I just received a great question from Heidi, a new couponer:
My family has a basic Costco membership (I think $40/year) and we shop there at least once a month. I also get my lenses there and we get some other household things there (toilet paper, etc.). Since I’m new to couponing, I’m still learning how to do the deals and combine discounts, but at this stage of the game, just running out to Costco seems a lot easier for some things (like TP).
Could you please address if Costco is or isn’t really cheaper than Walgreens, Target, Safeway, Albertsons (with coupons) and/or if it’s worth paying for the “privilege” to shop there.
Here’s the short answer: Costco is not cheaper than Walgreens, Target, Safeway or Albertsons with coupons. Of course, the answer is a bit more complicated than that.
Here’s my theory on Costco, as with all stores out there: it has it’s place in the frugal life as long as you’re intentional about what you purchase.
In my experience, Costco has the best non-coupon prices on (I’d added a few since the original posting):
- cheese (block, shredded & string)
- toilet paper
- baby wipes
- organic raisins
- Foster Farms boneless, skinless chicken breast
When I’m running out of any of these items, Costco is my go-to place. I also use the prices on these items as my “base price” — the price at which I start stockpiling at our coupon stores (Safeway, Albertsons, Walgreens, Rite Aid).
After over eighteen months of couponing though, I rarely shop at Costco. I don’t need to because I’ve been practicing the art of stockpiling for so long. My TP never runs out before the next coupon sale comes around. I haven’t had to buy diapers at Costco for over a year, thanks to free or almost free packs at Walgreens. In fact, I’m thinking it’s time to give up our membership and save the $40 a year. If I’m ever in a pinch, I can always mooch a trip off my friends or family.
Until you hit the same point, where you are almost exclusively shopping at our coupon stores, it may be worth the money and most definitely the time and hassle to just keep shopping Costco as long as you can purchase ONLY the items that are cheaper than anywhere else and when you absolutely need them. Be careful not to “stockpile” items purchased from Costco.
When it comes to lenses, I know you can score better deals ordering on the internet — before my husband had his eyeballs lazered, he was getting dirt cheap s on the web with minimal research. Pharmacy items are available to the general public without a membership. And save money by choosing generic at Walmart instead of the oh-so-attractive plastic wrapped four-pack of toiletries.
There’s my take. Remember, there’s no right or wrong with this couponing thing. If you need Costco for awhile for the convenience, use it. You will be able to wean yourself off the concrete paradise in no time by strategically couponing and stockpiling.
What do you think? Do you use Costco or have you given up your membership?
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