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.
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.
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.