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July 23, 2021

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



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...