10 Things You Should Buy at Costco to Save Money
What Are the Best Deals at Costco?
Costco’s success formula is no secret. They're one of the five largest retailers in the U.S., and their sales have grown year after year without fail, even during periods of economic downturn. Consumers also give Costco's high marks. According to The Harris Poll's 2016 Reputation Quotient Ratings, Costco ranks high with the likes of the Walt Disney Company, Apple, and Amazon. Members are loyal, and more than 90 percent of U.S. customers renew their memberships each year.
Costco runs a no-frills, member-based operation by purchasing products in large quantities, selling some items in bulk, keeping markups at 15 percent or less, and providing additional value with their in-house Kirkland brand products. While their product assortment is selective and often fleeting, there are some regularly stocked items that are definitely must-buys for any cost-conscious member.
The list below highlights 10 of the many great deals that are consistently available at Costco, including some Kirkland and Kirkland Signature branded products.
1. Kirkland Signature Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner
The high quality of this Kirkland Signature hair-care duo is reminiscent of high-end salon brands. Both products are sulfate-free, paraben-free, vegan, gluten-free, and safe for color-treated hair, and neither is tested on animals. Their quality and performance have been compared to that of the Hydrate shampoo and conditioner duo offered by Pureology, a pricey salon brand. Unlike Pureology's Hydrate line products, however, Kirkland Signature shampoo and conditioner are extremely affordable.
The chart below compares prices of moisturizing shampoos and conditioners between salon brands, drugstore brands, and Costco's Kirkland Signature brand. The non-Costco brand prices listed are from the retailer Ulta.
Pureology Hydrate Shampoo
Pureology Hydrate Conditioner
EverCrème Sulfate-Free Moisture System Intense Nourishing Shampoo
EverCrème Sulfate-Free Moisture System Intense Nourishing Conditioner
Healthy Sexy Hair Color Safe Soy Moisturizing Shampoo
Healthy Sexy Hair Color Safe Soy Moisturizing Conditioner
Kirkland Signature Moisture Shampoo
Kirkland Signature Moisture Conditioner
2. Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The quality and value of this product are exceptional. A study by the Olive Center at the University of California, Davis, found that Kirkland Signature's organic extra virgin olive oil was one of just five brands out of the many analyzed that had not been combined with cheaper, more refined olive oil.
At about $10 per liter, this Kirkland product is a major bargain. Other well-known brands, some of which failed in the study, cost twice as much or even more. While you're in the olive oil section, don't forget to grab Kirkland Signature's balsamic vinegar—it's also a quality product and a great value.
Two things set Costco’s wine assortment apart: selection and price. Costco is the largest retailer of fine wine in the U.S. According to Consumer Reports, Costco's store-brand wine is an exceptional value. They ranked Kirkland's 2011 Sonoma Chardonnay (which costs only $7.00) as a Consumer Reports Best Buy.
Costco collaborates with specific winemakers and wineries around the world to create custom blends for its Kirkland Signature wines. The wines are offered in tiered categories that denote quality and value: Premium, Super Premium, and Signature Series.
Here’s the best news—you don’t even need to be a Costco member to purchase wine or liquor from its warehouses due to a law that prohibits selling alcohol through members-only agreements. Simply tell the warehouse greeter that you are there to purchase alcohol.
4. Pet Products
According to a Consumer Reports analysis, Costco’s Kirkland Signature pet food is among the least expensive in its product category. Savings on popular national brands like Iams can be found at Costco as well.
They carry a broad assortment of pet products that offer savings compared to traditional pet stores and even online retailers. Other pet products found at their warehouses include treats, toys, bedding, and pet health products. Don’t forget to stop by Costco's pharmacy, which carries a full line of pet medications offered at considerable savings over drug stores and veterinarian offices.
5. Kirkland Bath Tissue
Bath tissue is a top-selling product at Costco warehouses. The company recently improved their Kirkland Signature bath tissue product by upgrading its softness, absorbency, and durability. At less than half the cost per square foot of leading national brands according to a price survey conducted by the warehouse, it is undeniably a great value. The savings from purchasing this product alone throughout the year for could likely pay for your family's membership fee.
Can't part with your name-brand toilet tissue? Costco carries many additional brand names and product lines, including toilet paper giant, Charmin. Watch for frequent sales on Charmin and Kirkland Signature toilet paper.
Purchasing new tires at one of the store's warehouses will save you up to 20 percent compared to automotive store prices. Included with a Costco tire installation are free pressure checks, tire balancing, tire rotations, and flat tire repairs. The best perk here is that you can shop at the warehouse while your tires are being installed or serviced.
Take caution before purchasing bulk quantities of produce so that half or more won't end up in the compost. You might not need a dozen oranges, but a bulk parcel of organic strawberries could be in order if you are making a strawberry pie and have room in your freezer to store what's leftover for smoothies.
If you have a large family that consumes a lot of fruits and vegetables, there are great values to be found in this product category. Look for higher-end produce offerings too, as savings on organic products are often greater than those on typical produce when compared to standard grocery store prices.
8. Fitness Clothing
The global sports apparel market is expected to grow to $248.1 billion by 2026 according to the research firm, Trefis. Many new fitness apparel specialty stores have popped up in recent years to meet this growing demand, including Lululemon and Athleta. Much of the growth in this category is thought to be due to an increasing desire to wear fitness apparel outside the gym and to the boom of yoga and specialty exercise classes such as CrossFit.
Many fashion retailers, like Forever 21 and the Gap, have stepped into the fitness apparel market with their own fitness lines in stores and on the web. Warehouse clubs like Costco are seizing this market as well. Prices for fitness clothing vary significantly from store to store, but at Costco, members can purchase athletic apparel for a fraction of what they would pay at retail stores.
While the selection is not the most extensive, the assortment is broad enough. Some of the fitness apparel items members can purchase at Costco include running shorts, tennis skirts, fitness tops, jackets, and yoga pants. Costco also carries a limited selection of athletic shoes.
9. Kirkland Signature Coffee Pods
In the world of coffee sales, the single-cup coffee market is growing by leaps and bounds. Sales of single-cup coffee products have more than tripled in recent years and continue to grow. Single-cup coffee pods offer convenience but are not typically cheap. One coffee pod can cost up to a dollar, with most pods cashing in at about 60 to 70 cents per pod.
At Costco, you can purchase several brands of coffee pods at lower prices than other retailers, but the Kirkland Signature coffee pods are by far the best value at about 33 cents per pod online and slightly less at warehouses. The Kirkland Signature coffee pods (along with other brand-name pods) are on sale frequently for even less. Kirkland offers two coffee pod flavors: Pacific Bold and Breakfast Blend.
10. Costco Executive Membership
Costco Executive members pay $120 for a yearly membership (compared to $60 for a standard membership) and account for about two-thirds of the company’s sales. If you are a frequent Costco shopper, you could easily make up the extra $60 you pay in membership fees.
Benefits include two percent cash back on most Costco purchases in the form of a merchandise certificate (see tip below) along with additional perks and savings on other products and services, such as travel. If you are a frequent Costco shopper and loyal to the Kirkland brand, an executive membership might be worth it.
Think back to your last Costco shopping trip and ask yourself: how often do you shop at Costco? If you shop weekly, you would need to spend about $53 per week (or about $229 per month) to recover the additional membership amount.
This does not include bigger-ticket purchases you might make from Costco, such as a family vacation, new tires, a flat-screen television, or perhaps a Kirkland Signature patio furniture set. In these scenarios, that two percent back could easily pay for your entire membership and leave a significant surplus behind to spend or save.
Executive Membership Tip
If you earn a Costco merchandise certificate, you don't need to spend the full amount at Costco. They will give you the remaining balance back in cash no matter the amount you spend.
What's Your Most Frequent Costco Purchase?
Sources and Further Reading
- Denman, Tim. "The 10 Retailers with the Best Reputation." The 10 Retailers with the Best Reputation. Retail Info Systems News, 29 Mar. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
- Fottrell, Quentin. "Sales of Single-serve Coffee Have Tripled since 2011." MarketWatch The Wall Street Journal, 21 Nov. 2013. Web. 16 July 2014. <http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sales-of-single-serve-coffee-have-tripled-since-2011-2013-11-20>.
- Jakab, Spencer. "Growth Is Helping Costco at the Margins." The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 11 Mar. 2013. Web. <http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324096404578354581556318960>.
- Logan, Lori Gordan. "Costco: Breaking All the Retail Rules." CNBC.com, 25 Apr. 2012. Web. <http://www.cnbc.com/id/47175492>.
- Sherman, Lauren. "For the Activewear Market, There's No Way But Up - BoF - The Business of Fashion." The Business of Fashion, 15 Jan. 2014. Web. <http://www.businessoffashion.com/2014/01/activewear-lululemon-nike-hm-sweaty-betty.html>.
- Vasel, Kathryn. "Costco Could Hike Its Membership Fee." CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 22 Apr. 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. <http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/22/pf/costco-membership-fee/index.html>.
- "Wine Bargains | Wine Shopping - Consumer Reports." Consumer Reports Money Advisor (October 2013), Sept. 2013. Web. <http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2013/09/red-wine-white-wine-cheap-wine-bargain/index.htm>.
Questions & Answers
I am a widow, is it worth the extra money to join Costco?
The good news is that if you don't find your membership useful or worth the cost, Costco will refund you your membership fee. That said, it depends on your purchases as to whether or not it is worth joining. If for instance, you are purchasing a set of tires that year or a vacation through Costco, it is certainly worth it as the savings you will have outweigh the cost of your membership for sure.Helpful 14
Should I buy Costco running shoes?
Yes and other shoes there are great too. They do have some extended sizes and styles available online.Helpful 13
Has Costco discontinued the white Kirkland tennis shoes?
It might depend on your local warehouse as they do carry slightly different inventories. They do carry a small variety of "tennis shoes" so there could be a white pair at your local warehouse and likely online.Helpful 1
© 2014 Marcelle Bell