Does shopping at Costco really save you that much?
For many shoppers, Costco is haven of to-die-for consumerism.
The deals, if used right, are sublime. The quantities, if utilized appropriately, are generous. The selection, for all intents and purposes, is fair.
Yet how exactly did Costco arrive at such a favourable reputation? Sure, a 60 pack of hot dogs for $15 might be a steal, but how many wieners can one man take? (Don’t actually answer that.)
For my money, the “Is Costco really that great of a place to shop?” debate is one that isn’t heard enough, so let’s reprise it a little.
The inspiration for this post? Suzanne Rose’s recent piece on Helium.com, Why Costco doesn’t always save you money.
An interesting read, sure, and one where Rose runs down three of the primary reasons Costco and similar members-only shopping depots might not be the slam dunks they market themselves to be.
Her three, in no particular order:
1) “You may buy more than you want and some will go to waste.” In essence, buying a 100-roll bundle of toilet paper may be a good idea because TP never goes bad and you can use it extemporaneously and without fear of an expiration date. But if you’ve bought a 25 pack of something that’s not perishable, you might be in for it. If you can’t use/eat all of what you’ve purchased at a discount, that discount goes right out the window and you’ve now wasted money.
2) "They are not cheaper on everything.” No shocker here. Costco can be great for things like electronics, meat and candy, but not everything is a steal at the big box stores. Check out this archived MSN piece on the five best and worst Costco deals. (Hint: don’t expect to find much in the way of designer clothes here.)
3) “They do not accept a lot of coupons.” Hardly an explanation needed. Costco, as Rose points out, accepts many of their own coupons but isn’t so keen to acknowledge those from other manufacturers or promo groups.
A good three, and this isn’t even considering the $50 or so Costco membership fee you’re to pay each year just for the right to shop there. A worthy charge?
Maybe. As some have pointed out, the membership cost can more than pay itself back if you’re a large family or someone who shops for the benefit of several others. If that’s the case, Costco is the place for you.
But for the rest of Canadians – say, the singles or couples or small families – is Costco really the heaven-sent retailer its reputation suggests?
Tell us: Do you find it well worth your time, money and effort to shop at Costco and similar members-only stores? Are your savings always big enough to justify the membership fee?
By Jason Buckland, MSN Money
Posted by: Veronica | Jul 23, 2021 12:39:18 PM
I have been a Costco member for many years and upgraded to the executive membership a few years back. With my yearly rebate my membership fees are covered. Like any store you have to know your prices. I consistenlty shop the same items and find the savings are worthwhile. While buying in bulk does not always save you money on certain items again this goes back to knowing prices or weekly sales at your other markets. there is not one isle that I miss when going to Costco as you never know what great new things they have brought in. I find the clothes a great price and the quality is also great. There are not too many stores thats you can still find canadian made garmets. I love costco and will continue to spend my money there.
Posted by: cleebie | Jul 23, 2021 12:53:39 PM
i go to the NG Cash And Carry, it just has clucb size foods, and theres no membership
Posted by: Mia | Jul 23, 2021 12:58:24 PM
I shop at Costco for their MEATS - excellent quality & taste ..hands down. Won't even spend my hard earned money anywhere else in that dept. I have sold friends and family without trying just by having over for dinner. Their cheese prices are amazing as well, plus, the cheapest on milk and bread too. Use them for your staples and believe me, you save a ton of cash.
Posted by: Me | Jul 23, 2021 1:13:06 PM
I have a small family, and still find Costco worth while. The reason - the cafeteria. Costco's cafeteria is much less expensive than even Macdonalds. We try to limit our exposure to fast food, but sometimes it is inevitable. Going to Costco instead of Macdonalds easily pays for our membership for a year.
Then I can easily shop for only the items that I know are a better deal than in the other stores.
Posted by: Roger | Jul 23, 2021 1:42:35 PM
Like anything else you need to know what you buy. Unless you are big family perishables might not be a good idea. But you can get great deals on furniture, electronics, clothing, and they often have exclusive items and pretty good sales from week to week. The fifty bucks is worth it as far as I concerned. Just be a knowledgeable consumer!
Posted by: Seejay | Jul 23, 2021 1:59:07 PM
I can take 3 wieners
Posted by: don | Jul 23, 2021 1:59:33 PM
I worked in retail for many years and wont pay a retailer to walk through their door. Maybe Canadian Tire and the others will start charging a membership fee soon. Why not? It helps offset the costs.
Posted by: blaine | Jul 23, 2021 2:15:07 PM
Costco does save the average family a considerable amount of money each year. Firstly, the products offered are all mid to high range in quality, something that many places do not offer. Secondly, your $50 is saved in your first shop, simple math. Costco's return policy is above reproach and you do not have to buy extended warranties on items as you have to at all other retail stores, you do not have to argue about returning something, you simply return it and you either get cash back, or a costco credit voucher. I prefer to know the quality of my goods as opposed to buying second rate goods that save you a few pennies. Overall, costco reigns supreme and if you cannot see that then your a very poor shopper.
Posted by: A. Jackson | Jul 23, 2021 2:15:27 PM
My refund cheque this year was only $40.00. I find the produce good quality, but Price Chopper, No Frills or Food Basics certainly have cheaper prices. Propane, cheese, gas, bread, dog food, shrimp prices can't be beat in Toronto for sure. Sporting goods are always cheap. Clear shin pad tape is usually $10.99 or $1.00 a roll and that would be $3-4.00 at the rink or sporting goods stores. Tents, kayaks, BBQ's all great value in my opinion. Just watch the flyers and the quanitity you buy. Maybe the best deal on any item I have ever purchased is a Jamaican roasted coffee for $29.00. This is one of the best tasting coffee's in the world according to the conassures and myself. Coffee shops (if you can find it) Or grocery stores sell it from $45-60.00 and that's no joke. Tires are another great value. All this to say, I am a satisfied Costco customer but don't buy all my produce or dry goods there.
Posted by: Walwyn | Jul 23, 2021 2:57:00 PM
I make back the membership fee just on the savings on prescription fees when buying drugs. Compare Costco at approximately $ 4.00 vs. Shoppers Drug Mart at over $12.00 for each prescribed item!
Posted by: Amy R | Jul 23, 2021 3:02:45 PM
As with anywhere else, you really need to be smart about it. Yes some stuff it cheaper, and other things more expensive. Show me any retailer where that isn't true. I shop there regularly for our family and we come out ahead on our executive membership. Can you find similar or better prices shopping the weekly flyers? Sure you can, just let me know how many times you've run out of something just as it went on sale. I'm willing to bet it was few if ever.
For those complaining about no help, that must be a regional thing as it's not like that at the Costco locations I shop. Every cashier has an assistant to reload your purchases into your cart. Yes, there aren't that many people walking the floor, but I find that those who are there have always been more than helpful when I've needed it.
What surprised me was when they installed 4 self checkout lanes.
Posted by: Amanda Henry | Jul 23, 2021 3:09:57 PM
As a single low income parent to one child Costco does not save us money. It is right across town in the industrial section and we do not have a car. When I have had the opportunity to go and check prices they are at par or above the prices at Super Store or Wal-mart with less to choose from. ei: bed sheets. The produce is consistently at a higher price. As for meat and cheese we buy very little as we cannot afford it and we do not have a freezer to store extra in and by the kg., there are no large savings to offset the yearly fee or the time and distance. Electronics and gas are not considerations for us at this time.
Posted by: Richard | Jul 23, 2021 3:12:40 PM
I have several brothers and sisters who are Costco "Fanatics" and are quite surprised that I am NOT. Maybe I am from the old school of shopping but I just don't see buying a couch - toothpaste - and tires in a one stop shop where you have to have a membership!!! They also only have one store within a 30km radius from us and needless to say it is a ZOO at all times. I have had several bad experiences with the store and tried a membership at least once but from a savings perspective I didn't find it all that great. Honestly if it a cost issue I would rather pay an extra few dollars for a better atmosphere (not a zoo) and buy my couch at a furniture store and my food at a grocery store where the staff are professional and there is no membership fee.
Posted by: linda | Jul 23, 2021 3:13:34 PM
Costco shopping is like a mass hysteria addiction. Consumer Addicts quiver in anticipation of the Big Shop. And not once have I heard of a Costco shopper underspending: Every user claims to 'over-shoot' their imagined budget.
My parents aged 77 years still purchase in bulk in huge quantities. Sad to report, I considered joining my neighbourhood friend's trip to Costco this evening. This would be my first trip in over 10 years.
Posted by: Jim | Jul 23, 2021 4:33:15 PM
If you know your prices Costco is a good place to shop. I did prefer Sams Club better. The prices were lower and there were things they carried that Costco just doesn't. I never had both memberships at the same time. I stock up on things when they are on sale. Downy, laundry soap, dishwasher tabs, toliet paper. Nothing goes to waste. Its part of my shopping routine and not that far away. Meat is always a deal. Love the fresh boneless skinless chicken breast. 13.99kg. Seriously for fresh chicken. Unless it's on sale somewhere else its a bargain. Propane is much cheaper and when you own a trailer and have several tanks to fill, my membership is paid for by the cost savings on propane alone. Some people are just wasteful by nature. If you know what you need and what you want then it helps the dollar go further at the end of the year. Discipline. Life is all about self discipline. Some people just dont have it.
Posted by: Jeff | Jul 23, 2021 4:38:13 PM
I have read the comments, both positive and negative, in the response to your article and must say that for myself I find my Costco Membership a good value. Like many have said it depends on what you purchase, how much you purchase, and whether you have the space to store the large bulk items that you find at Costco. For myself, like I have said, I find that the savings on certain items more than repay me for the cost of the yearly membership. Living close to the border I can take advantage of Costco on both sides and the savings we receive by purchasing cheese alone in the US Costco more than make up for the yearly membership cost. Of course you have to know prices when shopping there, that is true for any store, and of course you will not find everything there. However I often find that I have to deal with several stores to find all of the items I need anyways so in this Costco is no different.
Everyone has to realize that Costco is a warehouse store, they to not have a huge selection of brands but deal in specific items that are of a comparable quality to items you often find at higher prices in other stores. Our purchases generally tend towards non-perishable products such as paper products, laundry detergent, and other items. We also however take advantage of certain items in the fresh and frozen food area, the muffins are a particular favourite with my family and better (in our opinion) that similar priced items in some of the local stores. Their meat products are of an excellent quality...had the best prime rib ever and the lamb I purchased was not only very good but cheaper than comparable quality from other stores.
The simple fact is, if it saves you money then have a membership and shop there. If it doesn't then don't, it is as simple as that. One simple truth is that no store will always have what you want and no store will always have the lowest prices.
Posted by: Nan | Jul 23, 2021 4:55:53 PM
ok if you like paying $300 and walking out with 5 items in your cart go for it! I refused to renew my membership but my husband now does because he likes to buy his drinks for work in bulk once a month only because he loathes shopping regularly. And he likes to stock up the freezer which is ok with me if he's footing the bill, because frankly I have no need for 16 lbs of hamburger or 25 chicken breasts. I don't eat meat that has been frozen for that long - ever! Everything is overpriced as well and where the heck would you store 10 jars of mayo or 20 boxes of zip lock bags? Unless you are the moronic Duggers, no thanks! It is ALWAYS over crowded in there too boot with lineups from here to timbucktwo! And don't even get me going on the parking, ugh. I read earlier about stores supporting APARTHEID Isreal?? Please mention who supports that, I'll ixnay them too if proven! Coscto also has very limited selection. Who really wants 12 cans of soup all the same flavor?? No way!
Posted by: Lisa | Jul 23, 2021 5:02:43 PM
After reading all of these comments, I would say yet again that a store like "costco" is a good way of separating the people who are a little richer from those who are not. There are still "class divisions" in society, to this day, aren't there?
Personally, even though I have family members who shop there, I refuse to because you need to buy a membership and I'm against the idea behind memberships. To the person who said it's only 50 bucks...you have no idea what necessities can be bought with that wasted 50 bucks.
Posted by: James | Jul 23, 2021 6:05:18 PM
My wife and I have six children, plus we do the shopping for my mom who has mobility issues, so Costco is an absolute godsend to us. Yes, you have to watch the prices and side benefits - for example I would not recommend that anyone purchase electronics there as they don't offer any additional warranty whatsoever, but there are several deals in the clothing, housewares, and foodstuffs that make it worthwhile. We've calculated that we get to live a little better on a little less than if we were restricted to regular department stores. We also have the Executive Membership Card, and the 2% back pretty much pays for our annual memebership fees.
Posted by: jo | Jul 23, 2021 6:06:58 PM
Costco employs hundreds of local people every year. They pay far more and give better benefits than any other store. If you do not like or have a problem with an item you can return it..anytime. The only exception is computers (you have 6 months) I had a tv that stopped working after a year and a half and I just took it back and got my full cash back. If you do not like shopping there, then dont...I do not know what the big deal is as it is a free country and if you want to shop elsewhere than do it but do not ask others to get you in when you want something that you cant get anywhere else:)