of the best deals I’ve gotten there aren’t on food or paper products, but on bigger purchases.

    As a couple of the other comments have mentioned, electronics can be a great deal, and not just big purchases like laptops. I bought a new set of cordless phones for my landline there recently, for $15 less than the best deal at Walmart (and it was a better brand). We’ve also purchased a couple pieces of furniture at Costco. It’s a good combination of price and quality. Better than we could find at any of the other big box stores, but a lower price than going to a high end place.

    Also, my favorite wine is $4 less per bottle at Costco than at any other store in town, and $2 less than making the 40 minute drive out to the winery and buying it directly!

    Plus, sometimes shopping at Costco is just fun. My SO and I like to just wander around and see if we can find something fun. When we go, I figure out how much we are going to spend on the items on our list, and I bring that much in cash plus an extra $20 or so. With the deals I have been getting on much of my regular shopping, sometimes it is nice to buy something just as a treat. We found a marinated tri-tip roast in their meat section this way, and it has become one of our favorite dinner items (and, it is reasonably priced compared to what I would spend on a roast at WinCo).

  10. I <3 Costco. I think what you have to consider with regard to the prices is more than the monetary value. For example, the quality of products, customer service, warranty protections, and ease of returns are just a few things. I consider shopping at Costco like buying clothes at Nordstrom rather than Walmart. You get what you pay for.

    Some of my favorite things about Costco:

    1. Prepared/frozen foods that are all natural/organic for low prices, often found on sale {Yep, Costco does have sales put on by the manufacturers}
    2. High quality generic products made by Kirkland. Their diapers are the only ones that won't give my son a diaper rash. Also, their formula prices can't be beat.
    3. I can try anything there and return it if I don't like it, even food. {I have certainly done this.}
    4. One stop shop. The time I save at Costco is worth it to me. The gifts I get at Costco, especially around the holidays are amazing. Last year we got some kind of Handy Manny thing there for $20. I saw it later for $69 elsewhere-might have been Target. Also, the kids clothes in particular are really cheap. The same Carter's outfit at the outlet or Target will cost you at least $3 more.
    5. They are always running specials on high ticket items. For example, last month they had Dansko shoes on sale for $70. That's FIFTY dollars cheaper than you can find them ANYWHERE else. And, Dansko's are like Apple computers. You can't get them cheaper. So, it's items like these you will find huge savings on at Costco.
    6. Costco has an amazing warranty program. If you buy electronics there {which are ALWAYS an amazing deal}, you get the manufacturer's warranty for one year, and Costco adds an additional year to the warranty.
    7. My favorite thing: $1.50 mocha!

    But, you're right, you can often find cheaper prices on SOME of the products. Many people I know shop at Costco because they don't have time to do coupons. And, in that sense, they are certainly saving money on their stockpile items, especially if they buy with the coupon booklet. And, like any department store {I run into this problem at Fred Meyer}, you must exercise self control when shopping there.

    FYI, the coupon booklet actually comes out once a month now.

    • I totally agree about the specials on high ticket items. I found high-quality snowshoes – which are totally on my Christmas list – for $60 at Costco the other day. (They start at about $100 other places.) And I’ve bought a bunch of clothes there over the years as well. It’s always worth looking there first at least. I’m always surprised by the random stuff they have at (sometimes) awesome prices.

      • I just bought some cute clothes there this past weekend. And, they are higher end name brands, like London Fog, DKNY, Ralph Lauren-for CHEAPER than the outlets! And, I don’t have to go the outlets!

  11. I have been debating the Costco membership for a long time now. It seems every time I go in there (which isn’t much lately) they no longer carry the items I really need or want. Currently we only use the memebership for a few selected things. One being ground turkey which is $2.29 a lb. That is by far the cheapest I have seen it. I am sure I could get it cheaper with coupons and such but I can never get enough coupons to even make a stockpile on that. I also love buying their cherry tomatoes . It’s $4.99 for a huge container and at the grocery store it’s $4.99 for this small container.

    Essentially we have been using the membership for gas. But in all honesty I can get gas the same price and or cheaper at other locations. Their cheese is not that great of a sale either, if you compare and don’t care if it’s Tillamook or not.

    So yes I go with a plan/list and only get the stuff on the list. No way would I ever walk out of there paying more than $100 unless I am bulking up on my meat products.

  12. I love Costco! I have been a Costco member for over 20yrs(Thanks Mom and Dad for paying my membership dues every year!)….back when you had to be a business owner or a member of a credit union.

    I love the one stop shopping and the samples!!

    During the summer, I took my daughter and her friends to Wild Waves and we ate at Costco afterwards….much cheaper than eating at Wild Waves!

    From what I hear….The City of Fife does not have a grocery store and the Costco in Fife caters to that area and has items that do not have to be purchased in bulk.

  13. I have been couponing for 2 years now, and since I have finally relaxed and don’t go chasing every deal at every store, I have been shopping at Costco more and more. There are some things that are just flat-out not good deals (such as canned soup, cold cereal, candy). But there are items that are amazing deals!

    The BOGO case of organic diced tomatoes with the coupon was an amazing deal this past month. I stocked up on 20 cases of diced tomatoes and paid less than 50 cents a can for each! I was so excited.

    If you prefer to buy mainly organic or natural products like I do, Costco has some great prices. I love their deals on organic produce and you can’t buy cheaper organic lettuce, spinach, and carrots anywhere else. Same with their bags of organic sugar and rice.

    While I used to shop at Safeway, Albertsons, Target, Win-Co, Rite Aid and Fred Meyers every week, I pretty much just shop at Rite Aid, Fred Meyers, and Costco now. Though it costs a little more, my family, home, and myself are happier. πŸ™‚

  14. I love Costco! We go every two weeks! I can get great prices on meat, produce, Tillamook cheese, and milk. These are things you never or rarely see coupons for and if they are on sale at the grocery store Costco usually will be better priced. I have learned that I am not cut out for going from store to store to get the best deal that week so Costco works for my family. Their products are great quality and they have a great amount of organic and more natural foods. I also love their photo center, electronics, and books. I have to say though, if you have the Fred Meyer fuel discounts the gas price at Fred Meyer is cheaper than Costco and my husband can get diesel at Fred Meyer.

  15. I have so many friends who go to Costco once a week that if I really need something, I just ask them to pick it up for me.

    These tend to be things I can get more cheaply elsewhere with coupons, but they’re items we use up faster than the sales cycles (natural peanut butter, Spray n Wash, saran wrap….). Costco sort of holds me over between great deals on these select items.

    We did buy diapers at Costco until I discovered couponing, and I shudder to think of what we paid! By the time baby #2 came along, I learned about stockpiling and had a wall ‘o diapers in our spare room I’d bought for less than half the Costco price.

    I think they’re a good company, and I know they treat their employees well, so I have no problem with people who love to get their Costco shop on. I just know that for us there was too much temptation behind every corner, and it literally seemed impossible to walk out the door without spending at least a hundred bucks-often two. I think much depends on your shopping personality. My husband isn’t normally a huge spender but something about Costco brought out his hunt and gather instincts!!

  16. We shop at Costco 1-2x per month and we always plan it around lunchtime. It’s a fun, cheap meal out with $1.50 hotdog&drink or a slice of pizza for $1.99. Our membership has also been free through my hubby’s job.

    While we do not have the space for many of the large packages at Costco or stockpiles from other stores, I do find that Costco has certain items that a) you cannot find elsewhere b)better price c) convenient size/pkg or d) quality. When you weigh all of that, I find that buying SOME things at the Big Warehouse are better for us.

    double packs of bread (price/convenience)
    triple packs of seedless cukes (price/quality/convenience)
    double packs milk (price&convenience)
    LG box of kitchen trash bags (lasts a VERY long time=convenient)
    lg jar of sun-dried tomatoes (quality/price/convenience)
    Salt & Pepper grinders (LOVE them)

    Thanks for your Costco summary, Angela. I agree with you.

  17. Looks like you hit on a hot topic!!!!

    We let our membership lapse and just re-upped a few weeks ago for a few specific reasons. I’m sharing them because maybe these are treasures that not everyone has found yet…

    We upgrade our phones through them. Costco’s prices are often better than the Verizon store. How can we resist?

    Gas: their gas prices are hard to beat in my area.

    Dairy Products: I love their Raskas cream cheese for less than $2/#. I rarely if ever see Philadelphia that cheap with coupons and sales and we use a lot of it (great in scrambled eggs). We also use substantial quantities of sour cream ($3.49 for 48 oz) and half and half ($3.29/.5 gal). And, they sell Dairygold Egg Nog as cheap as I’ve seen it anywhere… LOVE.

    Agave: I am hypoglycemic and a coffee drinker… I sweeten my coffee with agave. It makes me a better Mommy.

    Bananas: I often buy the baking bananas at QFC or Fred Meyer, but it’s oh so much easier to buy 3# for $1.32. I always buy a ripe bag, a slightly green bag, and a very green bag.

    FRESH Broccoli Florets: I feel like these are a splurge because I could probably find it a little cheaper if I were willing to wash it and cut it up, but why would I if I can buy 3# of broccoli florets, washed and ready to eat for around $1/#. I bake it, steam it, or eat it raw. Like I said, we had let our membership lapse so when I bought a bag the other day, my 4 children ages 5, 4, 2, and 1 ate 1/3 of the bag… ONE POUND or broccoli for dinner one night. Love!

    Organic Chicken Base: It’s found near the spices and it makes good broth – not too salty. It’s cheaper for the big organic container there than the little non-organic container at Fred Meyer. I use it in soups all the time this time of year.

    Corn Chips: great deal, good quality.

    Also, Costco has an incredible return policy. They always seem to err in the customer’s favor. It’s nice to always be right … it’s not like that anywhere else in life ;).

    I know that I may not save hundreds/year beyond the $50/year membership, but I’m certain I break even and then some every year!

    PS… Do a huge stock-up trip just before your membership expires and don’t re-up until you absolutely have to. For us, that’s about 2 months. Then, the clock starts over again and do the same the following year ;). You could almost say that you get 2 free months a year.

  18. I’ve found the big box of Quaker oatmeal at Costco to be a better price than Winco’s bulk bin, so we go there about once a month to stock up on that. We also typically get string cheese there, and the Kirkland whole bean coffee (which is roasted for them by Starbucks).

    The main reason, however, that we keep our Costco membership is that we have two cats and Costco’s price for Frontline flea stuff is half of what I can find it anywhere else, even online! Between two cats, that alone pays for the membership.

  19. The trick with Costco is to not assume that everything is a good deal. For some products I’m willing to pay for the bulk so I don’t run out. Our big one is toilet paper. I really hate keeping up with the TP sales. So I just buy it at Costco. I use the gas station a lot too. My weakness is the free samples. I try to go to Costco on days where I don’t have the smells of yummy new products floating in the air. For some reason I can resist samples at the grocery store but not Costco.

  20. I shop at Costco to support local business and the well paid union workers that have excellent benefits there. I dont know about the other stores, what their workers get paid. I do know other retailers are open on holidays when Costco is not….a nice perk for workers to spend those days with family. There is a list of regular items that I buy at Costco….milk, TP, almonds, dried cranberries, gas, spices, butter, eggs, car oil, roast chicken, kettle chips, prescriptions,(better price than any store around I find) ,order my bank checks and….eat at the snack stand. I almost never go beyond $70.00 when I shop there.
    All retailers are “marketing machines” thats part of retailing, tempting the customer to purchase items.
    I also shop at Cash and Carry, Safeway, Freddys, Target, Amazon( but I wont do the subscribe and save deals unless I truly am going to subscribe). I do not shop @ Walmart.

  21. I live five minutes away from Costco and I keep my membership for the $5 roast chicken alone! Ha – not really but I think the chicken is an amazing deal and a yummy dinner! I love Costco because it’s convenient and I can find good quality items there all year round. Also, their customer service is great and they are a good company who treat their employees well. I’m a thrifty lady and I say Costco is a keeper for me!

  22. My husband works for Costco and I have been couponing for almost 3 years. We do not get a discount but get an Executive Membership for no cost. I have learned a lot about what is a good deal and what I can get for better prices at other stores. The things we buy regularly are milk (we have 3 boys and go through milk like crazy), strawberries when they are in season, bananas, carnation instant breakfast, cheese, Kirkland Signature Formula when I was bottle feeding. They are very good at marketing and I have to be careful not to get sucked in, but they do save me time and when I weigh that against running from store to store and getting glued to the computer it makes it worth the extra dollars. We also had to get new tires for our cars and they had the best deal by far. You just really have to watch the prices but you can find great quality merchandise for a good price.

  23. We hadn’t had a membership in years, because we could get things at better prices elsewhere. We have one now because we don’t currently have health insurance and our 4 year old wears glasses. 4 year old– glasses, those two things do NOT go together. The glasses are priced well and the technicians are very good at fixing badly bent frames; )

  24. The eye exams at mine are $50, the local eye places charge about $100 and I’ve brought my contact lens wearing friends in so they could save between $25-$50 on their exams.

    I buy random stuff there like the 9.5lb 1/2 sheet birthday cakes for $14.95, Mission tortilla multi packs that are about $1 less than Winco, a massive box of Kirklands version of Lactaid pills was like $14.95 and I haven’t even put a dent in them. My coffee pot was $15 less than retail, my ice cream maker was $20 less (must have since there are no lactose free ice creams in my area), books are generally half of retail, the best nonstick pans I’ve owned were 3 for $14.95.

    When shopping @ Costco you just can’t go off like you are preparing for a zombie apocalypse and assume the prices are better when you buy your pallet of socks and batteries.

  25. Their Allertec (generic Zyrtec) is a ridiculous deal! 365 pills for about $17 (haven’t purchased it since last year). I love Costco and obviously agree with not getting sucked in. So many things though that ARE a good deal.

  26. I don’t know that anyone’s mentioned it – but I’m curious about Costco’s Travel deals. Have any of you taken advantage of those? Saved a lot of money booking travel that way? Curious…

    • We used them for car rental last year when we went to Hawaii and it was a serious steal. I don’t remember how much we saved, but it was a VERY significant savings. Enough of a savings that we ended up getting an additional vehicle for our group.

      • My cousin lives in CA and does all of her traveling through Costco Travel. The last time I looked the cruise deals for Europe were really good but if I remember the fine print you had to have the Executive account to get them.

    • Yes, we booked a cruise through them last year. We were open to purchasing the cruise from any travel agent or the line itself, depending on who had the best deal. Costco had the best deal (we already have a membership) and the sales staff was no-pressure. It was a good experience.

  27. I have a membership to Sam’s Club. I go there to buy produce, lunch meat, and cheese at consistently low prices. Also baking items and spices. I always check unit prices and I also keep an eye out for a better deal in the regular stores. However, these are items that my family consumes on a very regular basis in high quantity regardless of the sale cycles so that is why I choose to buy them at a club store.

    One time I wanted to buy some popcorn kernels in bulk, but I knew I would not be able to use 50lbs (it worked out to about 25c per pound). I found 3 people locally that were interested in splitting it with me. It worked out to be $4 per person, but they were so grateful to be getting 12 pounds of popcorn for so cheap that they all gave me a $5 bill! Worked out nice and I only spent $1 on my share of the bag.

  28. We have a membership for us its a good deal we got the american express card through them where we earn money back plus we get our gas there and earn back on that also. Temptation is so hard there! We have the occasional times we go off our list and get a set of cookie sheets (just last week but at $14.99 it really was a good deal for the set) or christmas dresses or pajamas. But only when those things are really a good deal. We get their Kirkland formula for our daughter there, the 5lb bag of hamburger…yes there are better deals but worth the money in convenience there already packaged into 1lb rolls and have no fat, chicken breasts, energy drinks, dish soap, toilet paper, laundry soap, fruit snacks, their brand of gatorade, eggs, milk, olives, banana’s and coffee beans that we grind ourselves at home. Those are things we always get there and rarely anything else unless it is a good coupon that month because I can get much better deals at the grocery store. I could probably get some of those things cheaper at the store too but with 3 kids theres times I’ll pay the little extra for convenience and not having to make a trip to the grocery store. Plus I love shopping at Costco its so much easier than the grocery store the food samples will keep my 3 year old preoccupied almost the whole trip!

  29. Ive been couponing for over 30 years (Im 49 and started couponing in college), and have had a Costco membership for 15 years. Awhile back, one other couponing newsletters posted a Costco excel spreadsheet (I’d love to give credit, but I can’t remember which one), and Ive edited it to include the things I buy on a regular basis. Yes, there are many things that with sales and couponing are less expensive than Costco, but there are many that cant be touched! I do a lot of baking, and Costco’s prices on baking supplies are fantastic! Yeast, 32 oz for $3.89 CANNOT be beat! Yes, its a years supply, but after only a couple of loaves of bread, it’s paid for itself, compared to grocery store prices. Flour at $.31 per pound and sugar at $.61 per pound are also great prices. I also buy spices, dried fruits, fresh veggies, some dairy products (their milk always lasts longer, plus feta and shredded parmesean), paper goods, and Food Saver bags at Costco. Having the spreadsheet handy when the grocery weekly ads come out makes it easy to see if the stores really have a good price or not. If you have the room to buy in bulk, and a Food Saver, Costco can save you money, but you have to know the prices!

  30. This Costco shopper/couponer was thrilled to see the Costco coupon for the large bag of Nestle chocolate chips, just in time to stock up for my Christmas fudge. I had already bought a bag the week prior for $8.75. I was practically drooling when I saw the $5 off coupon! Low and behold, when I went to pick up the chocolate chips, the regular price had magically increased. I had no idea that Costco raised prices on coupon items. Now I am certain I get a better deal shopping coupons at grocery stores. (I have the receipts, if you are interested.)

  31. Things we get at costco because they are cheaper than elsewhere:

    Cat food (kirkland brand – first ingredient is chicken which is rare in cat food these days)
    Cat litter
    Espresso beans (although the price just went up by $2 *grumble*)
    Aidells chicken sausages
    Giant hard cheese blocks – asiago is only around $6 /lb there which is unheard of!
    Toilet paper (although only b/c DH is spoiled now and hates anything else)
    Chicken nuggets (occasionally can find a store deal that matches / beats but when costco issues a nugget coupon the prices are insane)
    Deli chickens
    Carter’s kid footie pajamas
    Baking staples

    Things that are rarely cheaper at costco include: individual sized can goods like soups and pasta sauces, bread (horrible prices!), many produce items, many meat items, and all the other random junk in the store!

  32. I pay for the membership because of the cat litter and cat food. I have two cats and both the litter and the food last me a month maybe more. What is Winco? Probably don’t have it in Alaska.
    Something’s like soups and whatnot are cheaper at Walmart, and we have a Fred Meyer but I’ve never seen super great deals there.
    Honestly, the cat food and cat litter are great deals.

  33. Okay so I’m a tad disappointed. My boyfriend and I are on a VERY tight tight budget. We move into our first apartment together on the 14th of Feb. I go to a local college online full time & by full time i mean OVER TIME 8 classes rather than the average 5. I also work full time @ 40 hours a week. My boyfriend goes to school online as well but works part time. We have one car and 2 kids (one mine one his). We live in this tiny little town called wasilla alaska.. We have a walmart, safeway, target, walgreens and fred meyers. Needless to say the only “cheap” store to shop at in our town is walmart. Target charges an arm a leg and a kidney for everything. same with safeway and walgreens. Fred meyer isn’t generally cheaper here either. My best friend was telling me about how costco is so much cheaper on baby stuff like, diapers, wipes, pediasure ect. The only catch is costco is 50-60 miles away from wasilla. I dont have time to coupon juggling school, work and babies.. So I made the mistake of stocking up on coupons i ordered on ebay (lots of 100 different coupons for 1.00) without checking to see if costco accepted them. So now…. I’ve spent money on coupons im not sure ill use. I’m not sure if it will be beneficial for me to drive to walmart shop around, drive to fred meyers and shop around, and so on so i can use my little coupon stack or if it will be better for me to go to costco and shop in bulk.
    We have a very tiny little car (40$ fills it up) so I’m not sure if driving to costco will be more in gas since i cant use my coupons rather than going to walmart down the road and using my coupons. The only thing I have a problem with is organizing them and making sure they dont expire.. Anyone have any tips or advice? Costco or walmart? Ugh.. Im so disappointed in myself for not checking costcos policy. πŸ™ fortunately I haven’t gotten a costco card yet so I still have time to think about this.

    • Oh…and I would’ve told you….NEVER buy coupons on ebay! That is rarely worth the expense and it’s not a legal use of coupons. If you’re new to my site, might I recommend you start at my Coupons 101 page? I advocate a balanced approach to couponing & frugal living – and NOT just using coupons.

      I would also say – see if you can’t seek out a coupon blog for Alaska. I know things are different there – and tougher, no doubt. Looking for the trusted advice of someone that’s navigated your area would no doubt be really helpful!

      Good luck.


  34. Costco Unit Price WARNING! I have found on two separate occasions in the past 2 months that the unit prices are incorrectly calculated at Costco (North Memphis, TN). I’m not one to vigilantly question such things, and each time I only checked 10 or so labels for problems, so these encounters make me think that at least 10% of Costco “unit price” labels are incorrect. Needless to say, while I still look at unit price, before putting the item in my basket I do a little mental math to make sure the unit price is at least in the ball park.

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