5 Tips to Save Big on Your Next Costco Haul

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If you’re a Costco shopper, chances are you’re a savvy consumer. Otherwise, you would not pay for an annual membership designed to help you save money throughout the year. No matter how savvy a shopper you are, though, it’s easy to get so busy that you fall into the habit of doing the same thing in the same way. If you want to save more on your next Costco run, why not adopt some of the following five tips?

1. Break down the cost of items packaged in bulk

Let’s say you see a 60-pack of toilet paper. The price looks pretty good, considering how long those 60 rolls will last you. However, it’s not the overall price of a product that matters. It’s how much you’re paying per unit.

One of the best moves you can make is to run a quick price comparison. There are two ways to do this.

Conduct a pre-shopping comparison

  • Sit down with your favorite warm (or cold) drink and your shopping list.
  • Using one of these mobile apps, type each item from your shopping list into the search bar, one at a time.
  • The app will quickly tell you which retailers sell that product and how much it costs.
  • Let’s say you’re looking at a bulk package of toilet paper, and the Costco price is $55. By dividing $55 by 60, you find that the price per roll is $0.92.
  • The app shows that a nearby store offers a 30-pack of the same toilet paper for $25, or $0.83 per roll. Picking up two packages of the toilet paper at that store instead (or, if free shipping is offered, ordering it online) saves you a total of $5.

Another (even easier) way to comparison shop works like this:

  • Once you’re inside Costco, use a price comparison app to scan the barcode of an item you’re interested in purchasing.
  • Again, the app will supply you with retailers who sell the same item and give you the price.
  • Before placing the item in your shopping cart, you know whether you got the best price or should pick it up elsewhere.

2. Go in with an exit strategy

One of the big complaints about all warehouse stores is the need to buy everyday items — like fruits and vegetables — in bulk. We don’t always need a large quantity of avocados or grapefruit, and some ultimately go to waste.

As you put together a shopping list, devise a plan for how you’ll use anything you plan to buy. That may mean spending a Sunday afternoon prepping meals for the week and popping them into the freezer until needed. It may mean talking to a friend or family member to find out if they want to go in halfsies with you. You’ll buy the massive bag of avocados, deliver half to them, and they’ll reimburse you half the price.

Remember: A bargain is only a bargain if nothing goes to waste.

3. Look at more than one Costco for large or special purchases

Even longtime Costco members may be surprised to learn that prices vary by warehouse location — even within the same city. Just because something is on sale at the Costco warehouse 20 miles away doesn’t mean you can pick it up for the same price at the store near your home.

If you see something you’ve had your eye on — like a new television, tennis bracelet, or kid’s backyard playset — make sure the sale price applies to the store you normally visit. The opposite is also true. If you want to buy a large ticket item, check Costco locations farther away from home to learn if it’s available elsewhere at a lower price.

While you’re focused on saving money, remember that you can get some of what you spend back via some of the biggest cash back apps available.

4. Request a price adjustment

Did you know you can ask the store to refund the difference if you purchase an item marked down within 30 days? It’s a pretty easy process. Simply bring your original receipt to the Costco customer service desk, and as long as it hasn’t been more than 30 days, you’ll receive an immediate refund.

In personal finance matters, it’s all about saving as much money as possible, and requesting a price adjustment is one of the fastest and easiest ways to save.

5. Start in the back of the store

There are a couple of spots in the average Costco warehouse where the sweet prices hide. Most of us grab a cart and begin our shopping excursion at the front, which is the part of the store commonly referred to as “action alley.” This is where many newer Costco products are available. However, action alley is also where you’ll find the highest prices since it’s the area of the warehouse that gets the most foot traffic.

In general, the deeper into the store you walk, the better deals you’ll discover. If you’re shopping to save money, begin in the back of the store and work your way to the center.

Most of us shop at Costco with the goal of leaving more money in our checking accounts each month. If that describes you, these tips should make it an easier goal to accomplish.

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