15 Costco Tips That Will Save You Tons of Money

You'll save big at this popular wholesale store with our Costco tips.

Everyone loves to save money. With food prices rising, knowing how to keep grocery costs down becomes even more important. A store like Costco can be a valuable resource, but you need to know where to look for the deals. Before you make your trip to the land of bulk items and the $1.50 hot dog and drink deal, take note of our Costco tips to get the most bang for your buck.

Oh, and if you don’t have a Costco membership, that’s OK. Here’s how to shop without a Costco membership.

1. Buy the store-brand products

At Costco, look for products with the Kirkland label. Kirkland is a Costco store-brand label, and buying these products could mean extra savings. It’s true that some store-brand products can be hit or miss in terms of quality. However, Kirkland is known for worthwhile products that will make you forget mainstream brands.

2. Start in the back of the store

In general, the farther you walk into the store, the better deals you’ll find. Especially at the center of the store, also known as “center court.” For the best potential deals, start at the back of the store and work your way toward the front. You should aim to avoid the front of the store at all costs, though! This part of the store is known as “action alley.” It tends to have a lot of new Costco products, but can also feature the highest prices since it sees the most foot traffic.

3. Stock up on meat

Ban On U.S. Beef Lifted In JapanKoichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

At Costco, you tend to get a better deal when you purchase meat in bulk. Even if you only need a pound of beef for that recipe over the weekend, consider buying a few pounds for later. You’ll get a better price per pound when you buy in bulk, and you’ll end up with a stocked fridge or freezer ready for easy weeknight dinners. It’s a win-win!

4. Buy Costco rotisserie chicken

Preparing your own food at home is usually more affordable than purchasing prepared food. But Costco’s rotisserie chicken is an exception to the rule. Plus, depending on your family size, it’s easy to remove the meat from the bones at home and turn the chicken into multiple meals. You can even ask the butcher to cut a chicken in half if you don’t want a whole bird. Listen for the bell as you’re shopping. When it rings, you know fresh rotisserie chickens are available for purchase.

5. Split bulk purchases with a friend

Depending on the size of your household, you might not need a jumbo-sized package of paper towels, water bottles or paper plates. So, why not split those products with a friend? You could save up to half off your bill by splitting up the bulk items you purchase with other Costco-loving buddies. But fair warning: The two of you should never bother with these Costco items. They aren’t worth the deals.

6. Understand Costco price tags

U.S.-CONSUMER PRICE INDEXXinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Have you ever wondered why some prices end in .99, while others end in .97? There’s a secret Costco pricing code you can learn to discover the best deals available at the wholesale store. If you find an item with .99 at the end, that’s a wholesale price. But if you find something with a .97, that’s the best discount you’ll be able to find.

7. Shop after the holidays

At any store, you’re going to find your best deals for Christmas decorations, Halloween costumes or Valentine’s Day candy after the holiday is over. At Costco, the same rule applies. Grab grilling supplies after summer ends to find the lowest prices possible on items you’ll need nine months down the road.

8. Use the Costco app

The Costco app can make it easier to find deals and sales that you might miss when you’re shopping in the store. Almost out of toilet paper? Take a look at the Costco app to see if any special offers are available before you visit the store in person.

9. Request price adjustments

Costco offers its members a generous return policy. According to the wholesale store, members enjoy a “risk-free, 100% satisfaction guarantee.” You can even return opened food items if you buy something and don’t like the product. Furthermore, if you buy something from Costco and the price drops within 30 days of your purchase, you can fill out a form on the store’s website to request a price adjustment. If approved, you’ll receive a credit toward your next purchase.

10. Check out the prepared foods section


As noted above, preparing your own foods at home is often the most affordable way to save money on groceries. Yet on the occasional hectic evening, having a convenient, tasty meal you can serve your family might save money compared with ordering takeout. Costco has many different options in its prepared foods section. Options vary from store to store, but you’re sure to find something simple and easy for busy days.

11. Make a grocery list

No matter where you’re shopping for groceries or household goodss, it’s important to have a plan. If you visit Costco without an organized shopping list, you are far more likely to wind up overspending and buying products you didn’t need.

12. Shop for wine

Costco sells bottles of wine at a discount compared to many other retailers. Often you can purchase wine from the wholesale store for 10% to 25% less than you would pay elsewhere. And even non-Costco members can purchase wine without a membership. This potential savings combined with rave reviews for high quality are some of the reasons why many people say you should always buy wine at Costco.

13. Fill up your gas tank


After you finish your shopping, many Costco locations give you the opportunity to top off your tank at a Costco gas station. In some cases, you could save as much as 15 cents or more per gallon compared to other gas stations in your area (though costs can vary). However, be prepared for a wait—especially if you’re visiting a Costco gas station on a weekend.

14. Book a vacation

Costco probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind when it’s time to plan your next vacation. But the warehouse store has an in-house travel agency that offers vacation packages to members at discount prices. It’s important to shop around and make sure you find the best price available, but Costco does have money-saving travel opportunities worth considering.

15. Know the best times to shop

Avoiding the crowds at Costco is one final money-saving strategy that’s important to consider. If you visit the wholesale store during a busy time, you might feel rushed and pressured into making buying decisions that could cost you more money at checkout. The best time to visit Costco is weekday mornings before 11 a.m. If you can’t make it to the wholesale store in the mornings, weekday afternoons between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. tends to be another slower shopping window.

Michelle L. Black
Michelle Black is a credit expert with over 16 years of experience in the industry and a freelance writer. She specializes in credit reporting, credit scoring, financing (mortgages, credit cards, loans), debt eradication, budgeting, saving, and identity theft. Michelle is also the founder of CreditWriter.com and HerCreditMatters.com—a blog aimed at helping women support each other as they take charge of credit, money, family, and parenting issues in a safe, judgment-free space. She holds a Bachelor's of Arts in Spanish and French from Winthrop University. When she isn't writing about credit and money, Michelle enjoys traveling with her family and taking Tae Kwon Do classes with her two young children. She and her son currently hold first-degree black belts and her daughter is scheduled to join them, earning her black belt as well within the year.