Money & Career

Is Costco really a better deal?

Unlike some of my friends, I’m not a regular Costco shopper. I find the sheer size of the place overwhelming — you can’t quickly stop in on the way home from work to pick up milk. You also have to buy a membership, at $55. The other major drawback to Costco for me is that every time I go in, I’m hit by an inexplicable urge to buy large quantities of things I don’t really need — like a massive box of meatballs that won’t fit in my freezer or a huge store-sized package of Swedish berries.

Unlike some of my friends, I’m not a regular Costco shopper. I find the sheer size of the place overwhelming — you can’t quickly stop in on the way home from work to pick up milk. You also have to buy a membership, at $55. The other major drawback to Costco for me is that every time I go in, I’m hit by an inexplicable urge to buy large quantities of things I don’t really need — like a massive box of meatballs that won’t fit in my freezer or a huge store-sized package of Swedish berries.

But after reading this article by MoneySense writer Kerry K. Taylor, I’m going to give Costco another shot this weekend. In the article, Taylor lists the best buys she found at her local Costco, listing the price of brand-name items like chicken and laundry soap and comparing it to what the same thing would cost at Safeway.
Here are just a few examples of what she found: 
  • 1 kg whole Chicken: $7.69 at Safeway — $4.99 at Costco (in a pack of three) 
  • Campbell’s tomato soup: 12 cans for $11.99 at Safeway — $7.99 at Costco 
  • Mr. Clean All Purpose Cleaner (five litres) – $17.09 at Safeway — $12.79 at Costco 
  • Huggies Snug & Dry Step Three Diapers (cost per diaper) at $0.28 at Safeway — $0.16 at Coscto. 
The savings Taylor uncovers are impressive — but I need to do some more comparisons to see what makes sense for my family. While the chicken and soup are great buys, I don’t buy name brand-name cleaning products or diapers, so I’m not sure whether it’s a better deal to buy no-name all-purpose cleaner or to drive to Costco for Mr. Clean (did I also mention the nearest Costco is a 20-minute drive?). I also use Teddy’s Choice diapers, which is the Loblaw’s brand (our local supermarket) — they are always cheaper than brand name diapers, and they are usually on sale to boot. 
I think the key to a successful Costco shop is to stay focused and stick to your list — and making sure that you resist the temptation to make impulse purchases that you haven’t planned for, especially electronics and other items that Costco sells in addition to groceries (sure, that TV might seem cheap, but if you haven’t budgeted for it, then buying it could be a mistake). Perishables are also cheap at Costco — but if you buy, say, lettuce in bulk and you can’t eat it before it rots, then it’s not worth it.
I’ll keep you posted once I’ve done my shop. In the meantime, I’d like to know if you shop at Costco regularly. If so, what do you buy there? Feel free to share your experiences and best deals here or below.