We all want to save a few bucks every now and then, especially when it comes to shopping. Looking for the cheapest deals, waiting for the lowest sales, clipping coupons—everyone has their methods for beating the rising costs of everyday products. When it comes to groceries, it's best to stray away from this particular retailer, and for good reason!
Even employees that work at Costco have opinions about the best things to buy in exchange for your hard earned dollars, and the items that are best to steer clear of if you want to keep a good balance in your accounts. Even though the quality of these items can be great, they can often be found for much cheaper prices somewhere else.
Costco is known for their major deals on all items, but if you’re buying electronics, the deals might not be so major. Some research has shown that Amazon can offer better deals on electronics that can be shipped directly to your door, while Costco only offers some deals in store. But Costco offers a generous return policy of 90 days for any and all electronics.
Costco might seem like the one stop shop for all of your grocery and home goods needs, but they are also severely lacking in some categories, such as linens. If you’re looking for high quality sheets and towels in tons of colors, you’re better off shopping somewhere else. Some customers have even described Kirkland Signature sheets as “uncomfortable” and of “disappointing quality.”
You may not see travel agents offering their services around town anymore, but Costco basically doubles as a travel agency for customers looking to book a vacation. They offer options to reserve rental cars, book hotels and book cruises through Costco Travel. But former employees of the travel branch of the store have noted that the deals Costco offers on vacations “aren’t that amazing” and better deals can be found elsewhere online.
The jumbo-sized mayonnaise containers sold by the warehouse style store are not for the faint of heart. While it might seem like a good idea to purchase condiments that your family uses often in bulk, buying containers of mayonnaise that are several times larger than what you typically use can have negative impacts on both your health and your finances. The large size inspires consumers to use more than they need and if you don’t go through the whole container before it expires, you’ll have wasted some serious dough.
Costco draws a lot of customers in who are looking for deals on food items, but not every food offered at the store is sold at a low price. Items like seafood, which can include salmon filets, shrimp and even lobster, are usually sold in bulk at the store. So while you’re getting a good deal on good quality seafood, you’ll have to buy a lot more of it than you typically would to get those savings. But if you’re the kind of person who loves seafood, this may be a good option for you and your family.
Kirkland Brand Marinara Sauce
Some of Costco’s Kirkland brand products are really worth their cheaper prices, but some end up leaving a bad taste in customers mouths. For example, the Kirkland marinara sauce available at all Costco locations isn’t a huge hit with many customers, who have described it as having a strange aftertaste and displeasing texture, similar to Spaghettio’s sauce. This is one product that you’re just better off skipping.
The prices at Costco’s food court just can’t be beat and the chicken bake, which retails for about $2.99, just can’t be beat. But employees of the store have noted that the popular lunch item packs more calories than you’d imagine and a whopping 25 grams of fat. Some employees also mention that many of the delicious food court items exist only to lure customers into the store to spend even more money.
Grey Goose Vodka
It was recently confirmed that Grey Goose Vodka sources their water from the same location in France that Costco uses to produce their Kirkland Signature Vodka, which retails at about half the price of Grey Goose’s product. This fact has lead some customers to compare the tastes of the two products and most people found no differences whatsoever between the two. So, if you normally reach for Grey Goose, you should try out Kirkland’s next time you’re at Costco!
Costco offers some great deals on gas, but it isn’t the best idea to take care of all of your vehicle’s needs at the warehouse store. Although it’s convenient to replace your tires while you’re shopping for food, this convenience comes at a cost. The selection of tires offered is usually pretty low and the tires typically sell for the same price or lower at other mechanics locations.
While Costco has long been known as the store to beat when it comes to good deals, Amazon has recently proven to be a better site when it comes to home goods like Kleenex tissues. Although it’s easy to pick up a large amount of Kleenex while you’re in the warehouse store stocking up on grocery items, you might be able to find a better deal for those items online.
Name Brand Clothing
Clothing is often the best form of temptation when it comes to buyers, but beware their outer appearance. Kyle James of Rather Be Shopping warns the apparel sold at outlet stores is designed specifically for those retailers and "are of lesser quality" compared to other name-brand clothing stores.
While Costco sells more organic produce than Whole Foods, don't be tempted to buy more than you can eat. As with all perishable food, there's only a certain amount of time between purchase and consumption that the item stays fresh. Though buying in bulk may seem like the cheaper option, spending less for more food often ends up hurting your wallet more than helping it. Roughly 25% of fruits of vegetables end up thrown away according to researchers, leaving the average household with about $590 per year in the garbage rather than their pockets.
Almost all of Costco's dairy products are overpriced when compared to most grocery stores. One Yahoo Finance researcher found that a 64 oz. container of heavy cream cost $10 while a competitive brand sold the same for $5. The same person also discovered five-dozen eggs would cost them anywhere from $8 - $10 while other stores would sell them for $7.50.
Lovers of Asian or Indian cuisine should stray away from buying this popular side-dish at Costco. A former frequent shopper and Youtuber Flo Lum discovered that a particular brand she favored was being sold for 35% more than what was being offered at her local market. In many cases, rice found at a small shop ranges from $10 - $14 where Costco would sell the same amount for $20 - $40.
Stationary & Office Supplies
Back-to-school shoppers and those stuck with having to change their office's printer ink are more likely to find better-priced items at Walmart and Staples rather than Costco. One estimate reveals Costco sells 10 reams of office paper for $32 while Walmart sells them for $2 during sales.
Why spend $6 (for a single box) to almost $10 (2-count) for cereal at Costco when you can save money with deals from your local supermarket? Most grocery stores sell cereal for $2 - $7 and often do 2 for $5 promotions. Combine their promotions with coupons and the savings will certainly speak for themselves.
Those in favor of pre-made meals are better off looking elsewhere for their food on-the-go. Frozen meals at Costco go for almost $14 for a box consisting of anywhere from 6 - 18 individually wrapped bites. Many grocery stores are willing to discount those same meals in the form of 2 for $5 or 3 for $10 depending on their promotions and coupon deals.
Unless your family is really into soups and stews, there's no reason to buy a 12-pack of chicken broth at Costco for $5.39 when a simple four-pack from Walmart will last the same amount of time and only cost you $2.86. And when you factor in the cost of a Costco membership to your purchases, the better choice is clear.
Stocking up on toilet paper certainly saves you from ever fearing you've finished the last roll. However, those looking to save a couple bucks might want to steer clear of Costco when it comes to the precious paper. A 45-count of Cottonelle Ultra sells for roughly $28.99 at Costco while at Target a 35-count goes for $16.99.
For those with a baby on the way or those already enjoying their bundle of joy, the best stores that deliver on diapers are Walmart and Amazon Prime. While Costco sells a 198-count pack of Kirkland diapers for $36, Walmart has a 210-pack of another brand for a little over $23. Amazon Prime offers a family option for products that offer 20% off their diapers.
Most lotion products lose their effectiveness after three years so if you're looking to protect yourself from the hot summer sun, you may be better off buying the single bottles from Target, Walmart or CVS. A multipack of three bottles at Costco go for around $24 and runs the risk of expiring before you use up the first bottle. A single bottle of Banana Boat at Walmart goes for $7.
Similar to lotion, laundry detergent has a very limited shelf-life and loses its effectiveness after six months. A two-pack of 210 fl. oz detergent can cost up to $35 while a 150 fl. oz single bottle sells for only $15 at Walmart and Stop & Shop.
Razors can be extremely expensive and finding a low price at Costco is near impossible. A members-only bulk box retails for $23 ($1.64 per razor) while at Walmart, a box of 10 Gillette razors goes for a little over $8 (80 cents per razor).
While many of Costco's Kirkland Signature products have been praised for their quality and affordability, TheKrazyCouponLady.com has exposed one product's failures to meet expectations. A 12-pack of Kirkland Signature 2-ply Facial Tissue only contains 1,080 sheets and costs $14.29 according to her research. At Target, a 3-pack of Puffs Plus Lotion 2-ply Facial Tissue collectively contains 1,116 sheets and costs only $14.07.
While it may be tempting to buy a cheap bedding option for a studio apartment or small guest room, you're better off choosing one from a brand-name store. If quality and durability are your top priorities, Costco's third-party mattresses can't really compete with the high standards of retailers like Bernie and Phyl's or Bob's Discount Furniture. With online options like Casper and Wayfair, you also have the option for trial periods that allow you to determine if the mattress provides you with the proper comfort to get a good night's sleep.
Avid book-lovers will want to avoid Costco when it comes to stocking up on new reading material. TheKrazyCouponLady.com recently discovered some hardcover novels sell for $20-24 while Amazon has them for $19 (and digital versions sell for $9).
While Costco does offer discounts for televisions, their lack of variety and general prices might lead their customers to look elsewhere. For example, the LG C8 OLED TV sells for over $1,300 at Costco while Amazon sells the same for $15 cheaper and they deliver to your home.
Savvy shoppers swear by grocery stores instead of warehouse stores when it comes to buying their favorite sugary beverages. While Costco allows you to stock up in time for birthday parties and football games, their prices are higher than what can be found elsewhere. Most 12-packs of soda (normally around $4 - $7.49) are featured during "two for the price of one" promotions at local grocery stores while Costco sells 24-packs for $7.58 each.
When compared to Walmart's prices, Costco does beat out the competition by charging only $7.99 for a 3-pack instead of $18. However, unless you throw a lot of game-day house parties, buying in bulk may be unwise despite the savings. While an unopened ketchup container can last for up to a year, an opened one starts to lose its flavor and color after four to six months of use.
Dips & Spreads
Most people love dipping their nacho chips in salsa or swirling their celery stick in some hummus but don't be tempted by Costco's cheap prices for these items when you can easily find deals for the same brands at Trader Joe's, Target and Walmart. While buying in bulk will increase your opportunities for dipping and dunking, looming expiration dates (Sabra Hummus expires 7 days after opening) may have you consuming more than you can handle in one sitting.
Seasonings & Spices
Just like condiments, seasonings can lose their flavor and go stale very fast if not used quickly. Instead of trying to save a few bucks by buying in bulk, opt for the smaller containers easily found at Stop & Shop and other grocery stores. A 2-pack of ground cinnamon (2.37 ounces) only costs $5.96 at Walmart where a 3-pack (4.3 ounces) at Costco sells for almost $20.
This particular item entirely depends on the customer. While some may be tempted by Costco's cheaper prices for gift cards— two $50 cards go for $79.99— others may be unimpressed with the limited selection to chose from. Most stores and malls carry gift cards for a wide variety of places, ranging from Starbucks to Sephora while Costco caters to only a slim number of recognizable hot-spots. However, those simple $20 - $50 cards can easily go into the high hundreds when you factor in every person you plan on giving them to.
While Costco may be a couple dollars cheaper and give you a few extra tablets, you may be better sticking with your local pharmacy when it comes to buying over-the-counter medicines and allergy relief. As with any product, medicine does come with an expiration date and buying cures for the common cold in bulk will only lead to more pills going down the drain. For quick symptom relief, it's best to shop at places like CVS and Walgreens rather than increasing your headache trying to wander down the aisles of Costco in search of Advil.
Stocking up in moderation actually saves you more than buying in bulk when it comes to canned goods. Most grocery stores offer exclusive deals and special promotions throughout the year that often include half-off sales. According to the Canned Food Alliance, most canned goods can last two years after their purchase date which still leaves doomsday preparers plenty of time to increase their supply.
When it comes to any type of meat product, its better to keep a watchful eye on grocery store promotions and coupon deals than running the risk of leaving multiple steaks in the freezer a bit too long. Buying in smaller quantities and portioning out meal preps will save you more money in the long run.
Baby items are often sold in bulk, so Costco isn’t unique for offering things like diapers, bottles and formula in large quantities. Some families who have researched the best prices for baby formula have found that online retailers such as Amazon frequently offer better deals than Costco and can also deliver directly to your door.
Costco’s famous rotisserie chicken is a great deal at $4.99, and it will probably stay at that incredible price for a long time, even though it is sold at a loss to the company. But if you’re looking to buy other poultry items like raw chicken pieces or whole raw birds, you can find them for cheaper prices at big box stores like Walmart.
You Should Buy Some Gift Cards
Gift cards can sometimes be a forgettable purchase, and everyone hates arriving at a store to make a purchase only to realize that you’ve left your gift card at home. The most important thing to consider when getting a gift card is how good of a deal you will be getting with the card, and if you, or the person you’re purchasing a gift card for, will actually use it. If you can save $20 on a purchase at another store with a gift card, it can be totally worth it.
Eat Without a Membership
Many people who know about Costco think that you need one of their coveted membership cards to even step foot on their property, but that’s just not the case. The outdoor food court is open to all customers, even those without memberships. That means that the delicious pizza, chicken bakes and soft drinks that come at a great cost aren’t just a perk for members.
Employees Don’t Get a Discount on Food
Employees at Costco get a few perks that customers might not know about, but one of those sadly isn’t deals on the food court items that many people know and love. But employees do get a free executive membership to the store at no cost in addition to their great wages and health benefits, so you probably won’t hear many complaints about having to pay full price for a chicken bake.
Hack the Menu
At Costco’s food court, most people order directly off the menu, but there are a few ways to make your order go further at a great price. One customer found out that aside from Costco’s usual offerings of cheese, pepperoni or combo pizzas, you can also order a sausage pizza, but only if you order a whole pie at once. You can also ask for chili or cheese to be put on your hot dogs even though they aren’t specified on the menu.
Consider Shelf Life
It’s not the best idea to buy a two gallon tub of mayonnaise at Costco if you don’t plan on preparing potato salad for 30 people when you get home because even in large quantities, food products still spoil. That’s why it’s better to buy food items that don’t spoil quickly in bulk. Dry products like rice and pasta can easily be bought in large quantities because they are shelf stable for one to two years.
Compare Prices Online
Not only should you look at other online retailers to make sure you’re getting a good price for big purchases, but you should also check the Costco website itself for deals that are only available to members online. Each month the warehouse store creates a booklet of sale items for online purchases that aren’t available to shoppers in physical store locations, so always check before you do an in person visit that you’re getting the best deal possible.
Upgrade Your Membership
It may seem like a bargain to use Costco’s cheaper Gold Star membership option, which is available at $60 per year versus their Gold Star Executive membership, which is sold for $120 a year, but there are some perks to the Executive membership that can make this a better deal for frequent Costco shoppers. Executive members can get two percent cash back on most Costco purchases up to $1,000 per year, which could end up cancelling out the total price of your membership.
Take Advantage of Sale Prices After You’ve Made a Purchase
Although the returns line at Costco can be one of the busiest places in the store, you can return items that you bought for full price to the store to take advantage of deals that you weren’t aware of when you made your purchase. As long as you bring the item in within 30 days of your purchase, you can utilize Costco’s price adjustment policy to lower the cost of your purchases significantly.