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Costco Membership – Is it Worth It?

Costco Membership - Is It Worth The Cost

This is one of the top five questions I’m asked at couponing classes… “Is a Costco or Sam’s Club membership worth it?”

My answer, “Depends.”

(I know. So committal right?)

Fact: I am a card-carrying Costco member and have been for eight years.

Another Fact: The days of Costco employees knowing my name, my kid’s names, and our favorite kind of cereal are over.

Final Fact: Prior to couponing I was spending between $300 – $350 per month at Costco, now we are lucky if we spend $75.00.

It isn’t that I don’t enjoy shopping at Costco, I do.

I love their extra big carts, parking spaces, and samples around every aisle. However, after mastering my price book and tracking the sales cycle of most items, I’ve found that 80% of groceries, health & beauty, and cleaning supplies sold at Costco can be purchased for less at a regular store on sale with a coupon.

I’ve known many readers, who after a year of couponing, have let their warehouse memberships expire because they could no longer justify the $50 per year membership cost. The reason they couldn’t justify the cost – the items bought for their family were usually cheaper at a regular grocery store on sale after using a coupon.

So what does that say about me and my Costco Card carrying ways? It says there are enough things our family purchases at Costco to make the membership worth the expense. (Here is a Costco Price List to help you out.)

I wish I could say there is a definite “Is Costco Worth It?” answer, but for each family the answer will be different. My advice, get your price book up to date and track your grocery spending. In about 60-days you will see if the $50 Costco Membership is worth it.

In an effort to help you evaluate if you should keep or get a Costco Membership, here are some general pros and cons about Costco.

Costco Pros

1. Gas. If you Costco sells gasoline, you will pay between 3 and 5 cents less per gallon than other local gas stations.

2. Organic items. Costco has one of the largest and least expensive selection of organic veggies, meats, flour, staples, etc.

3. Costco’s Kirklands Brand rocks. Outside of the Aldi Brand, this is my favorite store brand. I’ve never been disappointed, ever.

4. Other stuff. The majority of purchases I make at Costco in a year aren’t for groceries, but for other stuff. Dishes, suitcases, frames, presents, clothes, appliances, towels, bikes, etc. If you watch your prices, you will find Costco has amazing deals on the “other” stuff in your life.

5. Costco Coupons. Costco comes out with a coupon book about every 45 days. Using these coupons can mean a major savings and tip the scale to being cheaper than the local grocery store on sale with a coupon.

6. The in-store restaurant. Where else can you get a HUGE piece of pizza and a soda for under $4.00? It’s a great place to grab a quick and cheap lunch with the kiddos.

Costco Cons

1. Distortion. Because everything is a bulk buy, the prices are increased dramatically. Seeing increased prices can lead to distortion. All of the sudden a 24-pack of Dannon Activia Yogurt for $8.26 looks like a bargain when you were just looking at a $40.00 package of steaks. You need to know your prices so you don’t believe something is a deal, when it really isn’t. Because I can get these Costco Deals or these Target Deals for the same $18.00.

2. Waste. Will items be used before the expiration date? This is easier to do with a 5lb bag of walnuts than a 5lb bag of carrots.

3. Samples. Jelly Bellies are good. So is Havarti cheese. And cherry pie. And if they are too good, they can end up in a cart and destroy a budget. Let the kiddos have the samples and keep the cart moving.

4. Other stuff. I know. I said this was a pro. But it can also be a con. If you are an impulse buyer, Costco can turn into the black hole. Believe me – I walked in for milk and carrots and ended up with $250 in wine glasses and Mikasa dishes.

Here is a list of the 15 Items to Buy at Costco and a list of the 15 Items Not To Buy at Costco (because they are cheaper at the grocery store).

What about you? Do you have a Costco Membership? Have you let one expire? Chime in via the comments. I would love to hear your thoughts.