Anyone who can make it in and out of Costco with only the items on their list deserves an award for being the most disciplined human ever.
For the rest of us, Costco is a battleground filled with sample tables and items we probably don’t need — but, hey, they seem like a bargain.
How do you know if you’re really getting a good deal at Costco? It can be hard to tell, especially when you’re pushing one of those big carts down the oversize aisles and trying to do some quick mental math.
There’s a way to buy in bulk and save money, so if you plan ahead, you can make the most of your trip. Here are some of the best and worst things to buy at Costco for you to consider.
6 best things to buy at Costco
Buying the following items at Costco could give you more bang for your buck.
1. Organic produce
You don’t have to go to a fancy health food store to get your organic produce. Costco is one of the leading organic food retailers, so if you’re trying to eat organic on a budget, shopping at Costco is one way to get the produce you’re looking for.
Just remember to think ahead about how you’ll use that jumbo bag of spinach or baby carrots. If you can squeeze multiple meals out of your produce, then it makes financial sense to buy the big bag. It helps if you can make a meal plan beforehand and find budget-friendly recipes to guide your purchases.
At Costco Optical, you can get an eye exam from an optician and purchase your glasses, sunglasses, or contacts all in once place, saving you time and money. Costco Optical accepts most insurance plans and offers a Kirkland version of progressive lenses, which could be a better deal than other, more expensive brands.
Members can save up to 80% on prescriptions, according to the Costco website. Popular medications, such as some birth control brands, asthma medications, and blood glucose test strips, are discounted for members. For a complete list, check out Costco’s savings chart.
Depending on your college experience, the thought of cheap wine might bring back bad memories. Wine at Costco is cheap, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t high-quality. In fact, The Washington Post recently ranked 29 cheap wines, and a few Costco selections made the cut.
Costco gas stations have a one-way flow of traffic, making your fueling experience easier than other gas stations.
Even more importantly, in 2017, Oil Price Information Service found that Costco beat out all the other warehouse clubs for the lowest-priced gas. Gas prices vary across the country, but in general, Costco was the cheapest option.
6. Car rentals and vacation packages
Most car rental companies will waive the additional driver fee if you book through Costco. This could save you up to $13 a day on car rentals if you split the driving with someone else.
You also can book hotels, vacation packages, and cruises through Costco Travel. Sometimes, they come with a Costco Cash Card as a perk.
6 worst things to buy at Costco
Not every item at Costco is a great deal. Here are a few items you might want to avoid buying at the retailer.
1. Products that expire
Unless you’re throwing a massive BBQ, you probably won’t go through an industrial-size bottle of ketchup before it expires. Yes, condiments go bad, and even spices lose their potency.
Sunscreen, bug spray, eye drops, and other personal care items with expiration dates also probably will expire before you have a chance to use them up if you buy large sizes. Stick to buying them in smaller quantities, especially if you’re shopping for one or two people.
Babies grow fast, and if you take a risk and buy diapers in bulk, there’s a chance you’ll be stuck with leftovers of a smaller size. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you’re trying to use diapers that don’t fit because you bought too many. That could get … messy.
3. Some name-brand foods
Local supermarkets and grocery stores often advertise coupons for name-brand products to get people in the door. You probably can get cereal and some baking mixes cheaper if you wait for coupons and check local sales. Plus, cereal goes stale if you buy too much and don’t eat it.
Costco usually has an assortment of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books. However, you probably can get these books cheaper on Amazon, especially if you don’t mind buying used copies.
5. Nonorganic produce
Costco offers good deals on organic produce, but buying regular produce at Costco usually isn’t cost-effective unless you have a big family or are splitting your groceries with roommates.
Most people find it difficult to use up their bulk produce before it goes bad, which is not only financially wasteful but also bad for the environment. There are ways to save money on produce, but buying it at Costco likely isn’t one of them.
6. Impulse buys
It’s hard not to be impulsive at Costco — especially when it’s sample time and you’re hungry — but that’s how mistakes happen. You probably don’t need a jumbo-size bottle of olive oil, no matter how good it seems at the sample table. Go to Costco with a list and stick to it so you can avoid making impulse purchases you’ll later regret.
Costco can help you save money if you stick to a plan
The best way to find Costco deals is to make a list and stick to it. Some items will benefit your bottom line, while others might just take up space in your cupboard before proving to be a waste of money.
Make a list of your Costco essentials and come out with enough cash on hand to grab a $1.50 hot dog and soda at the end.
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