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Spending Too Much Money at Costco

What is it about Costco, the enormous warehouse store, that makes me open my purse and hand over my debit card time and time again? On my last visit I watched the register numbers tick higher and higher until the final price of $245 glared in bright green numbers before me. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine how the items in my cart added up to that amount, which is of course the same feeling I have every time I walk out of that store.

I never run into the same problem at the regular grocery store. I walk in with a list, primarily pick out only the items I intend to buy and walk out spending roughly the same amount I expected. So what is it about Costco that ensures I spend more than I intended to every single time?

I think it’s twofold. First, they have an amazing return policy. I once purchased rotten strawberries from the store. Of course, I didn’t realize they were moldy when I bought them, but I didn’t want to rush back to Costco just to return them that same day. I called customer service and they told me to bring back the empty container, because who is going to keep rotten strawberries hanging out in the fridge until their next visit. Sure enough when I brought that container three weeks later they issued me a full refund.

Recently I returned a toy I bought over six months ago my son. I almost never buy him new toys, because he receives so many hand-me-downs, but this one seemed like a good exception. When the toy broke I took it straight to customer service. The Costco employee looked up my purchase, using my Costco membership card, and promptly refunded my money.

The second reason I spend so much money is because the prices really cannot be beat. I would’ve paid over double at my local grocer for the three pounds of organic ground beef I purchased there. The same goes for fruits and vegetables. Not all of Costco’s produce is organic, but for items that aren’t in the dirty dozen you can find great deals.

Whenever I leave the store I have to remind myself that a lot of food will be placed in the freezer for future meals. That also means that I don’t frequent the store very often. I only go to Costco once a month, sometimes only every two or three, so that food really is stretched out over a long period of time.

If you don’t want to spend too much I recommend treating Costco like the real grocery store. Try to stick to the parts of the store that sell meats, produce, fish, fresh fruits, vegetables and staple food products. Don’t let yourself wander from aisle to aisle. The first few times I went to the store I made that mistake and ended up wasting a good amount of money on things I didn’t really need.

Also, really think about all of the items you add to your cart. If you can’t eat ten pounds of apples than don’t buy them there. You are better off buying a smaller portion from your local grocery store. These days I only buy items I know we’ll use. If I buy a huge bag of lemons I search for recipes that will ensure we use them. Sometimes I prepare meals that can be frozen in advance and pulled out on busy evenings.

Also know the shelf life of your fruits and vegetables. Strawberries don’t last a particularly long amount of time in the fridge, but oranges can often stay fresh for much longer. If it’ll take you awhile to eat down your stash of fruits and vegetables then pick produce that can wait in the fridge for days or weeks at a time.

I always walk out of the store buying more than I intended, but at least we no longer waste the items I do purchase. If I come home with something unexpected I pull up Google and begin searching for new recipes. I’ve actually discovered a few interesting meals that way.

Do you have any tricks for spending less money at Costco? Do you find yourself buying a bunch of items you never intended to purchase?

Lisa

Wednesday 12th of June 2013

Beatrice, that's the beauty of Costco. You could probably still return those frozen waffles and they'll accept them!

Beatrice

Wednesday 12th of June 2013

I would also recommend not buy anything in bulk that you haven't tried before. We recently bought a huge box of frozen waffles that looked good at the time but now we're stuck with dozens of waffles that taste like cardboard. Stick with items you know and like because you're buying a lot of it.