Shopping At Costco: The Lazy Way To Save Money On Almost Everything

After writing my posts on our monthly expenses, many have asked "Why do I shop at Costco?" "You have that fee to pay.." "I can get a better deal elsewhere..." IMHO: Costco- a great balance of quality and price...lazy way to save? Perhaps. But, I've done the running around to find the best deals..Costco is still in the top 2 for savings. Add the Costco points from the Executive membership with AMEX points and voila! I'm fast becoming quite the Costco addict...perhaps buying some $COST shares are in order... An article from HowToSaveMoney.ca explains my choice to shop at Costco well:

February 8, 2011 by SavingMentor

CostcoWhen it comes to everyday shopping value, Costco truly is the cream of the crop and it is very hard for them to be beat in regards to value because they have great prices on above average quality products. Most people have shopped at Costco at one time or another, so I may be preaching to the choir here, but there has to be at least one person out there that still hasn’t given them a chance!

What do I mean when I say it is the lazy way to save money? Well, you definitely aren’t going to get the absolute lowest price when shopping at Costco. If you look out for amazing loss leader sales, you will often be able to beat Costco’s prices just by doing that. Then, if you combine a good manufacturer’s coupon with said sales, you are practically guaranteed to get a better deal elsewhere. However, finding cheap prices that way requires vigilance and dedication as well as potential trips to several stores with a lot of time wasted and money spent on gas!

When you shop at Costco, you are almost always guaranteed a more than competitive price and a selection of products that is heavily screened for quality. It is very rare to find an inferiour product at Costco as it seems every product has been hand picked to the highest quality and even products you see in other stores often come with an added feature or bonus to make them just a little bit better. But more importantly you will save yourself a whole lot of research and time making Costco the perfect choice for busy people focused on advancing their career (i.e. making more money) and their family or even those just looking to maximize their efficiency and free time while still saving money.

Shopping at Costco is actually almost too easy as you always find so many great products that you never knew existed before, so you may end up spending much more than you originally intended to. To stay on budget, it is important to go in with a list of things you need and then stick to it religiously. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Costco Pros

  • Prices that are as good or better than typical sale prices you will see elsewhere all day everyday.
  • An amazing selection of products that typically exude both quality and value.
  • A return policy that is the best in the business.
    • Most items can be returned indefinitely even without the receipt or packaging for almost any reason.
    • Computers and most electronics now have a 90 day return policy as the previous unlimited return policy was being severely abused on these items.
  • Free extended warranty on TVs, projectors, and computers up to 2 years from the date of purchase.
  • Free technical support provided by Costco themselves on many electronic devices and computers by calling 1-866-231-9731.
  • Extra large parking spots and shopping carts so you always have lots of room and space!
  • In store coupons and coupon books for added savings on some of their more popular products.
  • Cheap and good fast food restaurant located in the store if you feel like binging on some junk food.
  • Free food samples handed out at a multitude of stations as you walk throughout the aisles, especially on weekends.
    • People have been known to go to Costco for dates and outings just to sample the free food!
    • I may have done this once or twice myself, but shhh – don’t tell anyone!

Costco Cons

  • Required annual membership fee costing a minimum of $55 that can be shared amongst family.
  • Manufacturer’s coupons may not be used at Costco; Only store coupons they issue themselves are permitted.
  • Potential for large crowds and long lines because Costco is a very popular and is usually quite packed.
    • This gets even worse on the weekends.
    • Fortunately they employ a lot of checkout workers to keep lines moving quickly.
  • No shopping bags or bins are provided at the checkout, but they might give you a recycled box if you're lucky!
  • Large sizes can lead to waste if you aren’t careful to freeze excess food items or share them with others.
  • Potential for increased driving time and gas used to get there because each city usually only has one Costco.
  • Good possibility of spending extra money because of how effective the store is at displaying and selling products.
  • Their range of products isn’t quite as good as Walmart and large grocery stores, so you may need to do some shopping elsewhere on occasion.
  • Credit cards, other than American Express, are not accepted.

Good Things To Buy At Costco

Not everything at Costco is a fantastic buy, but most things are at least decent. Here is a collection of a few things that I think provide exceptional value when bought at Costco:

Mattresses – These are always cheap at Costco and you don’t have to wade through the overpriced jungle that is your local mattress gallery or department store. At Costco you are bound to get a great mattress at a fantastic price without needing an 80% off sale or doing a lot of intense haggling; No high pressure sales tactics either!

Furniture – The selection is limited but you can find a variety of furniture at Costco ranging from dining rooms tables and living room furniture to computer desks and bookshelves. The quality is usually far superiour and the price is often much cheaper than you will find at your local department or office store.

Food – This is one of the best things you can buy at Costco as long as you have a family large enough to eat it all or the means to store it or freeze it until it can be eaten. Some grocery items that are much cheaper than elsewhere include meat (great cuts, good selection, and convenient packaging), cheese (so much cheaper, it isn’t funny), bread (traditional loafs as well as other varieties), and spices (containers 5 or 10 times the size for the same price).

Entertainment / Restaurant Certificates – Costco sells a variety of gift cards and certificates for various local entertainment and restaurants. For instance, my store has a night out movie package that I think costs just over $20 and includes two admissions, two large popcorns, and 2 large soft drinks. That would cost you at least $40 on the weekend if you were to buy everything directly at the cinema. Restaurant gift cards are also typically sold at a 20% discount, which is a significant savings.

Driveway Salt – This is a necessity for Canadian winters and I’ve noticed that the 20kg bags typically sell at about half the price of other stores.

Kitchen Stuff – Great selection of knives, dinnerware, cookware, tupperware, small appliances, and various other useful kitchen items at great prices.

Car Stuff – Car batteries and winter rims are both priced very well.

Clothes – They may not have all the latest styles, but it is hard to argue with $15 for a good pair of quality name brand jeans or full baby outfits for less than $10 each.

Electronics – The extended warranty, free concierge technical support, and the lengthy return period that is six times longer than the standard 14 days are all compelling reasons to shop at Costco for electronics.. The prices are also quite good, but you will almost always do better on electronics price-wise when shopping online.

Office Supplies – They offer a great selection of quality name brands and the prices are always less. Hanging file folders is one of my favourite office products to buy at Costco.

Digital Prints – Getting your home photos developed at Costco is usually cheaper than elsewhere unless there is a good sale happening somewhere else. The quality of the prints and photo paper is only average by my estimation, but it will still save you some money and gets the job done.

Tips For Shopping At Costco

There are a few somewhat lesser known tips for shopping at Costco that I would like to share with you to help you save a bit more money.

  • You can often get a discount on your membership by purchasing it online through Costco.ca and using a coupon code to either get a $10-$25 gift card in the mail or some other bonus like certificates for 2 free movies.
    • These coupon codes come and go but you can usually find one by doing a forum search over at Redflagdeals for “Costco membership coupon”.
    • If you aren’t a member at RFD, you can also search Google for “Redflagdeals Costco membership coupon” instead.
  • Right now you can also get a $10 gift card for having another Costco member bring you to sign you up for a membership. They will also be given a $10 gift card as well for the referral.
  • You can buy items at Costco, even without a membership, if you are using a Costco cash card (gift card) given to you by someone else.
    • You can even purchase Costco cash cards online (no membership required), have them shipped to you, and then buy stuff at Costco without a membership that way.
    • Keep in mind you may not get the other added benefits of membership like extended warranty, tech support, and so on.
    • This is a great way to try out Costco if you are uncertain about joining.
  • If you consolidate all your purchases at Costco, getting the Executive membership that costs $100 and gives you 2% back on all your purchases may make sense.
    • If you spend $5000 annually at Costco then your membership will be essentially free.
  • You should use a good American Express rewards credit card to earn rewards on all your Costco purchases.

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