Friday, February 8, 2013

Costco - an experiment

checking out Costco
A year ago, I asked your opinions of Costco. Ten months later, I finally joined. There is a brand new store less than ten minutes from my house. It's huge and clean and has easy parking. And having the flexibility to go on a weekday morning when it's less crowded was all the motivation I needed to sign up.

I am usually one to shy away from warehouse-type stores. They overwhelm me. I never frequent IKEA for that reason. But Costco, surprisingly, fascinates me. I view this first year of membership as an experiment. I expect I'll make up the $55 membership fee on product savings, but we'll see. Some items are very good deals. But I've found that many items are not. I can certainly see how Costco makes its money. They lure you in with some awesome bargains and then I would suspect most people end up buying overpriced bulk packs without calculating whether it's actually a good deal or not.

After two months, here are my initial observations:
1. The items listed in the monthly sales flyer (with coupons) seem to be competitively priced. But remember that these are Costco's sale prices. These sales--and ample storage space at home--also encourage me to hoard. For example, I recently bought a four-pack of Scrubbing Bubbles, my preferred cleaner for the bathtub, because Costco had a great coupon for it. Granted, it may take me a year to use all four bottles, but it's still cheaper than buying one bottle at a time at Target.
2. If you are particular about a certain brand and Costco carries that brand, then it's likely that Costco is cheaper than paying regular price at Target or a grocery store. But if you're not particular about a brand, then Costco's offerings are probably more expensive. Here's an example. The Target brand of dishwasher detergent is much cheaper than buying Cascade at Costco.
3. I've only found one grocery item thus far that's cheaper at Costco than Aldi. (It's craisins, in case you're interested.) Granted, Aldi is a small store and doesn't carry a ton of items. But for basics, it's almost always cheaper.
4. Costco's meat prices seem reasonably competitive. But sometimes you can score a better deal by hitting the right supermarket sale. For example, I can find fresh, boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale at the supermarket for $1.99/lb or even $1.69/lb. The cheapest I saw them at Costco was $2.99/lb.
5. The beer prices seem reasonable.
6. I love the quality of Costco's diapers, but they're not the cheapest! Through Amazon's subscribe and save feature, Mason's Luvs, which work well for him, cost $31-$32 for a box of 204. Costco's Kirkland diapers are $38.99 for a box of 210.
7. I have no need for a shopping cart that can seat two small children, but I love, love, love this option for larger families!
8. You can't beat plentiful, free samples. Mason eats his way through the store.

What items at Costco are you convinced are the best deals? Upon crossing Costco's threshold, do you have to fight the temptation to hoard, like I do?


5 comments:

Mrs. said...

For the most part, we like Costco, especially for a few items in particular...

- Salmon: The Costco regular price is $7.99/lb, whereas it is usually only $7.99/lb on sale at Giant.
- Toilet paper: I forget what we paid last year for their brand of 36 rolls of toilet paper, but it has lasted us the year. And we have the room to store it.
- Teriyaki meatballs: I'm not sure if this works out cheaper, but it makes for an easy, somewhat economical dinner.

But I agree -- they're prices aren't always the best on grocery items. I try to most things at Aldi's and then just go to Costco for a few items.

Our membership is up at the end of the month, and I think we'll wait a few months to renew...just until we're out of enough things to make it worthwhile.

Rachel said...

Their medicine is a lot cheaper! Especially if you don't mind the Kirkland brand- we got a year supply of "Claritin" for less than $10! I also find their milk to be one of the cheaper places. I find I can get toilet paper, cereal, snacks, etc cheaper using coupons at the grocery store- and less to store in my small place.

Amy- Taylors East said...

We really only go there for formula and diapers occasionally, since we mostly use cloth. Thanks so much for the diaper comparison. I had been hearing about the good deals via Amazon subscribe, but didn't know it beat Costco. Nice - just ordered some diapers.

allison kee said...

I also think the toilet paper at Costco is a good deal - we buy whatever their generic brand is - lasts forever.

I also think their cheeses are a much better deal than regular grocery store prices, especially if you like the fancy cheeses, like Parmigiano-Reggiano.

We're also big fans of their almond butter - cheaper than Amazon or Trader Joes.

Agree with you 100% on the diapers - we are also subscribe & save members and use Luvs. They are the cheapest 'name brand' IMO and they work just fine.

allison kee said...

I also think the toilet paper at Costco is a good deal - we buy whatever their generic brand is - lasts forever.

I also think their cheeses are a much better deal than regular grocery store prices, especially if you like the fancy cheeses, like Parmigiano-Reggiano.

We're also big fans of their almond butter - cheaper than Amazon or Trader Joes.

Agree with you 100% on the diapers - we are also subscribe & save members and use Luvs. They are the cheapest 'name brand' IMO and they work just fine.