7 Shopping Secrets You Need to Know Before Going to Costco

In the business world, Costco is considered a multinational wholesale corporation. But, to shoppers, Costco is the place to save time and money, especially when they know the shopping secrets. 

Over the last few years, Costco has become the one-stop shop for everything from frozen food, local produce, customized cakes, kitchen appliances, patio furniture, high-tech devices, tires, and prescription eye-glasses. It’s also the go-to place for what seems like the cheapest lunch menu on the planet.

You can spend the whole day at Costco and still miss some of the great bargains that are in the warehouse. This is why you should know about the shopping secrets before going to Costco. 

It’s no secret that Costco sells many of their items in bulk. It is also widely known that shopping at Costco is a bit like shopping at Target. You might go in to buy a rotisserie chicken and a giant birthday cake, but you walk out with a full cart and an empty wallet. (Now, you know why Costco puts both items in aisles farthest away from the door.)

When you go into Costco without a plan, you can walk out with a plethora of shiny new objects. Since many of them have expiration dates, you could end up with bulk items that you will never be able to use. It’s happened to me, and it’s happened to plenty of other Costco shoppers that I know. 

To avoid falling into what I call the “Costco Trap,” take a look at my 7 shopping secrets

1. Get to Know Kirkland

Costco’s store brand is Kirkland. But, if a Costco item has a Kirkland label on it, you cannot assume the product is store-brand quality. In many cases, the Kirkland items are name-brand products that are specially packages for Costco. 

Take, for example, the Kirkland Signature Moisture Shampoo. It may not look like much, but inside of the bottle is Pureology Hydrate Shampoo. With the Kirkland label, the shampoo comes with a significantly lower price. 

Even Kirkland liquors are just as good as name brand bottles. Rumors abound that Kirkland Vodka is really Grey Goose in disguise. Whether or not it is, the Kirkland Vodka tastes just as good as high-end brands like Grey Goose. The same goes for the Kirkland Blended Scotch Whiskey, which tastes similar to Dewar’s White Label. 

You can save a lot of money if you look at Kirkland. The packages might not be the prettiest around, but it’s about what’s inside.

2. Read the Price Tags

Major retailers have price tag secrets, and Costco is no exception. When you know what to look for at Costco, you can save even more money. If you find items with prices that end in .88 or .00, those designate items that have been returned, discontinued, or served as samples. They most likely won’t be around for long, so snap them up. Items ending in “.97” have been marked down and most likely won’t be reordered.

Costco price ending in .97 Indicates items on clearance.

Another important price to look at is the sale price. Each month, Costco offers sale prices on selected items. Before you pop into the store, check out what’s on sale. You can find the sale prices online and in the sales flier. The sales will also be posted near the item. If you are buying food that’s on sale, stock up, especially if you are buying food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or frozen. 

You should also know about the asterisk. When you see that little symbol on a price tag, the item is limited. It may never arrive again. So, if you want it, you better buy it. 

One of my favorite things to buy at Costco are gift cards. Often, my favorite restaurants will have gift-card deals, like get a $100 gift card for $75! Those are great deals that you will not find anywhere else. When you take the gift card to the restaurant, you get to spend $100, but you only spent $75. These deals are usually limited, so I buy several at once. 

3. Understand the Return, Exchange, and Price-Change Policies

Costco has a generous return and exchange policy. They also are incredibly kind when it comes to price changes. Costco does not limit returns or exchanges for members. But, there are occasional exceptions, especially for higher priced items like tech devices and jewelry, as well as state-regulated items like tobacco and alcohol. Be sure you understand the return or exchange policy before you leave the store with the item. 

Some items come with limited return-and-exchange policies. For example, computers and other tech devices need to be returned or exchanged within 90 days. But, many other items can be returned at any time for any reason. 

Costco will also refund price differences, if they change within a set period of time. All you need to do is bring in your original purchase receipt to the customer service desk to show what you paid. If Costco has lowered the price, they will refund the difference to you. 

4. Use the Costco App

If you feel that Costco items taunt you as you walk past them, you might be able to control yourself if you create a list. The Costco App is the perfect tool to use for building grocery lists. It works on IOS and Android phones, and the app lets you record what you buy so you don’t buy too much. You can also use the app to order photos and print from Costco. 

5. Know What to Buy and When

Costco sells organic produce, and it is often priced to sell. You won’t find better prices anywhere else. Many of the items, including the organic milk, can be frozen until you are ready to use it. Buy freezable produce (like berries) when it is in-season and lowest in price. 

The same goes for items on sale. Costco reveals its sales before the items actually go on sale. You can plan your shopping based on what will go on sale. Costco sends sales fliers at least one week in advance, and the warehouses carry them at the customer service desk. Get them early and plan your purchases so you can get the best prices at the right times. 

Since the items are on sale for a month, you can buy them early in the month. If you find that you love the products, you can buy more before the sale is removed. 

6. Watch for Membership Deals

Costco often has deals for memberships. These might include coupons, cash cards, or discounted rates. When those opportunities arise, take them. Costco also has a formula that reduces an Executive Membership renewal. You get 2% back on the amount you spent in the previous year. Before your membership expires, you get a reward certificate that you can use to renew your Executive Membership. My check from last year was over $400.00

7. Get to Know the Costco Concierge Service

When you buy electronics at Costco, you are automatically enrolled in the Costco Concierge Service. This gives you a two-year warranty and technical support. The two-year warranty is added onto the manufacturer’s warranty. You can use it on electronics, but it doesn’t apply to most household appliances. Check the item before you buy it. 

If you have the Costco Anywhere Visa, you get two more years added to the warranty. You also get free set-up service over the phone.

What are your favorite Costco shopping secrets?