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Published on Sept. 30, 2023
By: Maurie Backman
Many people are drawn to Costco for the low prices the warehouse club giant is known for. But there are ways to save money at Costco beyond your basic “load up on bulk goods” and “check for sales.” Here are a few tricks you can employ to spend less and save more.
The upside of shopping at Costco.com is that you might get access to a wider range of products than what you’re able to find at your local warehouse club store. But one thing you should know is that online Costco purchases are almost always more expensive than their in-store alternatives.
To put it another way, a fleece jacket you see online for $19.99 may be just $17.99 at the store. So if you have a Costco nearby, try to visit instead of sticking to online ordering. The only exception is if you’re only buying one or two items, and the amount you’re likely to spend on gas will wipe out your in-store savings.
Costco offers a range of grocery items for two-day delivery. These grocery items don’t tend to be as marked-up as the fresh items you can order for same-day delivery, so you may be tempted to buy certain items you can’t find at your local warehouse club store.
The problem, though, is that you need to spend $75 to avoid a shipping charge on items that are eligible for two-day delivery. And that might cause you to spend more than you intend to.
Let’s say you really want a few bulk grocery items from Costco.com that are eligible for two-day delivery and cost $50 in total. You might push yourself to spend an additional $25 to snag free shipping. That’s not great, because while you’re saving on the items you do buy, you’re racking up a higher tab. So if you’re eager to save money at Costco, don’t order two-day delivery unless you really have a use for $75 worth of products.
An Executive membership at Costco costs $120 a year, while a basic membership costs $60. As such, you may be thinking, “How am I going to save money at Costco by paying double for my membership?”
The answer is that the Executive membership offers 2% cash back on all Costco purchases, including those made online. And once you spend more than $3,000 in a year at Costco, you’ve saved money and made back your membership fee upgrade.
It costs an extra $60 to pay for Executive membership. But if you end up spending about $100 a week at Costco, or $5,000 in the course of a year, your Executive membership will give you $100 back. Subtract $60 for the upgrade, and you’ve just saved yourself $40.
Costco tends to put new and discounted items on display so customers can check out that selection when they first walk into the store. And it can be very tempting to make impulse buys in that situation since you have a large, empty shopping cart at your disposal and you haven’t begun making purchases.
A better bet? Clear out of that front area unless there’s an item there you specifically have on your list. The less you’re tempted to buy, the more you might save.
Like other retailers, Costco will sometimes discount its merchandise, resulting in better deals. So perhaps you end up paying $19.99 for a given item that’s reduced to $14.99 a few weeks later.
In that situation, you’re not out of luck. Costco offers price adjustments on items purchased within 30 days. Just head on over to customer service or log into your Costco.com account to request a price adjustment online.
Between elevated interest rates and lingering inflation, every dollar you can save right now is a dollar that can go a long way. So it pays to do what you can to spend less and save more at Costco, and ideally, these tricks will help.
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Maurie Backman writes about current events affecting small businesses for The Ascent and The Motley Fool.
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