This Costco Habit Costs Me Hundreds of Dollars a Year

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KEY POINTS

  • Although my Costco membership saves me money, I negate some of that savings by buying items not on my shopping list.
  • I try to make up for that by automating my savings and keeping other expenses low to allow for more impulse grocery spending.

The $120 a year I spend on a Costco executive membership is more than worth paying. First of all, my Costco membership itself saves me lots of money on groceries and household essentials. And my executive membership is a great deal because it gives me 2% back on all Costco purchases. Between that and the cash back I get from my credit card on Costco buys, that's a lot of extra money coming my way.

But while I'm definitely able to save my fair share of money by shopping at Costco, I have one pesky habit that tends to cost me money. It's also a habit I've struggled to quit. So rather than kick it, I've found a way to manage it.

When impulse buying gets the best of you

When you're at a supermarket like Trader Joe's and you're tempted to buy a new product on a whim, often, you're shelling out $3 or $4 for it. At Costco, when you impulse-buy a food item, you might end up spending $12 or $15 because you're buying the new item in bulk.

It's this very habit -- giving into Costco impulse food buys -- that's been known to cost me hundreds of dollars a year. And while I've tried to break the habit by making Costco shopping lists and meal-planning ahead of time, nothing's really helped. I'm still commonly tempted by new Costco treats, and my brain often finds a way to justify purchasing them.

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That's why I've stopped fighting those Costco impulse food buys. Instead, I've found several ways to make sure they don't wreck my finances.

Compensating in other ways

Since I tend to shop at Costco on a weekly basis, the temptation to spend on new items is constant. So rather than fight it, one thing I've taken to doing is automating my savings account contributions.

Each month, I have a preset amount of money set to move from my checking account to my savings account. This amount is intentional -- it's the sum needed for me to meet my yearly savings goal.

The way I see it, if I'm able to keep making those transfers while covering my bills and avoiding debt, it doesn't really matter if I'm spending an extra $20 or $40 a month at Costco. Yes, I know it can add up to several hundred dollars over the course of a year. But since it's not impeding my goals and it lends to happiness (because who doesn't love impulse-buying Costco cheesecake?), I figure it's okay.

Another thing I do to stay on track financially in light of my impulse food buys is keep some of my large expenses on the low side. My family needs two cars because we live in suburbia and have kids with conflicting places to be on many occasions. But one of our cars is 16 years old, and it's not the most comfortable to drive. Still, we've hung onto it because it's paid off, and that allows us to avoid a new car payment, thereby opening up more room in our budget for things like Costco treats.

All told, Costco impulse buys are something I'm just plain bad at avoiding. But thankfully, I've found ways to make sure they're not such a big problem.

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