Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Costco…who knew?

I have proven to myself that shopping with coupons outside of Costco is actually cheaper on many household items.

For example:

15-rolls of Bounty paper towels at Costco = $23.99 [or $1.60 a roll]

on sale Bounty paper towels are $1 at Target

so if I wait for a sale and have coupons to use [by stacking a Target coup with a MFC] I can get a roll for around $0.25 and if I have fifteen coupons then I just trumped Costco’s price by 84%.

HOWEVER…I have been doing my research this week and can provide to my readers the following:


Costco is known for their large quantities, cheap prices, and great return policy. They're also known for their membership fees, which start at $50 a year and can get as high as a hundred (Executive Membership). Did you know that you can shop at a Costco without a membership?

The key is to get a Costco Cash Card, which is their gift card. If you have the Costco Cash card, you don't need a membership. The gift card lets you go into the store and buy anything you want. You'll need to use the cash card to pay for your purchases and, if it doesn't have enough on it, you can use cash or debit card to pay for the rest.

The downside to this strategy is you can't buy a new card or reload the card without a membership. You'll have to find a Costco card-carrying friend to buy them for you and the minimum is $10. If you don't know anyone, you can always try to buy the cards off Craigslist or eBay, but proceed with caution.

Oh, and if all you want is some alcohol, you don't need a membership to buy booze in certain states. [Costco Membership is not required for purchases of alcohol in the following states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Texas and Vermont.  Please check each store’s individual store policy for specificity in this situation].

[Thanks to The Consumerist for this information!]

Secret Codes at Costco:

1. Go to Costco and on your visit I want you to pay special attention to their signs for each item you see.

You will see many end with a 99¢ ending, some with a 79¢ ending, others 97¢ ending and so on. So how do you know which prices are the best deals or determine which are the close-outs that have vast reductions in their original prices? Easy, watch each step as I explain what each one means.

2. You are going to look for items that now have a 97¢ ending. Regular priced items usually end with a 99¢ ending but not always. However the ones with the 97¢ endings are those items that did not sell and must be cleared out. They are marked down, but unlike all other retailers, Costco doesn't want you to know that so the don't put the original prices with a slash and then the new price. You have to know the code to know it is a close-out.

3. Look to see if there is a * on the upper right side of the sign. If you see one, it means this item is not being reordered and what ever stock they have in the store will be sold and not replaced. This is a tip off that it might be a marked down item, but not always, but it does let you know that once these are gone there will be no more. I use this guide to determine if I should stock up on a discounted item, knowing that the store inventory is all they have.

4. Now you will watch for odd pricing like those that end in a 79¢ ending. I have noticed they have others now at 49¢ endings and others. These usually mean that these items have a special price on them because Costco got a special deal from the manufacturer. In other words they were a special purchase and the buyers really killed their vendors for this price.

These will be a good deal compared to other stores, but usually not the deal you will get with the Marked Down 97¢ merchandise.

5. As you go through the store, you will begin to notice another special deal, the Instant Rebates on some items. Generally these will come from the manufacturers and Costco will give you the rebate on the items at the cash register. I like these a lot and you can watch for them at certain times of the year.

6. Other rebates are also available, especially the one run through an Energy Rebate through your state [right now Pepco is running a fabulous instant rebate deal at my local Costco.  A 4-pack of energy efficient light bulbs was just $3.99!]

7. Watch for holiday or change of season close-outs.

8. Finally as you check out with all your goodies, I want you to go over to their food court and get their best deal ever: you can get a huge all beef hot dog and a large soda with free refills for only $1.50. Now if that isn't a deal nothing is.

* Costco has the best return policy of any retailer around. Try not to abuse it. I have seen people bring back a bunch of dead cut flowers after they have had them in their homes for a week and get their money back. In this economy we don't want Costco to either go out of business or change their wonderful customer service policies.

[Thanks to Hub Pages for this information!]  I amended it slightly to bring it to date.

Posted by costco junkie on January 20, 2009 7:13 PM on Tip Hero:

At Costco, the markdown system is this:
ends with .99 is the original price
ends with ._7 is the first markdown
ends with .88 is the second markdown
ends with .00 is the final markdown before it is sent out and sold to a local salvage company.

Clark Howard is a consumer advocate with a nationally syndicated talk show designed to help shoppers spend less, save more and avoid getting ripped off, was recently on The Nate Berkus Show. He is the talk radio host of the nationally syndicated consumer advocate program, "The Clark Howard Show." For more expert shopping advice, visit Clark's website at  Here’s his “numero uno” shopping tip when browsing the aisles at Costco:

1. Always buy standard household items.

Only purchase standard household items (like paper goods, detergent, etc.) during coupon cycles. For example, Costco does four week coupon cycles. They send out coupons to members that always include basic items. Sam’s club has a different discount method. Their coupons only only offered to people who buy the highest membership category, or a "Plus" membership. They have general coupons and then coupons that are specifically for you. They track your pattern so they give you things that are accessible for you. They have a machine that a "Plus" member can use - you put in your card and print out coupons they’re offering to you that day. BJ’s mails out a monthly coupon book. They have coupons that are good for a certain amount of days or weeks, depending on the product.


I am a current Costco member and I know that shopping at warehouse stores to buy in bulk can save you money.  These tips provide an inside-look at the particular establishment for hopefully, even greater savings!  For a Costco near you click here: COSTCO LOCATIONS.