20 Ways To Save Money When You're Shopping In Costco

No doubt you’ve been to Costco and are already aware of just how much money you can save. However, there’s a world of hidden codes and practices of which many people are unaware. So before you pay your next visit to the wholesaler, consider using these tips to bring your bargain-hunting A-game.

20. Costco’s Price Guarantee

We’ve all been there: you buy something you think is a great bargain, but you’ve acted too soon.Shortly after your purchase, that lovely pair of jeans or snazzy shirt goes on sale, its original price slashed. All you can do though is cut your losses and try to be more shrewd in the future. Well, at Costco there’s an alternative.

If an item’s list price gets reduced within 30 days of your purchase, Costco’s actually got you covered. The wholesaler is prepared to offer store credit for the difference between the two amounts. As a result, you have more cash saved and as an added bonus you don’t have to kick yourself. Sounds like a good deal to us!

19. Bargain Aisles

Costco premises are massive and there are so many weird and wonderful things for sale that you could easily get lost in there. With that in mind, trying to work out where to find the best discounts can be confusing. Are those bargains you’re looking for next to the coffins or down by the wine cellars? Actually, there’s a simpler answer.

Members of Costco’s workforce have revealed a secret: if you’re strapped for cash, avoid items at the store entrance. They’re usually the most costly. Instead, head for the warehouse’s heart because, as a general rule, these displays offer the largest savings. This tip should save you both time and money when you enter the Costco jungles!


18. Rush Hour Shopping

Chances are the last thing you want is to head into rush-hour traffic for your shopping. If the roads are that busy, just imagine how much worse it must be at the store, especially one as popular as Costco. On the other hand, that’s exactly what Youtuber and expert money-saver The Krazy Coupon Lady suggests to budding bargain-hunters.

Now it might sound like The Krazy Coupon Lady is living up to her name too accurately. But think about it. According to those in the know, weekdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m are Costco’s quietest times because most people are on the road. That gives you a free run to the latest deals with minimal queuing!


17. The 99-cent Code

Many retailers mark prices just below the dollar because as customers we react to it. The price seems cheaper and everyone likes to save money. With this in mind, prices ending in 99 cents are indicative of quite the opposite when shopping at Costco. These are standard prices you could find at other stores.

Instead, take a closer look at the prices – specifically the ones that end in a different nine. Products that have price tags ending in .49, .79 or .89 cents, for example, are likely to represent the manufacturer’s original discount. In other words, their Costco price will probably be more competitive than those you’ll find elsewhere.


16. Price Tag Asterisks

Have you ever noticed that some price tags in Costco also have an asterisk on them? Usually displayed at the top right of the label, this little star has a hidden meaning. It signifies that the product in question has a limited stock and consequently won’t be re-ordered when it’s gone.

The Consumerist website also revealed how the asterisk is code for another little detail. Apparently, whether it’s got a visible discount or not, the marked item is at its lowest price. So if an asterisk appears on the tag of your favorite Costco goods, stock up on them quickly before they leave the shelves.


15. Membership-Free Shopping

It’s true that you need one of Costco’s membership cards to take full advantage of its deals. But did you know that there are several services you can take advantage of without one? For starters, buying alcohol is a membership-free privilege in several states. What’s more, you’ll likely find it at a marked-down price at Costco.

You can also still visit Costco food courts for a snack, get discounted prescription meds and eye exams. There’s also another hack in the form of the grocery delivery website, Instacart. You can order your shopping and get it delivered to your house, all without having to sign up for membership.


14. Membership Savings

If you did decide to purchase a Costco membership though, you might want to consider an upgrade. While the basic joining fee is $60, a “Gold Star Executive” membership is double that. It sounds like a lot, but the upgraded membership offers additional savings of up to $1,000 a year, depending on precisely how much you’re spending across a 12-month period. Needless to say, that’s a huge amount for Costco regulars.

The best thing is that you’re not actually locked into your decision. If you try the executive membership and realize you’re not getting your money’s worth, Costco offers downgrades. Not only can you go back to your basic membership at any time, it will refund your $60 dollar executive fee, too.


13. Spouse Cards

If several people in your household shop at Costco, in theory that sounds like an expensive problem. Specifically, it means that you’ll have to spend more to get a second membership doesn’t it? Actually, the company’s already thought of that and provides every member with an additional “spouse card” as a result.

But the spouse card isn’t just for significant others. You can also give it to another family member providing they’re aged 18 or over and live with you. Additionally, it’s said some people give their spouse cards to friends and family at different addresses, although this technically breaches the Costco guidelines. It sure would be convenient if the firm added an option for that, though!


12. Gift Card Savings

We already established that Costco sells a lot of unexpected items, and gift cards are among them. However, it’s worth considering looking in the wholesaler first before hitting other stores because of the discounts. In some cases you might even pick up gift cards with a higher dollar value than the sum you pay.

The Krazy Coupon Lady endorses this life hack, too – at least for movie tickets. Seeing the latest blockbusters can get expensive, but Costco sells them at a lower price than the ticket office. You get an even greater discount if you buy in bulk. It just requires a little forward-thinking to reap the savings.


11. Ink Refills

A printer is a pretty standard piece of equipment in most households. As such, you’ve probably come to dread those faded lines as the ink runs dry. It’s inconvenient and new cartridges don’t come cheap, either. With that in mind, the next time you run out, consider a visit to your local Costco.

Sure, it sells new cartridges. But Costco also offers a cheaper alternative, and one much better for the environment. You can refill your empty ink for a fraction of the price you’d pay for a new batch. That’s one less plastic container in landfill sites, so you’re doing your part to save the planet.


10. Costco’s Own Brand

Have you ever noticed branded products called “Kirkland” around your local Costco? That’s the store’s own manufacturer, but don’t let that fact fool you. Costco prides itself on making products that are just as good as other signature brands, if not better. What’s more, it has the resources to back up this claim.

What you may not know is that some Kirkland label products are actually made by the same manufacturers. Its batteries, for example, are created by Duracell. So even though they have another name on the packaging, there’s no difference in quality. The price, on the other hand, is significantly more affordable.


9. Costco’s Tech-Friendly

If you’re in the market for a new piece of technology, Costco has you covered with its customer support. For instance, it offers two years’ warranty rather than the standard one year most other places provide. In addition, the wholesaler has something called concierge services for all its members.

The concierge service is basically a free technical support hotline to save you potential repair hassle. It’s available from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day (holidays notwithstanding) in both English and Spanish. Whether you need advice or troubleshooting, give it a ring and hopefully you’ll be up and running again in no time.


8. Free Delivery

So you have a lot of shopping to do and you’ve made some great savings. But then it’s time for the worst part of shopping for many: getting your groceries home. You have to cart them through the parking lot and load up the car – if you’re lucky enough to have one. Otherwise, it’s carrying them home by hand. If you don’t know about Costco’s delivery service, that is.

Spend more than $35 dollars on fresh food (including your groceries) and you’re entitled to one-day delivery for free. Providing you live in a metropolitan area, that is. Alternatively, Costco delivers household supplies or non-perishables in two days if you spend $75 dollars or more. That should save you some time!


7. Know Your Sales

Although there’s nothing wrong with wandering into Costco to see what’s on sale, it pays to plan ahead. End-of-season sales are a good example. You can pick up some great bargains when Costco clears out stock at the end of a seasonal period. Visit after Christmas for next year’s festive purchases, or at the end of summer for warm-weather purchases.

Sales cycles are also something to which you should pay attention. Costco sales typically run for about three weeks, which means there’s a gap in the cycle. You could be missing out on big savings during those times, so make sure you don’t hit bargain droughts. Of course, you can always check the internet to see what’s on sale, too.


6. Free Medical Screenings

We’ve already mentioned you can get your eyes tested at Costco, but that’s not the only health benefit. Members are also entitled to several other services too, and it’s all completely free. Indeed, the company has a whole schedule running throughout the year for customers who want to drop in.

The medical experts check your blood sugar to screen for diabetes and have a selection of heart disease tests. They also use ultrasound to detect possible signs of osteoporosis. All you have to do is head to your Costco on the scheduled date and time and provide a small blood sample for testing.


5. Free Samples

If you’ve ever been to a Costco you probably noticed the free sample kiosks. You can usually find them throughout the store, offering a veritable smorgasbord. And we’re here to tell you that you should absolutely take advantage of those freebies. In fact, even Costco encourages you to tuck in!

Officially, Costco tells vendors to give out unlimited samples. You can take as many as you like, as long as you’re polite and don’t mind queuing. According to lifestyle website Kitchn in 2018, if you want the best selection you’ll have to brave the busy weekends. That’s when the samples in kiosks have the most variety.


4. Coupons are Optional

When you walk into Costco, you’re likely to get greeted at the door with a smile and a flyer. These leaflets seem quite handy and offer lots of discount coupons for you to use. You’d be forgiven for thinking you need to hold onto these to get the best bargains.

However, did you know these flyers are there to inform you of bargains and aren’t necessary for discount purchases? Any sales are applied automatically when you take your items through the Costco checkouts. So don’t feel the need to cram your hands, pockets or handbags full of leaflets unless you really want them.


3. Returned Items

With such a lenient returns policy it’s inevitable that Costco will get many returns. The ones that are in decent condition will, of course, return to the shelves. And that’s not so much an issue with products that are currently available. But what does it do with items that aren’t currently on its shelves?

If the stock’s undamaged, Costco will place them in a section all of their very own. These products get displayed alongside items that are out of season and then the wholesaler slashes its price. You can find them at a reduced cost, so look out for these bargains the next time you visit.


2. Balance Price and Quantity

When you see bargains, it’s tempting to go for the one that seems to give you the most stuff. On the other hand, sometimes deals can be deceptive and you might be getting fewer units than elsewhere. Luckily, Costco has already done most of the math for you by including a price per unit (PPU).

The PPU will reveal if you’re really getting the best deal which you can compare with other local stores. Additionally, not every Costco price label adds Value Added Tax (V.A.T.) onto the main price, so look out for that. You can find the final price including V.A.T. just under the bolder number. Be sure to double-check price labels to avoid paying more than you expected!


1. Costco Cash Cards

Last but not least is another life hack to shop at Costco without requiring membership. They’re called Costco cash cards. Although the purchaser needs a membership to buy them, the holder can spend the cards either online or in a store without joining. Bear in mind you do still need to sign yourself in on arrival, though.

Cash cards can have a value of anything from $10 to $100 dollars. All you need is a friend with a Costco membership to get one for you. So if you’ve never visited the wholesaler before and want to try it for yourself, this is your best bet. And if nothing else, at least you can grab some bargains while the card lasts.