10 Costco Shopping Mistakes You Definitely Don’t Want to Make

You might think you know Costco, but here are some secrets for shopping at the mega store like a pro.

<p>NoDerog/Getty Images</p>

NoDerog/Getty Images

Costco’s first megastore opened in Seattle in 1983, and ever since, the company has taken pride in being a consumer-forward, convenient, and cost-efficient wholesaler. For over 40 years, people have navigated their oversized shopping carts through the airy warehouse aisles, stocking up on bulk pantry items, high-quality groceries, home goods, and more. Today, if you talk to any Costco member, there’s a very good chance they’ll beam with pride as they wax poetic about their adoration for the store. 

A Costco shopping trip isn’t just any ordinary errand. It’s an exciting and invigorating experience that’s sure to result in a few unanticipated purchases. While it might not seem possible, there are too many mistakes Costco shoppers make (even some of the most loyal ones, believe it or not). Here’s the thing: It’s not hard to take advantage of all Costco has to offer. If you want to be the smartest shopper, these ten mistakes to avoid can help you not only save money, but take advantage of deeper deals and special services, too. 

Related: Here Are the Best and Worst Costco Stores, According to Shoppers

You don’t upgrade your Costco membership

This is a good tip if you’re someone who shops at Costco at least once a month. Costco offers two membership options: Gold Star which is $60 annually, and Executive which is $120 per year. While the Executive level is double the cost, Costco shoppers will receive 2 percent cash back on almost every purchase (aside from alcohol and tobacco), which means serious savings at the end of the year. In fact, most customers who upgrade end up saving as much as the membership costs, so being an Executive member is technically free. 

You don’t take advantage of gift card savings

Did you know that Costco is perhaps the best place to buy gift cards? It’s rare to ever find gift card deals, but a TikTok revealed that Costco.com offers incredible discounts on gift cards to countless retailers, restaurant chains, and even airlines. Whether you’re stocking up for the holidays, or want to treat a loved one to their favorite spot, make sure to check out the gift card deals at Costco.

You don’t shop weekdays whenever you can

For many, Costco is a fun and enjoyable shopping experience, but if you’ve ever shopped there on the weekend, you already know what a hassle it is to elbow your way through the bakery on a Saturday morning. This Costco shopping mistake should come as no surprise since Saturdays are typically the worst day to visit any supermarket. To avoid aggravating crowds, try to shop during the week, whenever possible. Also, “markdown Mondays” are real, so if you want the first pick at the latest sales, start your week off at Costco! 

You underestimate the Kirkland brand

The serious Costco enthusiasts can likely skip this tip because they already know: Kirkland isn’t a brand, it’s a lifestyle, (and an affordable one at that). Some of the most coveted Kirkland products range from vodka and apparel, to wild caught salmon and mixed nuts. Costco shoppers swear that Kirkland is the best in-store brand ever, and we might just have to agree.

Related: Grocery Shoppers Love These 5 Aldi Items, According to the 2024 Product of the Year Awards

You don’t make a list before you go

Okay, this may seem like an obvious tip, but making an organized list is the only way to have a successful shopping trip, especially at a behemoth of a store like Costco. Will you still leave with an oversized teddy bear and Kirkland brand slippers? Probably. But a shopping list will help you be mindful about getting everything you need.

You don’t save more with deeper discounts

While Costco may not accept manufacturer coupons, the chain does send their members mailers with featured deals for the month. And there’s no exception for what goes on sale—customers can save on everything from groceries, furniture, home goods, electronics, and more. 

You don’t keep an eye out for price matching

This is just another reason why Costco is the best. The store will price match items purchased within 30 days, and refund the difference. That’s right. If something goes on sale after you bought it, you have 30 days to show proof of purchase for a price adjustment. You may not have time to keep an eye out for everything that goes on sale, but this trick is especially helpful for higher priced items. 

You don’t consider how much you can consume and store

Costco can be a tempting place. But, even if you have every intention of sticking to your list, you can still somehow leave with a years’ worth of marinara sauce. If you really want to take advantage of the deals and save money, you should only buy what you’ll use. Not only will you avoid being wasteful, but you’ll truly get the most bang for your buck.

Related: 7 Grocery Items to Avoid, According to Food Safety Pros

You skip the concierge service

Investing in appliances or electronics from Costco? Members can rely on the Concierge Services program to provide technical support for the lifetime of the product. Being a member will also automatically extend the manufacturer’s warranty to two years from the date of purchase. 

You don’t learn how to decipher the price tags

Understanding the price tags at Costco is basically a secret language, and it’s one that can save you money while informing how you shop. Here’s how it works:

  • Prices that end in “.99” are full-price or regularly priced items

  • Prices ending in “.97” are “store manager deals,” which are exclusive to that store and are likely won’t be there for long

  • Prices ending in “.49” and “.79” are indications of manufacturer special offers. These are products on a trial run to assess their popularity, and are often priced below retail

  • Items with prices ending in “.00” suggest the item is running low in stock and likely won’t be restocked.

  • Price tags with an asterisk indicate that item is leaving Costco soon, though not always for good

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