Many of us have a Costco membership to take advantage of discounts on bulk food and household goods. Be aware, though, that the warehouse giant does not always offer the lowest price on an item. Sales, loss leaders, and generic goods at competing stores may give you a better deal.

Related: Is the Costco Executive Membership worth buying?

Here are 15 ideas to help you save more at Costco.

1. Peruse your coupon book

Members receive a coupon book in the mail with many discount and special offers. Be sure to check for extra savings before making your shopping list. There’s no need to bring the coupons with you. The cashier will swipe one automatically.

2. Ignore the special displays at the entrance to the store

They are not always the best deal, and does your child really need that giant stuffed rabbit? Likewise, avoid the displays at the end of the aisles in the middle of the store. Stick to your shopping list. It’s easy to get distracted by all the fun, impulse items, but there are better bargains elsewhere in the store.

Related: Why I love shopping at Costco

3. Fill up on samples

You know you shouldn’t shop when you’re hungry, so enjoy unlimited free samples, but don’t let them tempt you into impulse purchases. (One of my biggest annoyances here is trying to maneuver around the crowd of people chowing down on free snacks.)

4. Hot dog and pop

One of the best deals is the hot dog and pop (unlimited) combo at $1.50. The store is adamant that it will never raise the price.

5. Buy the store brand

Kirkland is Costco’s store brand name and can give you the bigger savings over other name brand products. Consider splitting your purchases with friends or family members if you don’t need – or have the space for – large quantities.

Related: Addition by subscription subtraction

6. Save money on your generic prescription drugs

Costco also offers probably the cheapest prices on over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements – especially on the Kirkland brand.

7. Look for seasonal savings 

Costco stocks seasonal items for the holidays earlier than most stores, e.g. Christmas trees in September. Stock up before the holiday rush. Buy bulk treats for Easter and Halloween.

8. Learn the price codes

Most stores have special pricing codes. Regular priced Costco merchandise ends in .99. Prices ending in .97 are clearance items. Odd pricing such as .49, .69 and .89 are special deals from vendors that are passed on to customers.

An asterisk (*) in the upper right corner of the sign signifies the item will not be re-ordered. Keep this in mind when you’re not sure about your purchase. It may not be there when you return, or it’ll be at a higher price.

9. Watch for instant rebates on some items

These are regular throughout the year, such as Sonicare toothbrush refills, FoodSaver plastic wrap, and, my favourite, giant “Party-Size” bags of Peanut M&M’s.

10. Gift cards

Check out their selection of gift cards – everything from movie passes to ski lift tickets.

Related: How to hack gift cards for big discounts

11. Save at the pump

Many Costco locations have service stations and the price of gas always seems to be at least 2 cents cheaper than other gas bars. Time it right and fill up for less when you get your groceries.          

12. Automotive and tires 

Everyone I know claims this is the best place to purchase tires and auto accessories.

13. Member services

Costco has affiliated with loads of services – insurance, business services, travel, custom home installations and renovations – to name a few. When researching prices, add them to your list.

14. Costco online

Costco online offers items and exclusive offers not available in the stores – furniture, exercise equipment, electronics, and much more.

Related: Would you buy your groceries online?

Now that Costco has dropped AmEx as its preferred credit card for online shopping, it’s more convenient than ever for MasterCard holders. And, shipping is free to most locations.

15. Take advantage of the knowledgeable people at the service counter

Not only for merchandise returns, refunds and replacements, get product information (including recall notices) and product reviews. Learn about the rewards offered through your membership. Look up past purchases without a receipt. Check online orders and track shipping.

One further tip, in Costco locations that have a stand-alone liquor store outlet (Alberta), you can purchase your alcohol without being a Costco member.

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21 Comments

  1. Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet on February 17, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks for the mention. I recently spoke with a Costco rep about their over the counter drugs. Apparently the Kirkland brand is almost identical to more expensive similar drugs but significantly cheaper. She explained the Kirkland version of Advil is guaranteed to have the exact same ingredients and is 40% cheaper. Costco is the cheapest place in town to get tires serviced and Costco car rentals are also some of the cheapest I’ve seen. Also, I hear you can shop at Costco without a membership if you buy Costco cash cards online

    • David on February 18, 2015 at 9:25 am

      > Also, I hear you can shop at Costco without a membership if you buy Costco cash cards online

      Very interesting. You can even buy with your own credit card online so effectively buying at Costco and still collecting points. Note the reviews mention some real pains to do with the activation process, perhaps deliberately made laborious to dissuade sharing to avoid membership fees.

      http://www.costco.ca/Costco-Cash-Card.product.10284381.html

    • Isitaneedorawant on February 22, 2015 at 4:53 pm

      I thought it was Canadian law that OTC(over the counter) medications had to have the same active or medicinal ingredients in them as the name brand. So Kirkland or Exact brand at Superstore are equal in medicinal vale as the name brands.

      It’s amazing the cost savings on the generic example.

  2. Tawcan on February 17, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Great tips. Kirkland brand is great and offer quite a bit of savings. Great tip on ignoring the items on display by the entrance. That’s why there’s always seems to be a major traffic jam by the store entrance.

  3. Todd Roberts on February 18, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Lowest priced propane refills. Savings pretty much cover annual fee.

  4. Carol Nowlin on February 18, 2015 at 8:07 am

    For anyone travelling to the States, the American stores haven’t switched to MasterCard. They still accept only American Express or Costco cards. Gas prices are 5c lower than local prices so it’s a great place to fill up!

  5. Jeff Keith on February 18, 2015 at 9:48 am

    One of the best values I found was the auto buying program at costcoauto.com to purchase a new car. We also purchased a preowned vehicle for my wife. I haven’t tried there parts and service discount, but they promote that as well.

    • Larry on February 18, 2015 at 7:46 pm

      Unfortunately costcoauto.com will only accept zip codes to enter the site, not Canadian postal codes. It would be nice to have access to such a site here.

  6. Lilian on February 18, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Contact Lens! I save enough on my annual contact lens purchases to cover the cost of my executive membership. Anything else is a bonus. Glasses can be a great deal too – though frame selection is limited.

  7. susie on February 18, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Hot dogs and pop? You could not pay me to eat that garbage. Bad advice to load up on the ‘all you can eat’ hot dogs and ‘all you can drink’ pop.

    • Joel on February 18, 2015 at 12:36 pm

      Dear susie, the Nutrition blog is around the corner, apparently you missed your stop. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Jolene on February 18, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    I do a stock up run just before my membership card is about to expire and then purchase a few hundred dollars in gift cards at that time. That way I can stretch out the time between membership renewals- but can still buy things should the need arise. You don’t need a membership to use gift cards – but you do have to “sign in” at the customer service desk to get a shopping pass for your visit.

  9. kcowan on February 18, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    They always sell things on a cost-plus basis. So there are no loss leaders. Sometimes the reason for the buy is the quantity so you can get comparable savings by buying more than you need (size) at a regular grocer who offers a warehouse aisle.

  10. Neil Murphy on February 19, 2015 at 5:16 am

    We obtained Costco member mastercards and use them everywhere, including the gas at their pumps. This turns into cash back at the end of the years. Last year I think we received a check for about $300. Nice deal!

  11. Travis @enemyofdebt on February 19, 2015 at 7:57 am

    There’s few deals better than the massive piece of pizza you can buy from their food stand as well…and it’s pretty good. 🙂 I could certainly do without being assaulted by the DirecTV people every time I walk in though….

    • Susan on January 28, 2018 at 5:40 pm

      You don’t have to be a member to get the cheap whole pizza. Just go in through the out door. You can even order ahead. Probably can get the hot dog deal too without membership.

  12. Kurt on February 19, 2015 at 8:47 am

    I rarely buy gas at Costco. Waiting in line for 20 min to try and save $0.80 means you probably don’t have a firm grasp on the value of time…

  13. Barry @ Moneywehave on February 19, 2015 at 10:24 am

    I sometimes think the #1 thing I spend on at Costco is their hot food section after checking out. Not an effective use of my membership but I quite like their food.

  14. Sean on February 19, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Meat is a good deal – good quality and local (at least here in Alberta).

    I disagree about the contact lens comment earlier – they are always trying to put you in whatever is their flavour of the day. They are only a couple dollars cheaper than my eye doctor anyway.

  15. Isitaneedorawant on February 22, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    The Costco in Maui is great!

    You can fill up with gas, the liquor is so much less expensive and the variety is outstanding.

    Took our family of 6 over Christmas for two weeks. We ate and drank well. I chose not to have to prepare foods so we BBQ and I picked up salads etc at Costco. Saved hundreds of dollars in food costs

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