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Tips to shop at Costco

I know many families who visit Costco every weekend as a customary trip, to buy their weekly requirement of groceries as well as enjoy a satisfying meal at Costco's food court. It is my guilty pleasure to visit Costco at least once a month, if not every alternate week. I won't mind if you tag me as a Costco fan, as I don't see a reason, why I shouldn't be. Costco is a one stop shop to cater to literally all basic necessities to run a house - food, furniture, gas, electronics, decorative items, vehicle accessories, pharmacy, travel and a lot more. If you could spend mindfully without getting overwhelmed by the wide range of products displayed in its humongous warehouse, you could save your bucks considerably. Here are my few tips to make the most out of your shopping experience with Costco.

Gold Vs Executive Membership:

Of course, with a Costco membership (Gold at $60 per annum), you get access to all the products in its warehouse. With an executive membership ($120 per annum), you get additional privileges like annual 2% credit on most of your Costco purchases, exclusive executive member deals and early access to deals during thanksgiving, black friday and boxing day compared to the Gold holders. But you have to do the math to see if your annual purchase at Costco really exceeds the annual executive membership fee to call it profitable, otherwise it is better to stick to the Gold membership. Above all, you can also cancel our membership anytime we wish to.

You can also get an additional card (termed spousal card) for every membership, at no extra fee. Costco has this feature to allow more than one family member to get access to their warehouse, without any dependency on the primary membership holder. 

Not a Costco member. You can still shop:

If you are single or have a small family and don't make frequent trips to Costco, then it isn't worth buying a membership. Instead tag along with your friend (or roommate for shopping) when he does. But remember you may use your friend's membership, but you have to pay using your debit card or cash. Costco doesn't accept credit cards from non-members. 

Prescriptions don't need membership:

Costco pharmacies too have bulk stock and comparatively lower prices. On top of these, you wouldn't need a membership to order and collect your prescription. Just inform the greeter that you are to collect your medicines, you will be let in.

Gift cards too can get you entry:

Another great way to get access to warehouse products is to use their gift cards. Ask any of your Costco member friends to get you couple of gift cards and you may use it for your shopping. Occasionally, Costco offers good deals on gift cards too. Either way, it is a win-win for you. 

Free samples:

Who doesn't like to try free samples? Costco offers a lot of samples - food (dry and frozen, juices), baked items, oatmeal, detergent etc. and it doesn't restrict us from taking just once. But don't rush if there is a line behind you. Manners do matter.­čśťAlso beware!! Don't get carried away and load your cart with the items you tried, if they aren't what you came looking for. 

Take advantage of Kirkland products:

Kirkland is Costco's own private label. Generally companies come up with their own label to sell cheaper products. This is not the case with Costco. They sell high quality products under their brand name, of course at a lower price. Some of their great products for example like Kirkland batteries, diapers, coffee, cheese pizza etc. are actually manufactured by Duracell, Huggies, Starbucks, Palermo respectively. So next time, pick Kirkland products against branded names to enjoy premium products at low cost. 

Flagship products:

Another interesting aspect of buying at Costco is that, most of the goods sold by Costco are there flagship models i.e., specially manufactured for Costco. Many dresses, shoes, home appliances, electronics, apart from being price competitive, will have better features/ accessories in comparison to the products available in market.

Scared to buy in bulk?

Buying in bulk is the cheapest way to buy in stores like Costco. But I get your point. Items like kitchen towels, toilet rolls, dish scrubbers etc. sold in bulk are way too many to be consumed sooner by small families. The best way is to share the product and split the cost with your friend(s).

Asterisk symbol indicates, don't wait:

Have you seen asterisk (or star) symbol against a product's price tag at Costco? It indicates that the price is marked down for clearance and the product will be discontinued temporarily. So if you had been waiting for a while expecting a price drop, get the hint that it is the right time to buy.

Price tag says so much???

Usually all items' at Costco are priced ending 0.99. If you ever come across an item ending with 0.98 it means the item is marked down and may go out of stock soon. Occasionally few products will be priced ending 0.88. It means it is on clearance and is the best price you would ever find for that product. So time to grab!!

Missed a price?

What if price of an item has been slashed after you buy? Don't worry. If it had been less than 30 days since your purchase, you can get your item price matched. But ensure you carry your bill.

Price mark downs are store specific:

Price mark downs vary from store to store as it is decided by the store manager to clear the existing stock and make room for new stock. So when you come across such a discount in a store, do remember it might not be the same in Costco few miles away. 

Costco's gas is always cost effective:

Most Costco warehouses have gas stations. Similar to most of its products, gas is comparatively cheaper. So don't forget to fuel your car before heading out from Costco.

Free eye and ear testing:

Members are entitled for a free vision and hearing test. You don't need an executive membership to avail this benefit. Gold will do. Furthermore, you can buy any prescription glasses/ hearing devices at the store too.  

Concierge service for electronics:

Bought a laptop or a television and looking for some assistance setting it up? Pick up your phone and call Costco concierge service for all your questions to be answered. Moreover, you can use this service throughout the lifetime of your product, free of charge.

Hassle free return:

Costco has very customer friendly returns. If you don't like a product (opened or untouched) can be returned to Costco for a full refund. Generally, they have 90 days return policy with few exceptions like electronics which have to be returned within 30 days from the date of purchase. I heard that there are no returns on tobacco and alcohol once bought. We once had to return an unopened pack of frozen item due to its ingredients. We usually look for the ingredients, but somehow missed on that particular instance. Costco refunded the full value, but we learnt they will trash it and won't restock it. This rule is applicable to all the perishable food items. Since then we ensure to check the ingredients thoroughly of any new products we buy. That way we can avoid unwanted food wastage.

Look for deals online/ flyer:

Costco periodically sends mails on latest deals at their warehouses. Do check them to know the deals that best suit you, before walking from aisle to aisle. This saves your time as well as helps to reduce the hidden threat of you spending more than anticipated.  

Look for end of season sale:

Planning to buy an inflatable Santa Claus or snow man, winter jacket, sports shoe, summer wear etc.? Look out for end of season deals. Head to Costco just before spring season to find the jackets' price slashed by nearly 50%. Buy and use it the next year. Same is applicable to Christmas lights and decorations, summer collection, winter wear too.  

Download Costco app on your phone:

Costco app in your phone definitely comes handy to refer to any deals, your purchase history (it stores all back dated bills in one place). So you don't have to bother about carrying the flyer or a receipt for returns. You can also easily check the availability of an item at a warehouse, before heading to grab it.

Check online before heading to store:

You saw an amazing deal on Costco's website? Chances are that the item is available at your nearest warehouse too. Check the website to know its availability in store. Warehouse price is always lesser compared to the online bought. 

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