5 Ways I Waste Money at Costco

5 Ways I Waste Money at Costco

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The trick is to buy smart, especially when you’re paying for the privilege.


Key points

  • A Costco membership is only worth it if you don’t spend more than necessary.
  • Using Costco discounts on things like landscaping equipment and new or used vehicles can make a Costco membership worth more than it costs.

No one is immune to financial shortcomings, mistakes so embarrassing that you want to keep them to yourself. But where is the fun in that? We learn from our own mistakes, and if we are wise, we learn from the mistakes of others. Feel free to consider my travels at Costco a cautionary tale, a diary of all the things you don’t want to do wrong.

A quick confession

I have a love/hate relationship with Costco. From the moment I walk into the store I’m afraid I’m missing something, I feel like I need to see everything. I’d like to blame Costco for being stocked to the rafters, but the truth is the problem seems to be me. If I want to keep shopping at Costco, I need to get rid of these five money-wasting habits.

1. I suddenly think I must buy in bulk

The moment I walked into Costco, I started acting like I was buying for 10 people, when in fact, it’s just my husband and I. Twelve cans of soup? Hey, I’ll fill the pantry. A palette of toilet paper? Sign me up.

I think it’s because I’m so overwhelmed with all there is to see and examine. Every time I’m at Costco, I tell myself that if I fill up (as in, really refuel), I won’t have to come back for a month or two.

One of the things on my to-do list today is to check the expiration dates of everything I have in the pantry. The problem with buying 12 cans of soup is that we might open two or three, but the rest stay neatly organized on the pantry shelves. Given the rising prices of groceries, it makes no sense to throw any away.

Anything I buy and don’t use before it expires is wasted money.

2. I get lazy

I don’t know about the big box stores, but I tend to lose my critical mind after about an hour of walking, looking at toys, t-shirts, kids clothes, and bags of 25-pound avocados (okay, that last one is an exaggeration).

Let’s say I need a bag of limes. I can tell you which grocery stores around us tend to have the lowest prices on produce. The same cannot be said for Costco. I rarely compare its prices to other retailers, and frankly, I don’t know why. It’s easier for me to assume I’m getting a good deal than to compare.

I’m wasting money by not taking the time to make comparisons.

I have a bad habit of running every day and rarely eat until my body reminds me that I am ignoring a basic human need. And while I can’t tell you why, I tend to go to Costco around 11 a.m. By the time I’ve looked through pots and pans and color-changing kitty litter (even though I don’t have a cat), and picked up fresh flowers, I’m usually starving.

That’s about the time I grab dark chocolate covered pretzels, mini eclairs, a huge chunk of cheese, and all kinds of other delicious treats I could really do without.

I’m trying to do my best not to go shopping hungry, but it’s a work in progress. Waiting, I know I’m wasting money on things I don’t need, just because I’m too hungry to be rational.

4. I try to justify the payment of a contribution

Everything from paying an annual membership fee to having someone check my Costco card at checkout is designed to make me feel like I’m part of something special. It is not a coincidence.

I have often wondered if some of my purchases at Costco were made to justify my paying to shop there. Do I really need this mini trampoline or am I buying it because I’m “part of the club?”

Spending money to justify spending money is a ridiculous practice – and a waste of money.

5. I can’t save money where I can

I kind of forget all about Costco when I buy a car or fill that car up with gas. If I wanted to buy a new kitchen sink or create a custom closet, I would never have thought to check out a big box store. And when I needed a wheelchair for my mom, Costco didn’t come to mind. And yet, the retailer is offering each of them at a discount. Heck, the store even offers members cheaper caskets and urns.

Not taking advantage of the special discounts offered by Costco is another way to waste money.

The problem with personal finance is that we all learn as we go. My ultimate goal is to enjoy a trip to Costco without regretting a single purchase. Once that’s been accomplished, I’m sure I can find a better use for the savings, like investing in a new CD.

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