Costco: Bulk Savings or Excess Consumption?

I saw this article on How To Get The Most Out of Your Costco Membership and got pretty excited– we have a Costco membership and I have always wondered if it is worth it, considering one of my superpowers is the ability to leave Costco at $50/less and I go typically every six weeks, give or take.

Of course, the very first savings tip- get the Gold Star Membership so you get 2% cash back- is only valuable if you spend over $2750 a year at Costco. (If a Gold Star Membership is $55 more a year, and you get 2% cash back, then I figure if x is what you spend a year, .02x ≥ 55 for it to be worth it. WHO SAYS YOU DON’T NEED ALGEBRA??)

As long as I’m doing the math, though, I thought I’d run through what I spend at Costco and then add up my savings at the end of the year. If they are equal or greater to $55, well, then, our memberhip’s worth it financially. Environmentally–  although the bulk buying you do at Costco is not the ultimate in environmental friendliness- almost everything there is still packaged- it is an improvement over regular packaging. And I’m all about small realistic change. As for health– the frozen waffles don’t have any artificial colors at least? Let’s get real: I am never making and freezing dozens of whole wheat waffles at a time no matter how much healthier it would be for my kids. (OK, maybe if I had a chest freezer. Never say never.)

Costco Haul, 5/28/13

Costco Haul, 5/28/13

Purchased at Costco yesterday:

  • Tortillas $5.89/50
  • Waffles $6.99/60
  • Strawberry Jelly $6.99/64 oz
  • Detergent $13.99/186 oz

The Tortilla Land fresh tortillas are a refined flour indulgence for the whole family– although they only contain flour, salt, sugar and (ugh canola) oil.  (The whole wheat version contains Calcium Propionate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, and Citric Acid but I’ve never seen them or the corn ones in stores anyway.) The jelly and the waffles are for the kids.

So to compare I checked out the tortillas at Sprouts (they also sell them at Whole Foods but I didn’t want Costco to have an unreasonable price advantage) and the waffles, jelly (which is also organic and reduced sugar, so not an even match) and detergent at Trader Joe’s.

  • Tortillas $4.19/12
  • Waffles $1.99/8
  • Strawberry jelly $3.29/15.2 oz
  • Detergent $9.99/128 fl oz

Then I did the math. I figured out how much each would cost me if I bought the equivalent amount I got at Costco- so:

  • 50 tortillas at $0.35/tortilla=$17.50
  • 60 waffles=$14.93
  • Jelly=$13.85
  • Detergent= $14.52– not much savings on that one, Costco!

Overall the same groceries that cost $33.86 pre-tax at Costco would have cost $60.80 elsewhere, so I saved $26.94.  One more trip like this and I’m almost at the $55 annual cost of membership- and like I said, I go about every six weeks or so.

So do you have to spend a lot of money at Costco to save money? Heck no. What’s the secret to saving money at Costco? For me, it involves only buying staples. It helps that I don’t buy much processed food– putting most of the Costco groceries off limits anyway.

Do you have a warehouse club membership? Do you think you get your money’s worth?

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