Costco’s already great prices on a range of products and services may tempt you NOT to look for tips — but you are wrong if you’re thinking like that. There is still room for savings and here we want to help you with proven tips and tricks.
To that end, we have spent a ton of time reading stuff on the internet, and have filtered it all for you. Here are…
13 Ways to Save at Costco
As you’re about to see, just joining the membership-only warehouse store isn’t enough to maximize your savings…
1. Learn the pricing code
Costco’s pricing codes indicate whether an item is specially priced, discounted or will not be restocked. Generally speaking, items with prices ending with “7” (i.e. $7.97) mean they have been marked down from their original prices, which usually always end with “9” (i.e. $7.99). On the other hand, if the price ends with “88” or “00” (i.e. $7.88 or $7.00), it means that the store manager marked on returned merchandise that is still in good condition. Finally, if you spot an asterisk (*) in the upper-right corner of the pricing, it means the item won’t be restocked. So if you like some item marked with an asterisk, you should stock up.
2. Take advantage of price adjustments
Savvy shoppers know about Costco’s price adjustment policy and use it to their advantage. If an item you bought online (at costco.com) drops in price within 30 days, you can get back the difference. You can also do the same while in the store, but you may have to speak with the warehouse manager to get the same deal. Say to him/her that if you can’t get the price difference, you will return the item, get a refund and then buy the same item for a lower price. Yup, they will rather offer an adjustment than going through that paperwork.
3. Shop without a membership
If you don’t have a Costco membership — and you should get one, BTW — you can ask a friend who is a member to get you a Costco Cash Card and load it for you (with your cash, of course). Then just shop with that card in the store, and if you spend more — pay the remaining balance in cash or with an accepted debit card. Also, in some states you can buy alcoholic drinks from Costco without a membership — typically, these stores have a separate liquor store with its own entrance. In case you wonder, Costco is forced to do this because some states prohibit the forming of alcohol clubs, enabling you to — for instance — buy great wines for less.
4. Start from the end
And by this we mean start at the back of the store, where many of the best bargains are located. This is where you can find some truly amazing deals. From there, work your way up to the front where the cash registers are.
5. Buy returned items
Costco has a generous return policy which means they also have a ton of returned products to deal with. You can take advantage of this by buying these items at steep discounts. There are a few shelves in pretty much every Costco store devoted to returned items — make sure to check them out to potentially find something you need.
6. Get free health screenings
No need to (co)pay for a health screening when you can get it at Costco for free. The company offers health screenings for diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and lung disease — all for free. Each warehouse store posts its schedule of screening dates, and you can also find that information on the Costco.com pharmacy page under “Health and Wellness Clinics.” While we’re at health stuff, you may also want to get flu shots at Costco which are sold for just $14.99.
7. Buy meat in bulk and freeze
Generally speaking, buying food (and many other items) at Costco could save you a lot. Yes, you will have to buy in big quantities, but that’s where the savings come from. Buying meat at warehouse clubs like Costco is especially beneficial — all you have to do upon returning home is portion it out and freeze it.
8. Buy flowers at Costco
If you’re planning a wedding or some other major event where you need a ton of flowers, you should turn to Costco for big time savings. It is where many wedding planner pros are getting their stuff. For even better prices, you can order flowers from Costco’s floral supplier, Kendal Floral Supply, and pick it up at a local Costco. While at Kendal’s website, you may also get design ideas and inspiration for flower arrangements.
9. Check Costco’s travel deals
In addition to all other products it offers at low prices, Costco also has amazing deals on travel. You can shop for cruises, rental cars and vacation packages on Costco Travel. Also, the site offers discounts on theme park and specialty vacation travel. If you have miles with some airline, you can arrange a flight separately — or get it all bundled from Costco. Make sure to check it out next time you plan a vacation.
10. Go for the more expensive Executive Membership
As you probably already know, Costco’s membership comes in two flavors — the standard one which costs $60 a year, and Executive Membership that totals at $120 ($60 membership fee, plus $60 upgrade fee). If you are frequently buying at Costco, go for the latter as it will get you 2% back on most purchases along with some additional savings. In other words, if you spend $3,000 per year at Costco, you’ll get the additional $60 — the upgrade fee of the Executive Membership — back. Just like that.
11. Use coupons and pre-owned gift cards
Costco is already affordable but that doesn’t mean you can’t save even more. Search for Costco coupons online, on Google and on sites like Retailmenot.com and Slickdeals.net. Also, grab a pre-owned Costco gift card at Gift Card Granny and Raise to shave a few additional percentage points off your Costco bill. (Related: 7 Gift Card Hacks to Help You Save Money)
12. Use the Costco app
Related to the mentioned coupons, get Costco’s own mobile app for access to the latest deals while on the go. You can also use it to browse around Costco.com and Costco Travel, as well as to better organize your next trip to a local Costco — the app has information on all Costco warehouses and a built-in shopping list feature to help you prepare for your next shopping session.
13. Consider a Costco Credit Card
Costco has teamed-up with Citi to launch its own Visa credit card, offering a few cool benefits to Costco members. Cardmembers get 4% cash back on eligible gas purchases (up to $7,000, 1% thereafter), 3% back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases, 2% back on all purchases from Costco and Costco.com, and 1% back on everything else. In addition, the card offers 7 months of interest-free financing, after which APR will be 15.99%. Plus, there are other benefits that come included with many Citi cards, such as damage & theft protection, extended warranty, travel accident insurance, and more.
The bottom line is — even without any tricks, buying stuff at Costco is a great way to save. Nevertheless, you can save even more by applying some or all of the tips outlined in this article.
And as usual if you have some other tip to share, feel free to do it in the comments form below… or join the conversation on Facebook.