9 tricks for getting the best deals at Costco, from a former employee

Carts outside of a Costco
Costco is known for having some great deals.Mario Tama/Getty Images
  • Business Insider spoke to a former Costco employee to learn how to get the best deals at the store.

  • Robinson said price codes will tell you if the item has been discounted or not.

  • She also said to check the Costco app for coupons and to split bulk items with friends and family.

There are plenty of killer deals to find at Costco, but shopping smart is key to saving the most cash.

Business Insider spoke to Tess Robison, former Costco employee, to figure out how to get the best deals at the members-only wholesale giant.

Here are some of the top ways to save money at Costco and maximize your membership.

Salad spinner on display at Costco
Some prices will eventually be reduced.Annabel Rocha


Watch out for rotating monthly sales.

If an item isn't on sale now, check again in a few weeks.Abigail Abesamis

If your favorite brand of window cleaner or frozen pizza isn't on sale this month, it may be worth waiting a few weeks to catch an upcoming price reduction.

"My biggest piece of advice to just wait until an item goes on sale. Costco rotates which brands will be on sale just about every month," Robison told BI.


Learn the layout of your local store to prevent impulse buys.

If you're on a budget, stick to only the aisles you need to visit.Shutterstock

Robison said Costco stores are actually organized in a way that can force shoppers to walk through as many aisles as possible.

"Costco stores are designed to make you wander around, so try not to get caught up in doing that," she said. "If you are trying to stick to a budget, I would definitely recommend heading straight to the aisles you want."

Noting where your favorite products are shelved can also help you optimize your next shopping trip and avoid unplanned purchases.

Always stock up on items after the holiday season.

costco christmas decor snowman
If you need holiday decorations, buy them after that holiday has passed.Shutterstock

Though many people may try to give their credit card a break after the holidays, you can actually score steep discounts on items at Costco if you shop during the first few weeks of January.

"Costco gets so many returns after the holidays, and the returned items are usually discounted by 50%, so they will sell quickly," Robison said.

January is also a great time to stock up on seasonal decor at Costco due to the post-holiday sales.

Opt for Kirkland products when possible.

costco chips
If you're looking for the best deal, it's usually a good idea to opt for Kirkland products when possible.Abigail Abesamis

Costco stocks many name-brand products, but it also carries its own line of goods under the Kirkland label.

"The Kirkland brand is almost always cheaper and almost identical to the name brands on the shelf," Robison said.

But, she said, not every item is worth saving on.

"The only thing that I have noticed that isn't the same, or as good of quality as other brands, is the toilet paper," she told BI. "It's not the cheapest thing you could buy, but it's not the greatest quality either."

When possible, grab a deal booklet instead of asking an employee about current deals.

Costco, man pushing a cart in front of store
You can also check the Costco app.REUTERS/John Gress JG/GN

If you want to quickly identify the best bargain buys, Robison recommends picking up a current sale booklet on your way into the store.

"I wouldn't recommend asking an employee about current sales, as they won't know every single one in the store," Robison said.

If you want to go paperless, checking the price history of a Costco item with an online price-tracking tool or using the Costco app are good alternatives.


Calculate whether the cost of membership is worth it for you.

costco card cart
If you only expect to shop at the warehouse store a few times a year, it may not be worth spending the cash on a long-term membership.Shutterstock

Costco may be a great place to pick up discounted products, but the price of a membership may outweigh the savings if you don't do enough shopping there.

"If you never or rarely shop at Costco, or if you live far away from one, then it's just not worth it," Robison said.


Split bulk items with friends and share the cost.

skippy peanut butter at costco
Splitting bulk buys and the cost of them is a great way to avoid waste.Jacqueline Gualtieri

Buying in bulk at a wholesale store like Costco means that though the cost of each individual item may be lower, you can end up with more items than you need.

Robison told BI that divvying up larger sets of items, like mega-packs of toilet paper or batteries, with other people is a good way to reduce waste while still taking advantage of bulk pricing.


Check out the gift cards to get "free money" at other stores.

costco gift cards
Costco often sells packs of gift cards.Shutterstock/melissamn

It's worth checking out the gift card offers to see if you can leverage your Costco membership to net savings outside the store.

The company often sells gift cards to other chain stores and restaurants at discounted prices. For example, you may be able to buy a gift card worth $80 for just $50 or save big on a multipack of event tickets.

This story was originally published on July 23, 2020, and most recently updated on May 16, 2024.

Read the original article on Business Insider