5 ways I spend money at Costco

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The trick is to shop smart, particularly when you pay for the privilege.

Key points

  • A Costco membership is only worth it if you don’t spend more than you have to.
  • Using Costco discounts on things like new or used lawn equipment and vehicles can make a Costco membership worth more than it costs.

No one is immune from financial weaknesses, mistakes so embarrassing that we want to keep them to ourselves. But where’s the fun in that? We learn from our own mistakes, and if we are wise, we learn from the mistakes of others. Feel free to consider my trips to Costco as a warning, a diary of all the things you don’t want to do wrong.

a quick confession

I have a love/hate relationship with Costco. From the moment I walk into the store, I have a fear of missing out, a feeling that I need to see every single thing on display. I’d like to blame Costco for being stocked to the rafters, but the truth is, the problem seems to be me. If I’m going to keep shopping at Costco, I have to get rid of these five money-wasting habits.

1. Suddenly I think I should buy in bulk

The minute I walked into Costco, I started acting like I was shopping for 10 people, when really it’s just me and my husband. Twelve cans of soup? Hey, I’ll stock the pantry. A pallet of toilet paper? Sign me up.

I think it’s because I’m so overwhelmed with all there is to see and examine. Every time I’m at Costco I tell myself that if I stock up (as in, Really stock up), I won’t have to go back for a month or two.

One of the things on my to-do list today is checking the expiration dates on everything I have in my pantry. The thing about buying 12 cans of soup is that we might open two or three, but the rest are neatly organized on the pantry shelves. Given the rising price of groceries, it doesn’t make sense to throw any away.

Anything I buy and don’t end up using before it expires is wasted money.

2. I’m lazy

I’m not sure what the big box stores have, but I tend to lose my critical thinking skills after an hour or so of walking around looking at toys, t-shirts, kids clothes, and 25 pound bags of avocados (okay, that last one is a exaggeration).

Let’s say I need a bag of limes. I can tell you which grocery stores around us tend to have the lowest prices on produce. The same cannot be said for Costco. I rarely compare their prices to other retailers and frankly I’m not sure why. It’s easier for me to assume I’m getting a good deal than it is to compare prices.

I lose money by not taking the time to compare prices.

I have a bad habit of getting down to business every day and rarely eating until my body reminds me that I am ignoring a basic human need. And while I can’t tell you why, I tend to go to Costco around 11am. flowers, I am usually starving.

That’s the time I buy dark chocolate covered pretzels, mini eclairs, a big chunk of cheese, and all sorts of other goodies I really could live without.

I’m trying to get better at not shopping when I’m hungry, but it’s a work in progress. In the meantime, I know I’m wasting money on things I don’t need, simply because I’m too hungry to be rational.

4. I am trying to justify paying a membership fee

Everything from paying an annual membership fee to having someone check my Costco card at checkout is designed to make me feel like I’m a part of something special. It is not an accident.

I’ve often wondered if some of my purchases at Costco were made to justify the fact that I’m paying to shop there. Do I really need that mini-trampoline or am I buying it because I’m “part of the club”?

Spending money to justify spending money is a ridiculous practice and a waste of money.

5. I can’t save money where I can

I somehow forget about Costco when I buy a car or fill it up with gas. If you wanted to buy a new kitchen sink or create a custom cabinet, you would never think of visiting a big box store. And when I needed a wheelchair for my mom, Costco didn’t come to mind. And yet, the retailer offers each of these at a discount. Heck, the store even hooks members up with less expensive caskets and urns.

Not taking advantage of special discounts offered through Costco is another way to spend money.

The thing about personal finance is that we all learn as we go. My ultimate goal is to enjoy a trip to Costco without regretting a single purchase. Once that’s done, I’m sure I can find a better use for the savings, like investing in a new CD.

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