3 Signs Your Costco Membership Is a Waste of Money

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  • Consumers can save a lot of money by shopping at Costco.
  • In some cases, though, it doesn't make sense to pay for a membership, like if you mostly shop at Costco online or buy things that aren’t normally discounted.

Are you throwing money away?

As someone whose family shops at Costco once a week on average, I can't imagine not having a membership. But while I happen to be a huge Costco fan, I acknowledge that joining or remaining a member isn't the right financial move for everyone. And if these three signs apply to you, it could mean that it's time to cancel your membership.

1. You don't use your membership

The money I spend on a Costco membership more than makes up for itself via the savings I reap on things like produce, dairy products, and paper products -- items my family goes through pretty frequently. But if you don't tend to shop at Costco very often, then a membership may not be worth it.

Comb through your credit card statements from the past six months and see how many Costco visits you made during that time. If it was only a handful, then you may be better off saving the money a membership costs and seeking out deals at your local supermarket instead.

2. You mostly shop at Costco online

Here's a little-known fact about Costco.com -- you don't actually need to be a member to buy items through Costco's website. Granted, a membership will save you money, because the site offers member versus non-member pricing. But even at the non-member price point, you might still end up spending less than you would at another online or physical retailer. And so if you're really never going to visit Costco in person, it's harder to justify your membership fee.

3. You buy things that aren't usually so discounted

If you're a budget-conscious consumer who tends to stick to a very basic shopping list, that's a good thing -- but it may not be in the context of shopping at Costco. See, many of Costco's staple items, like cereal, pasta, and bread, aren't cheaper (or much cheaper) than the prices you'll find at a regular supermarket. In fact, if you buy those items on sale at a regular grocery store, you'll often get a much better price than what Costco will give you.

Think about the things you usually purchase at Costco and do a little comparison shopping. If you find that you're really not saving much or any money based on your shopping habits, then your membership may be worth canceling.

Is it time to cut the cord?

If someone were to tell me I had to cancel my Costco membership, I'd probably break down and cry (no, seriously). But while I happen to be extremely fond of Costco, and reliant on it for savings, a membership isn't right for everyone. If these signs apply to you, it could pay to cancel your membership and reallocate your saved money elsewhere in your household budget.

Remember, too, that if you shop at Costco infrequently but have a nearby friend who's a member, you could always ask that person to pick something up from time to time and reimburse them. That's a far better bet than spending $60 a year on a basic membership to visit the store two or three times and save yourself $7 dollars each time you do.

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