52 Ways to Save at Costco This Year… And One Thing I Would Skip

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52 ways to save at Costco this year… and one thing I would skip.  Back in 1999, when I first saw “You’ve Got Mail” and heard the line that references buying a “ten-gallon vat of Olive Oil for $3.99,” I wondered to myself… “who would ever shop regularly at a warehouse store?”

Well, fast forward 10 years, and it’s me. We discovered Costco around 2009 before we had kids. My husband and I liked tagging along on my mom’s membership, wandering the aisles marveling at the selection and giant jars of pickles. We decided to spring for our own membership in 2011, after the birth of our first child. By the time #2 came along, we were full-fledged fanatics. We loved going on the weekends for samples, babies in the oversized carts, then stopping for a cheap date at the food court on our way out the door.

(Full disclosure: yes, this is a warehouse store, and you pay a membership fee to shop there. Their memberships start at $60 a year.)

I have introduced MANY friends to the wonders and miracles held inside a Costco, and now, dear friends, it’s time for me to introduce you to it, as well. Below, you will find a comprehensive list of what I consider some of my best Costco hacks/tips/tricks, cultivated over a decade of my personal fandom. These are simply my opinions and are by no means fact. Grab your giant shopping cart, and have your card ready to show the greeter at the door, because here we go….

(This collage features a handful of my favorite purchases in the last year.)

1. Cut flowers: The selection of cut flowers at Costco is always in season, and many are Rainforest Alliance Certified. You can usually get a very nice-looking bouquet for $10-$15, so stop on your way to that housewarming party or dinner at your parents.

2. Tires: Costco offers a handful of brands which are frequently on sale with rotation, balancing, inflation check, and flat repair for the life of the tire.

3. Vacations: If you want to go somewhere tropical, travel internationally, or just go to some theme parks stateside, they have fantastic bundles that you can build, and you can even make payments over time leading up to your vacation! We did Disneyland a few years ago and the money we saved with the bundle was a nice chunk!

4. Food court: Remember the food court I mentioned earlier in the post? It’s NO JOKE. Admittedly, the selection is limited, but I can tell you that $1.50 for an all-beef hotdog with the works and a fountain soda is a STEAL, and their $1.99 pizza slices are second to none – made fresh and delicious, they are a family favorite. The strawberry sundae or churro are a great way to round out dessert, and my family of 4 can usually eat for around $10.

5. Pharmacy: You don’t need to be a member to use their pharmacy, and they are frequently the least expensive pharmacy when compared to other big chains.

6. Summer Gear: We get swimsuits for the whole family, bug spray, sunscreen, swim goggles, amazing beach towels, and water bottles there each summer! They usually start putting these items out by February, so it’s a great time to start wandering the aisles while snow is on the ground, dreaming of warmer days to come. We have also done inflatable pools in the past!

7. Winter Stuff: Winter in WI IS NO JOKE, but their gloves, coats, winter socks, and long underwear help keep us warm and are of great quality. Like their warmer counterparts, these go out early in the year, so we usually start buying them at the end of September to get the best selection possible.

8. FREE samples: Don’t bother eating before you go on the weekend – you can snack your way through the store and find your new favorites in the process! TIP: samples usually start wrapping up for the day on the weekend by 3 PM, so if you go after 3, they will be sparse at best. Also, due to food allergies, kids under the age of 10 cannot get their own – an adult has to get them and hand them to the child.

9. Fresh produce: We love the selection of fresh produce – our faves include the berries, mini cucumbers, and mini peppers, and the walk-in refrigerated section is fun on hot summer days.

10. Gift cards: Costco sells gift cards for other retailers below retail price. Our favorite gift card deal is getting $100 to Build a Bear for $70 over Thanksgiving Weekend each year!

11. Stamps: They sell Forever stamps slightly lower than retail and it saves you a stop on your way home.

12. Electronics: We have gotten some great deals on electronics there. Even sweeter, they have a fantastic warranty on many of these items, too!

13. Camping goods: We are not big campers but have been more outdoorsy the last 2 years, so we have started purchasing things like camp lanterns, sleeping bags, coolers, etc. Costco is usually our first stop when looking to add to our camping gear, due to their reasonable prices on well-known brands. They even sell tents in the spring/summer!

14. Bottled water: My family gets a case of water for $3 when we go. It’s purified using reverse osmosis and you get 40 bottles in the case. You can also get a case of 8-ounce bottles of water, but the cost is a bit more.

15. Books: We are big fans of their book section. They always have really expansive offerings, and the prices are below retail. My personal favorite recently has been the Illustrated Harry Potter series! We have also gotten educational workbooks for our kiddos there before.

16. Online shopping: You can download the app and order online if you are a member. Sometimes the cost of the item is a couple of dollars more to cover shipping, but they do have things available online that you can’t get in the store. Since we live a distance from the closest store, this is sometimes an option for us, especially for non-foods.

17. Eyeglasses: They don’t have the same frame offering as an optical shop, but I’ve had good luck getting glasses there before and the prices were very reasonable.

18. Gasoline: Yep, gas for whatever takes you from here to there! They aren’t guaranteed to be the lowest, but we typically do find that they are a little bit less than most other places, and again…. it saves us a stop.

19. Booze: The prices and quality of their liquor department are second to none – their wine department, in particular, is phenomenal, with ratings for each wine they carry. Our family favorite is the blue bottle of Moscato D’Asti for $10.99.

20. Bakery: From breads to bagels, cookies to cakes, they pretty much hit the nail on the head for everything. My personal fave is the mini Lemon Meringue Pie around Mother’s Day. I have dreams of it. A word to the wise – if you get bakery bread, re-bag it into a Ziploc bag to keep it fresh for longer. They bag it into bags with tiny holes when it’s freshly baked, and while the holes have a purpose, these bags are not great for storage of more than a day or so.

21. Deli: Costco’s deli features a variety of easy-to-make crowd-pleasers for busy evenings. We love their chicken noodle soup in the winter and I am personally a big fan of the Chicken Alfredo, which I think rivals a large chain Italian restaurant.

22. Pumpkin Pie: This pie deserves its own star in this round-up. It’s $5.99, and it’s huge and delicious. It’s pumpkin pie perfection. You can’t even buy the ingredients at the store for $5.99. Pumpkin pie season usually starts early October and runs through December.

23. Special features: They have a rotation of seasonal items in the store – furniture, gardening supplies, outdoor decor, live plants, holiday decorations, etc – we find some great items in these offerings each season and many of them make great gifts.

24. Diapers: The diapers at Costco are made by Kimberly Clark, which is also the manufacturer for a very large well-known diaper company of similar quality. Enough said.  This is an easy way to save at Costco!

25. Luggage: We have gotten several pieces of luggage at Costco over the years and we always find it to be a great value and quality. We recently got small carry-on size suitcases for our kiddos, too!

26. Rotisserie chicken: The $4.99 fresh rotisserie chicken has a huge fan following, and rightfully so. Made fresh all day long, it’s delicious, juicy, and versatile in many recipes.

27. Honey: Honey is expensive – even the “cheaper” (lower-quality) honey at your local chain grocer is expensive. Costco has a handful of honey brands that we have always found to be pretty good quality. Our home pantry currently features 2 different brands which are raw, one of which is organic, and the other is made in harvested in the US.

28. Batteries: We only buy our batteries here, if we can help it. Their in-store brand (Kirkland) are made by Duracell at a fraction of the retail cost.

29. Toys at the holidays: The toy section at Christmas is a family favorite. It usually goes up by early October and has some great options for kids of all ages, including some exclusives from popular brands. Pro tip: they typically start marking toys down the week before Christmas and then you can get some AH-MAZING deals on those last minute gifts.

30. Coffee: Costco carries a “robust” selection of coffees – whole bean, ground, Kcups, instant… but our go-to is 2lbs of Kirkland brand for around $12. Their Kirkland brand is roasted by Starbucks. You can even grind it in-store before you leave if you don’t have a coffee grinder at home!

31. Photo lab: We have done Christmas cards, reprints and enlargements through their photo lab and we are always happy with the quality and price.

32. Office supplies: Nerd alert! I love office supplies! Visiting this department is a requirement with each visit for my family. We have found some household favorites here – my electric pencil sharpener, colored pens, portable laptop desk (at which I typed this article!), and craft supply cart are among the most notable recent purchases. Pro-tip: grab some back to school gifts for your kids teachers here! We’ve given the colored pens and they were a hit!

33. Costco Connection: I call their members-only magazine the “AARP magazine for people raising families,” but we definitely love it! They have interesting interviews and articles about a variety of topics, a sneak peek of new-to-Costco merchandise, and there are even recipes featured! It’s mailed free to Executive Members, or you can always pick up a copy on your way out of the store.

34. Beauty/personal care/vitamins: The Wellness Department is massive! A variety of vitamins, a sundry of supplements, a bevy of beauty products… there’s something for everyone, from baby to seniors. We pick up lip balms, thermometers, band-aids, shave gel, shavers, shampoo/conditioner, perfume…. the list goes on and on!

35. Cleaning supplies: We get our laundry soaps, dish soaps, and Clorox wipes at Costco. They also have a great price on lint rollers. Our younger kiddo has eczema and she does well with their Kirkland brand of free and clear laundry soap. Pro-tip to save even more at Costco: their Clorox wipes and Oxiclean go on sale every 3-4 months, so stock up when they are!  

36. Classroom snacks: Our kids are in elementary school and I lead a Girl Scout troop, so I am always on the lookout for good snacks in bulk. Costco does not disappoint with options for the health-conscious and junk-food lovers alike! You can get snacks in bulk and split it up yourself for the best value, or buy it all pre-bagged for convenience.

37. Organic stuff: A little known fact is that Costco is the highest-selling Organic food retailer and they are a well-known “health hack” for families who prefer to shop organic. They identify many of their organic items in store by highlighting on the product sign.

38. Baking goods: Full disclosure: I am not a big baker. However, we have family that are, and they LOVE Costco for their flour, sugar, chocolate chips, spices, and even top-quality Vanilla Extract.

39. Towels/bedding: We get our towels and sheets at our local Costco. We wait until the towels are on sale for $5.99 and get a few. Their color selection isn’t a big as other retailers, but they have most of the basic colors and the towels are very plush and last a long time. Our current bedsheets are organic cotton and they are SO SOFT. We have even gotten pillows there before and we are always very pleased with them. Watch out for annual My Pillow Roadshows where you can get a deal on the best pillows ever made! I couldn’t forget to mention that each year in the late fall, they have heated throws on a great sale!

40. Sweets: Their candy section has some of the best sweets I’ve seen outside of a candy shop. We love their Macadamia Nut Turtles and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels. Oh my… now I’m craving something sweet to go with my Kirkland coffee. BRB – going to raid the pantry.

41. Kitchen wares/small appliances: Another stop every visit for our family is the kitchen department. We have gotten some very nice dishes, travel coffee cups, water bottles and small kitchen appliances there. Every summer we get our kids water bottles there and we are always pleased with their durability and value!

42. Clothes/shoes: Who goes to Costco for their clothes? WE DO! Most of their clothes are name brand and a great price (of course!). We have purchased clothes/shoes made by PUMA, Adidas, Skechers, Oshkosh, Carters, Spyder, Tommy Hilfiger, and Champion in the last few months alone. In fact, 3/4 people in my house are currently wearing clothes we have purchased at Costco.

43. Lunch bags and supplies during Back to School: Back to School is one of my 2 favorite times to shop at Costco. Their BTS sales start in July and they are WORTH IT! Every year we purchase their lunch bags, which come with Bento boxes and cold packs. They last more than the school year for our kids, and we even use them for day trips in the summer after school is out. We have also purchased their backpacks in previous years, and they have been very durable, as well. My girls love to play “School,” so we got them each a large whiteboard a few years ago and they play with them more than almost any other toys. #worthit, for sure.

44. BADGER/PACKER stuff: You can’t be a big retailer in WI and not sell team merchandise! Costco’s offering has included tailgating chairs, jerseys, hats, coats, hoodies, blankets, coolers, and socks, among other things, and I am always pleased with the prices.

45. Meat/seafood: Costco has a very good selection of meats, from different cuts of beef to lamb, to chicken, to pork, to fresh seafood. Our family stocks up on the ground beef for our freezer.

46. Pizza: Their fresh pizza is so delicious. You can get an entire 18” pizza made for $9.95. They offer cheese, pepperoni, or combo (supreme). PRO TIP: if you have a larger family and plan to eat after you shop, or want to take home a fresh, hot pizza when you are done, call in your order to the food court 15-20 minutes before you are done shopping, and it will be waiting for you when you are done!

47. Paper products: While it’s not as exciting a topic as pizza or pencil sharpeners, their paper products are not to be passed up. We stock up when Charmin is on sale, and it’s the best price we have seen. Let’s face it – toilet paper isn’t a thrill, but everyone uses it, so try to save some money while you are at it!

48. Collapsible totes/storage solutions: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention their storage solutions. They sell shelving units, laundry bins and baskets, and a variety of sizes of totes all at a great price, but our hands-down favorite is the collapsible totes which are made in the US, and are designed to be able to hold file folders, too. We buy one almost every time we go… it’s one of my husbands favorite things in the store.

49. “Man”things: I only call it “man” things because my hubby could spend HOURS wandering this department when we go, and I can always head there first to find him when we invariably end up getting separated in the store. I understand that people of all interests find happiness in these aisles. They have a great selection of items for the home and garage – some previous favorites have included a pressure washer, a portable jump pack, and no big shopping trip is complete for my hubby without buying a big bag of yellow microfiber towels. Not joking… I’m staring at the package from our last trip right now.

50. Appliances: It might be overlooked but Costco has a nice “range” of appliances, in-store and online. They include delivery, haul-away, and tech support for some of their brands, as well.

51. Apple products and gift cards: Apple rules do not generally allow for retailers to discount their products by much, but Costco does as much as they can to get their prices as low as allowable. Over the holidays, they had some great deals on Apple watches and they run promos on iPads a few times a year. Costco also runs specials on iTunes gift cards throughout the year.

52. Groceries: Aside from all of the other great items I have listed here, the grocery department at Costco is MASSIVE. We try to do as much shopping here as we can – between the value and the volume, it’s a great way for us to stretch our grocery budget. If it’s something that we can buy at Costco, and it makes sense for us to buy a larger quantity, we always try to do so.

Now, dear reader, I am sure you are desperate to know which one thing I would (personally) skip. Your wait is over…. the one thing I would not really try to buy at Costco is….. fine jewelry. Yes, they carry a small selection in-warehouse, and a larger selection online, but if I am purchasing a wedding set or an engagement ring, I would like more selection and more service for such a purchase. I am sure there are folks who have done so and had a great experience, but my opinion is a pass on this one.

There are many other tips I could share, but in the interest of your time, I will save those for another day. Of course, the prices mentioned above are subject to change. One of the biggest, most important tips I can share is that Costco carries MANY items all the time, but their more seasonal merchandise can go quickly, and may not be restocked. There were 3 items I had my eye on a month ago and when I went back this week, they were all gone. If you see it, and you want it, I would say to get it. Typically, you can return it (within a reasonable amount of time), but I have had some definitely non-buyers remorse recently, even though I really, genuinely know better.

In the infamous words of one of my favorite episodes from one of my favorite shows, (Modern Family): “They sell baby formula and they sell coffins. You literally buy everything you need from birth to death.” Honestly, if Costco doesn’t have it, sometimes I wonder if I really do need it.

Now it’s your turn to share with me: what’s your favorite Costco shopping hack?

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