Survival Guide to Costco

27 things to help you save time and money

Costco is stuff filled with savings but is also littered with traps, sucking money out your wallet and time from your day. Our extensive research has helped create this guide to spend the least amount of time and money at Costco, but still reaping the benefits the warehouse store has to offer.


You don’t have to have a membership

If you only need to go to Costco every now and then or don’t want to commit to a year-long membership, there are 2 ways you can still enjoy the savings at Costco. Members can bring up to 2 guests with them on each trip. So find a friend, family member or a colleague to take you on their next trip. To entice them you can offer to buy them the famous hotdogs from the snack bar.

If you want to fly solo on your shopping trip, ask for Costco Cash Cards for your next birthday or bribe your friend to buy one next time they are the store. The cash card is a fancy name for saying gift card.

Get Great Deals on Rx without a Membership

Costco’s Pharmacies are open to members and non-members. To get admittance, just tell the card checker you are dropping off a prescription. While you are there, get your annual flu shot, because they offer immunizations without a membership.


Be Healthy with discounted Pharmaceutical Drugs

Costco has some of the cheapest prescription drugs. They even post the cost of the drugs. You can also have your medications delivered directly to your home.

Besides People Prescriptions, they fill Pet Prescriptions

Yes, you still need a vet to write a prescription for your family pet, but Costco will fill it.


You don’t need to have a membership to buy alcohol

Some states still have some old blues laws on the books which let people purchase alcohol if they don’t have a “membership.” As of this writing, you can buy alcohol in the following states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Texas and Vermont.


Start seeing 20/20 without a membership

Get your eyes checked without a membership. Some Costco locations have an independent optometrist onsite. While you can get your eyes checked, you need a membership or a gift card to buy glasses or contacts.


Earn cash back from your purchases

If you have the Executive membership ($110 annual fee) you can earn 2% reward on qualified purchases. “Qualified Purchases” is basically everything in the store except tobacco, alcohol and Rx and a random fee items.


A Very Generous Return Policy

Out of all the major retailers, Costco has the best return policy. If you end up hating something, take it back, and they will give you a full refund, no questions asked. There is a 90-day return limit on televisions, computers and major appliances such as ovens, dishwashers or refrigerators. Also, if you purchased a grocery item which went bad you don’t need to bring in the spoiled food, just tell them the item, and they will give you a full refund.  As long as you have your membership card, you do not need your receipt. Store personnel can look up your past purchases with your card.


The Kirkland brand is just as good as the name brands

There are roughly 4000 SKU in the average Costco store and 20% of them are the Kirkland brand. While there was a little term oil, no pun intended, about Greek vs. Italian olives, the Kirkland brand olive oil gets high marks. There is speculation that Kirkland batteries are re-labeled Duracell. Independent test show they have similar performance to Duracell and at a fraction of the cost.Looking for a good wine? Kirkland’s Signature Chateauneuf Du Pape receives high marks and is $10 less than competing wines.

The Rotisserie Chicken is a Huge Deal

For $5 you get a chicken at least 3 lbs, this enough to feed a family of 4 for two meals. The grocery stores weigh a measly 1-2 lbs.

Low cost Organic Foods

You don’t have to visit Whole Foods to stock up on organic foods. Costco carries a wide variety of packaged and fresh fruits and vegetables. They have great deals on organic strawberries and blueberries.


You can Buy a Car

You can buy a car from Costco…sort of. Costco has a buying program arranged with multiple dealers across the country. They boast an average $1000 savings per car purchased with their buying program.


Save Even When You’re Dead

You can get a good deal on a casket.  The average casket price is $2,000 and can quickly jump to $10,000 if you want to be buried in style. Costco offers caskets from the Universal Casket Company ranging in price from $950 to $2,000.


Great Deals on Gift Cards & Movie Tickets

Their gift card aisle has great prices on bulk movie tickets and store gift cards. You might also find discounted toll passes for area toll roads in some locations.


Great Deals on Meat

If you are hosting a BBQ stock up on ground beef or steaks. Their meat counter has great deals compared to local grocery stores.


Great Deals on Tires….sort of

About 2-3 times a year they have a great tire sale, which beats any tire dealer. The tires come with a lifetime replacement. If for any reason a tire goes flat they will replace it. You also receive a lifetime rotation and balancing. The problem is they do not take appointments for having your tires rotated or balanced; this can be a big time suck. The best option is to drop the car off in the morning and pick it up in the evening.



What is cheaper than tap water? Costco’s bottled water

I’m not a fan of bottled water for multiple reasons: BPA, more plastic used and gas to transport, but there are times when nothing else will do. The 40 pack of water comes in at a per unit price of $.09 per bottle. It doesn’t get any cheaper then this.


Gas so cheap you’ll think its 1997

Most stores have a Costco-branded stations located in the same parking lot of the stores. Their gas it typically $0.15-$0.25 cheaper than most gas stations. Plan your shopping trip around your fill ups.


$7.49 Ink Cartridge Refills

Save the planet and cash with their cheap ink refills. Check here to make sure they can refill your ink cartridge.


Cheap Toys

Stock up on Christmas Gifts or birthday gifts with their inexpensive toys. Their toys are typically cheaper than Amazons. Keep your phone hand and use the Amazon app to compare prices.



Don’t shop on Saturday

We checked the stores around Denver with Google’s busiest time app, and Saturdays are the worst day to go. Monday and Wednesday are the best times.

They Open Early Then the Posted Time

Ok, we get it, Saturday is the only day you can make it to Costco. Did you know they open 10-15 minutes early almost every morning? Once they have finished stocking the shelves and the store is ready to open, they will let you come on in.

Costco Doesn’t Open on Holidays

Costco treats its employee well; they are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th


Understanding the Prices to Get the Best Deal

The pricing system might seem more complex than a roulette wheel, but the numbers are anything but random.

Prices ending with .99 are Costco’s set price

Prices ending with .97 are have been marked down from the regular price

Prices ending with .79, .49 or .89 are deals Costco got from the manufacturer

Prices ending with .88 or .00 are manager markdowns.

See an Asterisk (*) means buy it today

An Asterisks on a price card means the item will not be restocked. These items are typically deeply discounted. If it’s something you need, then the time to buy is now.

Don’t Buy Anything from the Front of the Store

Like any good retailer, Costco puts the impulse buys at the front of the store. Unless you came specifically to buy a 108” TV avoid buying anything from the front of the store. Basically, stick your list.

Sometime Buying Bulk isn’t a good deal

Most of the time buying in bulk is a good deal, except when you can’t use it all. Are you really going to eat all those crackers before they go stale? You can divvy it up with your friends and then it might make smart financial sense.