3 Costco Pitfalls I've Fallen Into That You Can Avoid

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  • I've saved a lot of money at Costco through the years, but I've also made my share of mistakes that I'd rather not repeat.
  • I've been known to buy too much food when I shop hungry or too many seasonal items just because they're in stock.
  • Don't forget to fill up at Costco's gas pump when you visit.

You can save a lot of money at Costco -- if you avoid these traps.

These days, someone in my household shops at Costco once a week. Sometimes it's my husband. Other times, it's me. But frankly, I prefer it when it's him.

See, my husband is a more disciplined food shopper than I am, so he's less likely to fall victim to impulse buys than I am. In fact, in the course of buying my groceries at Costco, I've easily fallen victim to a few key traps that shoppers should really aim to avoid.

1. Buying extra food due to shopping while hungry

It's long been said that going grocery shopping while hungry could lead to extra purchases. But this especially applies to Costco.

What makes Costco unique is that you'll commonly find free samples of its bulk grocery items available throughout the store. On a normal day, I'll often forgo those samples unless they really look interesting. But if I'm showing up to Costco after having skipped lunch, you can bet that I'll be stopping at those different sample stations to try a bite of everything. And that's where I've run into trouble.

Costco definitely has its share of tasty products. But when you're super hungry, everything you try at Costco suddenly tastes delicious. And so in the past, I've been tempted to purchase those sampled products, only to realize after the fact that they're really only okay.

The takeaway? Eat a meal before heading to Costco -- or otherwise expect a larger credit card tab.

2. Forgetting to fill up my car

One perk of being a Costco shopper is getting access to lower-cost gas. That's something that's especially important these days, what with fuel costs being so high.

Sometimes, though, I'll rush into Costco without having stopped at the gas station first, and then, when I inevitably take too long at the store, I'll rush home without having filled up my car. The result? I miss out on savings and end up getting stuck filling up at a more expensive gas station.

My new rule? Always fill up first, and budget in time for that.

3. Loading up on seasonal items for no good reason

I'm a bit of a sucker for seasonal items. Pumpkin spice anything? Sign me up. But at a place like Costco, that tendency can be dangerous.

Costco's inventory tends to rotate by season, and that extends to food. Often, I'll be tempted to stock up seasonal items during the holidays in particular because those peppermint chocolates and assorted truffles look so darn delicious. But what often happens is that I'll go overboard and end up with far too many goodies to consume by their expiration dates.

My new approach? Set a limit. It's unreasonable to tell myself I won't buy a single seasonal item at Costco. But if I limit myself to, say, three items, I might avoid bringing home a truly massive haul of sugar -- and extra credit card charges I really don't need.

Costco is a great place to shop. Just do your best to avoid these pitfalls so you don't waste money or pass up the opportunity to squeeze out extra savings.

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