6 Items That Make Your Costco Membership Worth It (and 6 to Avoid)

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

A woman walking toward Costco Wholesale entrance

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.

2. Eyeglasses

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.

3. Prescriptions

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.

4. Wine

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.

5. Gas

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.

2. Diapers

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.

4. Books

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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1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Personal LoansFixed rates from 6.199% APR to 15.365% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 6.145% APR to 14.685% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of June 15, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 6.145% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.97% plus 4.175% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply:SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate DisclosureFixed interest rates from 6.49% – 19.49% (6.49% – 19.49% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%-18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate DisclosureFixed interest rates from 6.49% – 19.49% (6.49% – 19.49% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%-18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.