35 Mistakes You Can Make Shopping at Costco

Author: Daniel B. Kline | February 13, 2020

A Costco store as seen from the parking lot.

Source: Costco

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You can save, but you can also lose

Joining Costco (NASDAQ: COST) comes with a promise of great savings. You fork over $60 (or $120 for an Executive membership) and that unlocks all sorts of saving.

If only it were that simple. Shopping at the warehouse club can save you money, but it's full of traps that can end up costing you.

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A couple snuggled up on the couch watching tv together.

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1. You never go

Saving money at Costco requires that you go to its warehouses or at least use its website. You would be shocked at how many people join but never make much use of their membership. Costco is like the gym, it feels proactive to join but you only get an actual benefit if you use your membership.

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A woman wearing a dress pumping gasoline into a car.

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2. You forget about gas

Most Costco locations offer gas stations. These can be dramatically cheaper than traditional stations which actually have to make money selling you gas. Lines, however, can be long and the service is no frills. Fill up anyway because the savings at the pump alone can pay for your membership.

ALSO READ: Is a Costco Membership Worth It Just for Gas?

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Two hot dogs are shown with mustard

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3. You eat beforehand

Costco has a really low-cost food court where you can eat lunch for a couple of dollars. It makes sense to plan a visit around a meal or at least a snack. You can also fill up on free samples most days (though the haul is usually better on the weekends).

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A plate of food samples

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4. You go hungry

Conversely, don't visit on an empty stomach unless you plan to eat at the store. Bulk shopping can lead to big mistakes and being hungry might have you buying bulk candy or a pallet of cupcakes.

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A cake jam packed with lit birthday candles.

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5. You don't have a plan

When you enter a Costco, you enter a world of temptation. It's great to buy a canoe if you planned to get one for your partner's birthday. It's less smart to buy one just because the price is good. Know your long-term shopping plans and pounce when a deal comes up.

ALSO READ: Why Costco Is a Retiree's Dream Stock

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A price tag with three dollar symbols on it

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6. You buy based on price

Sometimes you go into Costco and you can't believe how cheaply its selling crab legs, lobster tails, or who knows what else. You buy some because the price is right but you have no actual plan to use them.

You're not saving money if you end up throwing what you buy away. Make sure you can make use of whatever you purchase and, if you can't, don't buy it.

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We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

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Woman reading emails on a computer screen.

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7. You don't check your email

Costco has special deals it offers via email. Its easy to ignore those but you may be missing out on massive savings.

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A travel airplane in a cappuccino on top of a map,tickets, and passport book.

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8. You don't consider travel

Costco has a travel service. It lets members book trips at prices that are sometimes big deals. The best prices tend to be on vacation packages that involve airfare and hotel stays. You should also look for deals on theme park packages as this is one of the few places that regularly offers them.

ALSO READ: Does Disney Need Another Florida Theme Park?

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Red wine is being poured into a glass.

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9. You don't get your drink on

Many Costco locations have attached liquor stores that offer deals on name brands and even better prices on house brands. In many cases, the house brand beverages equal or exceed the quality of better-known (and pricier) choices.

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Two workers installing flooring.

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10. You don't check out the third-party offers

Costco has lots of deals where it sort of acts as a middleman. You can, for example, book home services like flooring or roofing.

Basically, Costco is using the size of its customer base to leverage better deals. As a consumer, this can be huge for you.

5 Winning Stocks Under $49
We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

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Mechanic under the hood of a car.

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11. You forget about car repairs

Some Costco locations have full auto centers while others only sell tires or limited selections. The deals can be significant, and it may even be worth driving to a Costco that's not the closest one to you in order to get your car worked on.

ALSO READ: How Much Do Americans Spend on Car Repairs?

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An Uber driver transporting two passengers in her car.

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12. You only use your local warehouse

Many families that travel make stocking up on groceries and snacks one of their first stops when they arrive at their location. It's possible to do that at a supermarket or a convenience store, but it may be a better idea to visit the local Costco.

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Grovery Delivery

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13. You don't use delivery

Costco has a number of different delivery options including same-day delivery through Instacart. You don't pay extra, and while each option has different limitations, they give you a way to use your membership without leaving the house.

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A smiling woman holding a credit card in her right hand as she makes an online purchase.

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14. You forget the website

Costco offers deals that can only be found on its website. Make checking it a habit so you can see the best deals and take action before you miss out.

ALSO READ: 3 Potential Risks for Costco Investors

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Shopping cart wheels.

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15. You always buy something

It can be fun to visit Costco without making a purchase. You can eat some samples, look around, and maybe make some plans for future purchases.

5 Winning Stocks Under $49
We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

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Woman using smartphone on bus.

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16. You don't compare prices

Costco usually has cheaper prices. It does not always have cheaper prices. Make sure you check on bigger-ticket items (which you can easily do on your phone).

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Bars of chocolate.

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17. You make unhealthy choices

Costco sells big packages of candy at very low prices. If you can pace yourself and treat the candy as a treat then you can get a great deal. If you're the type of person who lacks discipline in the face of temptation then you should avoid these types of deals.

ALSO READ: How to Invest in Warehouse Club Stocks

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A bottle of blue pills spilled out on a pile of cash.

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18. You forget about drugs

Costco warehouses have pharmacies. These can offer very good prices even if you don't have insurance. It's worth checking to see what your costs would be on any medicine you normally take.

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Two cups of coffee.

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19. You compromise too much

If you love a specific brand of coffee, it may not make sense to buy another just because it's a great deal. Would you really want to compromise on something that's not all that expensive in the first place?

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A rotisserie chicken is seen on a plate.

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20. You skip the chicken

Costco has gone to fairly extensive lengths to be able to sell its rotisserie chickens for $4.99. That's a good deal since one can be a meal for a small family or snacks for a few days.

ALSO READ: Costco's Bold Plan to Re-Coop Rotisserie Chicken Losses

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A car is packed with grocery bags.

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21. You buy too much

This may be the single biggest mistake people make at Costco. They see the great prices and come home with too much of a good thing. Consider storage for non-perishable items and how much you actually eat for food.

5 Winning Stocks Under $49
We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

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Sales associate and customer look at TVs.

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22. You don't check electronics carefully

Sometimes electronics aren't what they look like. The same laptop shell can house very different features. The same can be true of televisions. Really look at what you're getting to evaluate how good the deal actually is.

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A woman writes out a Christmas card.

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23. You forget the holidays

You can buy all sorts of seasonal items at Costco. This includes gifts and decorations for all the major holidays. You may also be able to get great deals for next year if you visit right after a holiday.

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Woman in glasses holding money and smiling widely.

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24. You don't buy glasses

You can get your eyeglass prescription filled at Costco. That may not be the first place you look for glasses, but the prices are low and the quality is reasonable.

ALSO READ: 4 Money-Saving Tricks That Actually Work

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A table of books on display in a bookstore.

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25. You don't browse the book selection

Even though a lot of people use e-readers these days, it still makes sense to buy a book for times when you don't have access to chargers or where a physical book makes more sense. Costco has a small selection that often includes recent bestsellers at very reasonable prices.

5 Winning Stocks Under $49
We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

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Lanes of traffic.

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26. You make an inconvenient trip

It makes sense to shop at Costco when you need a whole shopping cart or big-ticket items. For just an item or two, it may not make sense to go to the warehouse club which is not always located in the most convenient of places.

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One person handing a gift card to another person.

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27. You forget gift cards

Sometimes Costco has gift cards at below face value. You may be able to get $100 in value for $75 or something similar. Just be careful to look at the fine print as there may be restrictions.

ALSO READ: Should You Join Costco? Only If You Check Off These 2 Boxes

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Woman inspecting a mattress in a store.

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28. You buy a mattress you can't test

A mattress store generally has its wares on display where you can lay down and try them out. Costco has its mattresses stacked, meaning you usually can't try them. That seems like a big mistake as even if you return it, delivery and returns on a mattress are not easy.

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Packaged food in a freezer.

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29. You don't factor in your freezer space

Sometimes people pass on Costco purchases because the quantity is too much. With meat, however, you can buy freezer bags and portion out your purchase.

5 Winning Stocks Under $49
We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

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A garbage bag being thrown in the trash can with red flowers in the background

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30. You end up trashing things

Putting items for later use in your freezer is great if you're the type of person who will later defrost and use them. If they will end up in your crash can, buying bulk meat is clearly a mistake.

ALSO READ: Why Costco Stock Rose 44% in 2019

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A woman holding about 10 credit cards in her hand and choosing one.

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31. You forget the credit card

The Costco Anywhere Visa offers added cash back. Cardholders get 4% back on eligible gas purchases (up to $7,000) then 1% thereafter. You also get 3% on restaurants and some travel, 2% on all Costco and Costco.com purchases and 1% back on everything else.

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A millennial man does pushups at the gym.

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32. You don't look for gym deals

Sometimes Costco sells gift cards that can be redeemed for gym memberships. The deals can vary but they are often a one-year membership paid upfront at a much lower price than if you paid monthly dues.

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A girl hugs a giant Teddy Bear.

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33. You buy something useless

Costco sometimes sells giant Teddy bears. You have no use for a giant Teddy bear even if it's adorable. It's very easy to fall into this trap. Similarly, if you don't kayak, don't buy a kayak.

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Two women shopping for clothes

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34. You don't try it on

Costco sells clothes but does not have dressing rooms. Some things can be tried on, like a jacket, but many cannot. You can return items, but the next size up or down may no longer be available so be careful when buying clothes where size is an issue.

5 Winning Stocks Under $49
We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

Previous

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One wooden figure is higher than the others.

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35. You don't level up

Regular Costco members just get access to the club. Executive members, who pay an extra $60 a year, get 2% cash back on most purchases up to $1,000. If you shop there enough to earn back the extra cost and then some, it makes sense to buy the pricier membership.

ALSO READ: Should You Pay for Amazon Prime and a Costco Membership?

Daniel B. Kline has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Visa. The Motley Fool recommends Costco Wholesale. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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