March 1, 2024

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I’m a Costco expert and here are eight times you should shop elsewhere

COSTCO customers aren’t afraid to load up the trolley with BIG bargains – but size doesn’t always matter when it comes to cutting costs.

Here’s exactly how you WON’T save money at the superstore, as one expert explains when you should just shop elsewhere.

You can find plenty of bargains at Costco, but sometimes bigger isn't better

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You can find plenty of bargains at Costco, but sometimes bigger isn’t betterCredit: Getty
Watch you don't stock up on to many things that can't be refunded

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Watch you don’t stock up on to many things that can’t be refundedCredit: Alamy
Only grab the multipacks of mayo in Costco if you'll use them - otherwise they'll go out of date quick

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Only grab the multipacks of mayo in Costco if you’ll use them – otherwise they’ll go out of date quickCredit: Costco

As one of the largest membership-based stores, Costco is known for its affordable prices on bulk-sized food items.

Normally, shop keepers or small business owners will leave with boxes and boxes of multibuys or larger wholesale-style products.

But anyone can sign up, and if you’ve got a lot of mouths to feed back home, it can be a great way to do the food shop for less, as you often get more bang for your buck.

One savvy shopper that we spoke to at The Sun, managed to save over £200 on her food shop by taking a trip to the wholesalers instead of the supermarket, for example.

However, with an annual membership costing £33.60, Andrea Knowles, budgeting expert at vouchers.co.uk  is urging shoppers to rethink their spends at the store.

Food prices are on the rise, so ramming the cupboards with too much, only leaves you open to wasting more.

And going out of your way to visit a store in another town, could be totting up your fuel bill too.

Here’s what you’re doing wrong on your trip to Costco:

You’re NOT feeding an army

Costco is a wholesaler at heart, so that means most things are going to come in bulk.

But if you don’t have an army to feed back home, then you’re going to be overspending on plenty of things you don’t need.

If you’re not going to get through over a kilogram of peanut butter for example, then it’s going to be a waste of £7.

Especially when you can get a regular size jar (around 300g) at the supermarket for under £2.

And if you do live in a smaller household, you may not have the cupboard or freezer space to stock other foodie examples with even quicker use-by dates.

That just means most of your goodies are going to go to waste quicker and you’ll have lost out on your money.

So if you’re not going big, you might as well go home.

You forget about the VAT

Many people don’t realise that the prices listed on products stacked high on the Costco shelves don’t include VAT.

That means at first glance, a deal looks very cheap – but it’s not until you get to the till that you realise there’s another 20% or so whacked on top of the price.

It’s usually marked up a little smaller on the price sticker in UK stores.

If you’re totting up your budget while you go round the store you might be in for a nasty shock when it comes time to pay – but by that point it’s too late so you could end up overspending.

It costs just to get there

Sadly for fans, Costcos don’t just spring up on every street corner, which means you usually have to travel further afield to get to one.

There’s only 29 of the stores in the UK in total.

In comparison, Tesco has around 4,000 stores, making it the country’s largest string of supermarkets.

So if you have to spend more money on petrol to get to Costco, you’re going to be even more out of pocket.

Your travel costs are going to be on top of the £33.60 a year for an ‘individual’ Costco membership, so it might just be cheaper to pop down the road to the supermarket.

Andrea said: “When deciding whether to get a membership, consider how often you would visit and the extra cost of petrol.

“If you plan on visiting bi-monthly or less or must travel for an additional 30 minutes there-and-back, I’d suggest not getting a membership.”

You’re after a refund

It’s now harder to return certain unwanted items at Costco, so you might find you’re lumbered with some things it turns out you don’t need, and you can’t get your money back.

Costco has recently introduced new health and safety guidelines that mean you can’t take back rice, toilet paper, bottled water, sanitizing wipes, paper towels, disinfecting spray and more.

So Andrea’s top tip was to be frugal about what you do pick up, in case you change your mind.

If you overbuy any of these products and find you could have done with the extra pennies instead, you might be left disappointed – and out of pocket.

You’re not doing your research first

“Sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re getting a good bargain due to Costco’s limited product range,” explained Andrea.

“Whilst you may feel that you’re getting a good deal, you’re not to know as it’s often the only deal.”

It feels like Costco sells everything you could imagine from birthday cakes to TVs, gyozas to BBQs – but most of the time you’ll find it’s just from the Kirkland range, which means little to no competition.

It’s good practice to shop around as you might find other brands offer better prices for the same or similar products.

So a little research to compare prices could pay off.

There are plenty of Costco items that aren’t as great of a deal as you might think.

Andrea said there’s five items to keep out of the trolley when you’re shopping at Costco, as they’re just not worth it in bulk.

The first is condiments.

“If you add sauce to every meal, it might make sense to stock up,” said Andrea, “But, did you know that mayo has an expiry date of two months once it’s opened? And for ketchup, it’s six months before it loses its flavour and discolours.”

You should avoid ground coffee too – coffee beans lose their strength and flavour as soon as they’re ground so buying them in bulk may mean you have to drink up quicker or leave them to waste.

And laundry detergent is another one to give a miss.

Andrea explained: “Despite common misconceptions, laundry detergent has a shelf life of only six months once opened.

“After this period, it starts to lose its effectiveness which isn’t ideal, especially for those with children who may get mucky.”

Cereal is definitely prone to go stale quickly and you can usually get your favourite brands cheaper at the supermarket.

And unless you have a large family, who eats eggs daily, you don’t need to buy eggs in bulk at Costco.

Or, you’ve not even made one

If you never make a shopping list, you could spend three times more.

Shoppers who try to take on the task of the big shop without being equipped, might find they add more than they needed to the trolley, and they’ll over spend.

You might even forget a few things too, and need to head back for another top up shop.

Andrea said: “To make your Costo shop as cost-effective as possible, you need time for planning and price comparison. 

“So, before heading to Costco, get out your pen and paper (or use your phone) and jot down everything you need for the week ahead.

“Also, make sure to check your cupboards to see which ingredients you already own so you don’t double up on items.”

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