Costco The Frugal Way

March 31, 2012

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Budget Savvy Diva was at Costco for the first time in many years a few weeks back and realized, WOW… Not only can I buy 60 gallons of Windex but how expensive some item were. I realize that couponing can be to much of a commitment to many shoppers thus they are attracted to a superstore like Costco thinking that they are getting the best deal, but this is not always the case. In many case one is actually paying more in bulk. Thus Budget Savvy Diva came up with a frugal guide to help you shop at Costco the frugal and easy way.

Here’s how to shop at Costco the frugal way:

Make a list. Keep a piece of paper stuck to the fridge, and whenever you run low on things add them to the list.

Do some window shopping. If you’re just starting out, go to each store with the list and write down the unit prices on the items you buy regularly. Get out your calculator & compare. I know, I know it is math but this little bit of math can mean MAJOR savings so DO YOUR HOMEWORK! If you’ve got old grocery receipts laying around the house, you can save time on this step by taking the list to Costco & comparing, although your comparisons won’t be as accurate because of the differences in sizes. This takes a little time, but you only have to do it once!

Evaluate. Look at the items that are cheaper per unit at Costco and decide if they are things that could be frozen or stored for long periods (such as meats, breads, or toilet paper). If they’re things that you won’t eat before they will go bad, knock them off your Costco list.

Divide the list into two categories: things to buy at the regular grocery store, and things to buy at Costco. With experience you’ll know which items are always cheaper at Costco, which are a better buy at the grocery store, and which could be a better deal at either depending on sales and coupons. If you’re not used to shopping at both stores, use the comparison information you got during the window shopping step.

Fill up. Eat a full lunch or dinner, including dessert, before a trip to Costco. Thus this will limit how much impulsive buys. And do not even start about the inexpensive pizza and polish hot dogs if you knew the nutrition and ingredients of those products you would not only understand WHY it is so inexpensive but WHY you waistline is increasing.

Get started. Take your Costco list with you & head to Costco, leaving your spouse or children at home (unless they don’t usually ask for additional items when you shop).

Walk straight to the back of the store. Do NOT pass Go (electronics, books, DVDs, gadgets, and that giant stack of cool things you’ll see as soon as you walk in). Go directly to the back of the store. It only takes about 2 minutes of discipline to do this, and chances are you’ll have saved the cost of your $50 annual membership right there. Just concentrate on not running the other shoppers over or on people watching, and you’ll be too busy to notice the latest & greatest things you don’t need and didn’t intend to buy.

Buy the bulkiest & heaviest things first. Check your list to see if there’s anything on it that you’ve missed, and go straight to those individual items. If you don’t find them in their usual spot, ask someone where they have moved to instead of searching for them yourself. The less items you see in the store, the better. If you do see something along the way that seems appealing, tell yourself that if it’s on your list NEXT time, THEN you will get it. After all, you didn’t know you “needed” it until you saw it, so chances are that you really don’t. You’ll likely forget about it as soon as you get home. Finally, head up to the pharmacy area and pick up any prescriptions, healthcare & eye care items that are on your list. In our store these are right next to the checkout, so make that your final stop.

Escape. Top up on gas, and head home to unload.*

Hope this help you on your Next Costco adventure because you do not want to walk out of there with a 300+ bill if you do not have to.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Justin February 15, 2013 at 5:36 am

After a lapse I’ve just renewed my Costco membership and am in the process of doing the comparison. We’re a small family (only 2 people) so buying in bulk just doesn’t make sense much of the time, and like you pointed out Costco is sometimes much more expensive on some items. It amazes me how so many people are brainwashed by thinking if it’s in bulk it must be cheaper. I have found that some items are much cheaper, unfortunately my storage space is limited so I don’t have anywhere to store 25 lbs of sugar for example.

Good tips! And about the gas thing, I know it’s usually atleast a few pennies cheaper, and with gas prices today that definitely counts more than ever, I actually went a few days ago and it was NOT cheaper than other local gas stations, I was a bit surprised.

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