11 Top Secret Saving Strategies for Costco Shopping – Many of these will shock you!

Published on December 14, 2015 by Lauren

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  • Costco has grown to be the largest membership warehouse club chain in the United States. The warehouse club offers high volume products at low prices.  It seems like people are always at Costco shopping, it is always busy and packed with eager customers ready to fill their carts.

    costco shopping

    While some might scoff at purchasing a membership to buy groceries, you can save big and food and so much more with these top secret tips to becoming a master at Costco shopping.

    Here are my best Costco Shopping Tips:

    1.) You do not have to have a membership to shop at Costco to shop there!

    No, they don’t offer trial memberships, but you can shop there with Costco Cash cards without a membership. These are gift cards valid at Costco. They can only be purchased by members (so you have to have a friend or family member buy them and reload them for you), but they can be used by anyone to pay for food, gas, or even memberships. Here’s what the Costco site says:

    You must be a Costco member to purchase or reload Costco Cash Cards. Members and non-members may use the cash cards to shop at any Costco location in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and online at Costco.com or on Costco.ca. Costco Cash balances may be used toward membership or merchandise.

    Other things to remember:

    • Costco Cash cards have no expiration date
    • They’re rechargeable at any Costco warehouse location
    • Cards can be purchased in denominations from $25 to $1,000
    • Get your balance on costco.com, the warehouse “red kiosk,” or by calling the toll-free number on the card

    Since you can use this card for merchandise or membership, I’d suggest giving it a try. It would even be great for members who need a little help staying inside their budget.  Or you might want to get your own membership and get paid at the end of the year! (Keep reading!)

    If you have a friend with a Costco Membership, give them cash to buy you a cash card so you can shop next time.

    costco shopping

    2.) You can get 2% cash back on your purchases every year!

    The Executive Membership gives 2% back at the end of the year. Yes. Costco gives 2% of your entire year’s purchase back to you after 12 months. While that level of membership costs a bit more than the standard ($110 for Executive Gold Star Membership and $55 for Gold Star Membership), the savings through this incentive could easily pay for itself (see chart above).

    There is a short list of purchases that are NOT included in the 2% back offer:

    • Cigarettes or tobacco-related products
    • Gasoline
    • Costco Cash Cards
    • Postage stamps
    • Alcoholic beverages in certain states (including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan)
    • Purchases at food courts

    You’ll automatically receive a Costco certificate in the mail at the end of the year. You can use this in the warehouse to pay part of your membership renewal or just pay for merchandise when you checkout.

    I always use it toward my membership! It just helps me remember so I don’t forget to renew.  You can renew right in the checkout lane with all your other purchases from that trip or you can renew at the customer service desk.

    3.) Get to know their super secret pricing structure:

    Here are some of their top secret pricing strategies:

    • Prices that end in $0.97 have been marked down from the regular priced items.  Regular price items end in $0.99.
    • Look for the items with odd pricing, such as $0.79, $0.49, or $0.89: These indicate specially priced items that Costco got a deal from the manufacturer directly .  These prices are often lower than
    • If you see an asterisk* on the upper right side of the sign, that means the item won’t be reordered and it is a last chance buy.
    • If there is over stock, the items price will end in $0.88 or $0.00 endings. These are typically manager markdowns meant to move a product very fast.

    4.) Stack Coscto Coupons with rebate apps:

    You can use Costco coupons along with cash back apps like Ibotta, Checkout51, ReceiptHog, and SNAP.

    This helps you save even more money!

    5.) They really mean 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed!

    Costco has outstanding customer service and their return policy is quite generous.

    Here’s the lowdown on returning merchandise bought in stores:

    • If you are not completely satisfied, return the product to any Costco warehouse.
    • It helps to have the original packaging and the original receipt, but they’ll process returns without those.
    • Televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, touchscreen tablets, MP3 players and cell phones must be returned within 90 days for a refund.

    Best of all, Costco will refund your membership fee in full at any time if you are dissatisfied. That’s no joke. So it’s really ZERO risk if you just don’t feel like it’s a good fit for you.

    costco shopping

    6.) Save Big on Non-Food Items

    I hope you already know that you can save big on photographs at Costco.  Plus, they offer HUGE photo deals around major holidays so you can get gifts and larger prints at giant savings.

    My kids love to shop the stacks of clothes and books where we can find great deals that sometimes beat our other go-to places to save on books.  We get fun workbooks for the kids during summer or even new books on the bestseller list at rock bottom prices.

    7.) You don’t need a Costco membership to get your prescriptions there:

    You might not know that non-members can have their prescriptions filled at most Costco Pharmacies (where required by law). This can be a huge savings for many people who have monthly prescription expenses. Give them a call and see if Costco Pharmacy can help you save on those drugs.

    You can also learn how to use GoodRx.com and compare Costco prices to other local pharmacies.

    8.) They have great Food Courts: Fast Meals On the Cheap

    Costco has the best price on cooked pizza in their concession area. You can sit and enjoy the pie in the store or take it home. It’s a large pizza at a large savings over other pizzerias and it’s conveniently located in Costco to avoid another stop after shopping.  Am I the only one that is hungry after a big shopping trip?

    We also dig the hot dog and a drink for just $1.50! Where else can everyone in your family get a giant hot dog and a drink for less than $10?

    They also sell a 1/2 sheet cake for less than 1/4 sheet cake sells at my local grocery store.

    9.) High Quality Produce and Meats and Organics

    Quality control at Costco seems to be on track as the produce in the store is very appealing to the eye and high quality.

    The organic offerings at the warehouse club are numerous and come at amazing prices. Notably, organic eggs and milk are very competitively priced to other organic markets in our area.  Here are some more organic finds at Costco!

    Compared to other grocery stores, the meat sold at Costco is of a higher USDA grade. In-house butchers prepare meats for sale and they’re super helpful with answering questions about all of their products. If you’re searching for good quality meats at reasonable prices, this is definitely the place to look.

    And make sure to pick up a monthly coupon flyer from the customer service desk each time you visit.  You don’t want to miss some of the awesome deals that they put out every month.  And you don’t have to present a coupon.  The savings will come off automatically for all members.

    10.) They have the cheapest movie tickets in town!

    Buy your movie tickets at Costco before going directly to the theatre. They stock Regal and Cinemark Movie theatre tickets for around $8.00 each (better than the normal $10+).

    11.) Don’t forget your Costco Coupons:

    Don’t forget to check out the available Costco digital coupons.

    These are automatically taken off at the register when you scan your card or use the mobile app.Make sure you plan your trip around these extra savings!  You can find a list of those here.

    There are SO many great ways to save at Costco, but don’t get overwhelmed!

    costco shopping

    If you love Costco, you may be interested in the other Warehouse Club stores too – check out this post I did on Costco vs Sams to find out more.

    Do you love Costco?  Do you get everything from eyeglasses to tires in their warehouse locations?  I’d love to hear your favorite items that save you big at Costco!




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