Is a Costco Membership Worth It? 5 Things To Consider Before You Pay For Membership.
Have you ever considered getting a Costco membership, but you’re unsure if you’d use it enough to be worth your while? Let us help you decide! Though we are (for the next few months) a family of 2, soon to be 3, we utilize our Costco Membership to the fullest extent. I will say, a few years ago, when we first enrolled and got our mugshots blasted on the back of our membership cards, we didn’t utilize our membership the way we do now. Take into consideration, my next few points, and by the end, you should be able to see if Costco can offer you enough bang for your membership buck!*
*We are in no way, shape, or form being compensated for this post. Not that it would skew my perception of Costco, but I want you to know that all the feedback and info I’m giving her is 100% my thought, free of any outside influence.
What is this magical, “Costco” you speak of?
First things first, if you don’t know what Costco is, start here. The quick version, Costco is a warehouse style, massive store. They sell everything from food to engagement rings, and everything in between. Costco sells a lot of items in bulk, and offers extremely low prices compared to other retailers. Costco charges an annual membership fee, depending on which option you choose, from $60 to $120 USD.
1. The upfront cost and choosing your membership.
Again, Costco charges an annual fee. That’s one time per year people. The cheapest membership option is a Costco Gold Star member for $60 per year, or a Business membership for the same price. The difference? Business members can resell any purchases at their place of business. Think food workers, candy for fundraising, etc.
Now the more pricey options are $120 a piece for either the Gold Star Executive membership, or a Business Executive membership. These membership options are similar to the ones above, but also have a 2% cash back (on qualifying purchases) capability, up to $1,000 annually. For these membership questions, you’ll probably have to try out your first year at the lower level, and see if you spend enough for the card to pay for itself (at least $6,000 spent annually on qualified purchases made in store or online).
If you’re unsure, go with the lower level card. You can always upgrade later.
2. How often will you use your membership?
More often than not, I end up going to Costco about once every other month, excluding the last 3 months of the year where I feel like I’m there every week for baking items (because that ish is cheeeeeeeeeeap). But be real with yourself, and your family’s specific needs.
Will you realistically break down and freeze bulk items to use later?
Do you have the storage space for 72 rolls of toilet paper or 2 gallons of olive oil?
Do you have a current or ongoing need for the amount of product you are about to purchase?
Are there any events coming up that would constitute the purchase of these items in bulk (like dinner items for thanksgiving, tables and chairs for a family gathering, etc)?
3. How to prevent overspending… The Danger Zone.
Make a list. Don’t think that you’re going to walk into Costco like your local grocery store and let it tell you what you want or need. Costco requires a list. Items are sold in bulk. Think you’re really gonna eat 60 eggs in two weeks? Knock yourself out. Just hold yourself responsible for unnecessary waste and only buy what you absolutely NEED.
Never enter Costco hungry. Again, Costco sells all grocery items in bulk. If you enter the store hungry, you may end up going home with a 100 pack of Special K bars, but you may not eat them all in the long run. The other side of this is that Costco also has a Food Court with delicious meals for everyone! If you plan on eating lunch or dinner here, no problem! They’re really inexpensive and the food is quote good. Just don’t go past this point without a full tummy.
Don’t buy items in bulk that expire quickly unless you will consume them quicker. Pretty self explanatory. You can freeze a lot more than you probably realize, but things like eggs and milk, you can’t. So just don’t over do it.
Unless you’re cool with shelling out at LEAST $300, do not enter The Danger Zone. It’s no secret, the more you walk through Costco, the better deals you will find as with just about any store, the best deals are at the back, and the highest priced, booby trap items are at the front, where the most foot traffic is. Though the middle of Costco may be known as ‘Center Court’ to some, for the Boone family, it’s known as ‘The Danger Zone’. The center of the store has some amazing prices, but most of the items located there are seasonal, usually impulse purchases, that may seem like a great deal and idea at the time, but when you ring up a $500 purchase and you only went to Costco for 3 things, you may start rethinking your life choices, and deciding that you’re on a spending hiatus. Avoid the center of the store at all costs. If you enter The Danger Zone, know that you’re going to have to muster some SERIOUS self control.
Price check! Not all items in Costco are a great deal, especially: soda, condiments, cereal, some produce, etc.
If you have no self control, shop online. You can’t impulse purchase if you’re not at the store to fall victim to a new massage chair!
4. How the phrase “But it’s such a good deal!!!” can get you in trouble.
Please realize that this is an impulsive purchase. Ask yourself:
Am I currently in dire need of X product?
Did I price check X item anywhere else?
If the answer to both of those questions is ‘yes’, then you have my blessing. Purchase away.
5. Top 15 items to always buy at Costco.
First and foremost, let me preface this section with talking about Kirkland Signature, the Costco store brand products. Many store brands can be a really great comparison to brand name items, but we’ve all had a bad experience with a store brand that has paled in comparison to its competitor. Kirkland is NOT your average brand name product. Buy it. Love it. Buy it again. That being said, here are my Costco go-to purchases:
Meat, tri tip, ground turkey, frozen chicken, bacon. You name it, I buy it, and then… I freeze it in smaller portions to unthaw at a later date. Boom.
Butter, because I bake A LOT, and you can freeze it.
Spices, sweet baby jesus, just stock up. Say goodbye to spending $7.99 on a 1 ounce container and hello to an average of $0.24 an OUNCE for most of these spices. This includes extracts like almond and vanilla. You may have to make room on your spice rack though…
Maple syrup, the real stuff. The good stuff, PURE maple syrup is soooo expensive anywhere else. And now I’m a maple syrup snob, so here we are.
Flour, another moment where I’m showing my baking side, but seriously. If you bake a lot, or even just around the holidays, a 25 lb bag of flour is like $1.00 more than a 10lb bag at the regular grocery store.
Cheese, shredded or blocks. Both are substantially less expensive at Costco.
Booze, name brand liquors, beers, wines, and don’t be afraid of the Kirkland Vodka or Whiskey. They’re pretty darn good!
Most nuts, especially almonds and pistachios
Graham crackers, Honey Maids of course, and in bulk they can be the outside to a s’mores bar, or a whole bunch of crusts for pie. Get on it.
Olive oil, just make sure you have somewhere to put 2 gallons of it. This stuff is gold.
Cooking spray, two jinormous spray bottles, and literally almost half the price per ounce compared to Walmart’s brand.
Kitchen supplies, I’m talking parchment paper, plastic wrap, paper plates, paper towels, red cups, and so, so much more.
Cleaning supplies, Clorox wipes, spray cleaners, dishwasher and laundry detergents. This means less trips to a smaller store like Walmart or Target, and less out of pocket because I’m suuuuuure you were only going to buy cleaning supplies at Target…
Baby supplies, especially formula! Though diapers and wipes aren’t insanely less expensive, they are in bigger sizes, meaning less trips to the store, and I can get behind that logic!
Prescriptions, it’s almost always worth the time and drive to get scripts filled here. Even their generic, over the counter, and vitamins are a really amazing deal.
Other things to be aware of:
Costco does not offer bags of any kind. In California, at most local grocery stores, you have to pay $0.10 a plastic bag if you choose to have your groceries bagged, or you’re offered a tiny rebate if you bring your own reusable bags. Costco does not have bags at all, only boxes. If you want boxes, they can box up some of your smaller items together, but keep in mind, you’re buying in bulk, so a lot of these items are pretty large to begin with.
There is literally nothing “in the back”. It’s all stocked warehouse style for you, so what you see is what they have. Literally. You can ask an associate when they’ll be restocking a certain item and they should be able to help you.
Pizza takes a while, and if you aren’t paying attention, they’ll give your pizza away. Order early, like 20-30 minutes before you’re ready to leave, pay and keep your yellow receipt, and wait as close to the pick up area so you can hear your name or items called out.
Costco makes the most money on toilet paper and direct membership sales. The rest of the products are marked up only 10-15% from what the store pays the manufacturers. Most other grocery stores will mark up their items 30-50+%, so the price savings on grocery items is pretty clear.
Costco does take credit card payments. In my area, it’s Visa ONLY, so be aware. Costco used to be exclusively cash, debit, or American Express, but changed a couple of years ago.
Okay, so that all being said, remember that there are other warehouse stores. Costco is the closest one to me, so that’s the one I utilize. Take a look at what warehouse stores are in your area! Keep in mind, that if Costco is your only option, but it’s quite a drive, you may not utilize your membership, and it won’t be worth your while. The last bit of advice I have is that Costco can have benefits to families of all sizes, even if you live alone, but don’t fall into a trance because something is cheap. Don’t be wasteful!
So what do you think? Is a Costco membership right for you?