Is Costco Worth It?

When I first stepped inside a Costco store, I panicked. Happily. I wanted to buy almost every single thing in the pastries, freezer and junk food sections. I wish I were joking, sadly I’m not. I still remember the total bill we paid (I went with relatives), but I can’t remember how much of it was mine. For transparency, the total was a bit over $400. I also still remember that it included these items: frozen har gow, frozen profiteroles, a dozen croissants, and a can of Poppycock.

I’m not sure how many calories I gained from all that junk, but I know that I told myself I’m not going back to Costco again. I wasn’t going to spend my hard-earned money to make myself unhealthy. I didn’t go again nor did I ever consider signing up for a membership. This went on for years until my sister in law moved with us, bearing a Costco Gold membership card.

Actually, I still didn’t go until before we went on a trip to my boyfriend’s home in December last year. Costco was a great place to get Christmas goodies. We went crazy with the shopping, but at least we weren’t shopping for ourselves. When my SIL renewed her membership, she asked if I wanted a card for myself so my boyfriend and I can go without her. I still have bills going to our old place (where they still live) and I qualified for a “household card” with her membership. We gladly accepted her offer but we insisted on paying half of the membership fee.

THE COST

Costco is a members-only warehouse that sells a wide range of products, from meat to cheesecake to alcohol to toilet paper to air-fryer to inflatable boats to petrol. You get the picture. Costco offers lower prices by selling its products in bulk. It is mainly designed to help small businesses lower their costs, but individual shoppers are also welcome to enjoy their wholesale prices.

As of this writing, membership fees are:

  • $55 for Business Members (ABN required)
  • $60 for Gold Star Membership (individual members)

Both memberships come with a “household card” which is a card available to an immediate family member of the primary member who lives in the same residence. Cardholders are allowed to take 2 guests inside the warehouse, but, technically, only the cardholder is allowed to make a purchase.

As I mentioned above, we paid for half the membership fee. We invested $30 to enjoy Costco’s wholesale prices for 12 months.

THE SAVINGS

We go to different shops for different things in our grocery list. We know the prices of our staples and we shop around for things that often change prices. We’re lucky that all the shops we go to are close to each other, if not in the same building. We buy our meat and some vegetables in the market, a few items from Coles and Woolies and most of our toiletries and non-perishables from Costco.

A bit of a disclaimer before I go on: Costco prices shown below are based on what we paid for as reflected on our receipts. Prices published here may no longer be current and were only used for this post’s content. The prices below are not to be taken as an actual/official price guide. As always, please do your own research before making any financial decision.

From January of this year to date, here are some items we’ve purchased from Costco, with comparable prices from supermarkets and a discount chemist. These products make up most of our “staple” items. We buy them all year round, with or without Costco membership.

Since Costco sells in bulk, I decided to calculate the costs per unit to be able to compare total costs. Selling in bulk/larger quantities is the main reason why Costco has their prices really low. I’m sure other stores can lower their prices as well if they were to do the same.

Based on the above prices, I calculated that we’ve saved about $150 to date by buying these items from Costco.

Costco does “coupons” from time to time, too. This is no different than the occasional “specials” in other supermarkets. When I was creating the comparison tables, I realised that most of the stuff we bought were on special. I guess we got lucky. What if we missed the discounts though? How much would we have saved instead?

Even with regular prices, without rebates, we still would have saved $125.

THE CATCH

Everything. Is. In. Bulk. As it should be, it’s a wholesale store, after all. Some products are also bundled or pre-packaged, which prevents customers from making a selection. For example, they sell a dozen of canned beans, but the dozen is a pre-selection of red beans, white beans, mixed beans and chickpeas (from what I remember).

We only mostly buy non-perishables from Costco for this reason. We can never go through perishables quickly enough to justify buying in bulk. We don’t have a huge freezer for storage. Even chips are too much for me, and I love chips. It took me two months to finish a big bag of Lay’s.

As for the above items, the ones that we haven’t re-purchased are the ones that we are yet to finish. The toilet rolls and the paper towels usually last about 3.5 months. The rice, lotion and sunscreen lasts about 4-5 months.

I also have to note that temptation is all over Costco. It’s there the moment you step inside the store. You have to have a strong willpower to buy only the things you need when you shop there.

SO, IS IT WORTH IT?

For us, it is worth it. We have already saved more than $30, which is what the membership cost us. We even saved more than the full cost of the membership. Another reason why Costco works for us is our proximity with one of the stores. We are 5 minutes away from a Costco store and it doesn’t feel like we’re going for a hike every time we go there. We wouldn’t have signed up if the nearest store is 20 minutes from our house. We’re happy with our membership and I’ll actually recommend others to consider it.

Do you have a Costco membership? What has been your experience so far? Do you think you’re getting your money’s worth?

 

 

Image: Costco Australia