The 5 Biggest Lessons I Learned During My First Year as a Costco Member

updated Feb 10, 2021
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(Image credit: dennizn)

Most people (my former self included) believe that Costco is only for folks with giant families. “The warehouse store can’t possibly make sense for me, a single person on a budget,” I used to think. Oh, how I was wrong. I was convinced to join Costco a few years ago (see: The 3 Items That Convinced Me to Become a Costco Member) and I’m so glad I did.

Costco has pretty much everything I need, and if I’m smart about it I can really stretch my dollars — without clipping a single coupon. Does that mean I never have to shop elsewhere? No, but Costco does save me time and money.

Here are five things I’ve learned since becoming a newly minted Costco member. Take a look and you just might become a convert, too.

(Image credit: Heather McClees)

1. Stick to your usual shopping list.

A pound of gourmet chocolate from France might sound nice every now and then, but on a regular basis? Pass! If you load up on stuff you don’t need (or wouldn’t usually buy), you’re not saving yourself any money and you could end up with an overflowing pantry. I still buy the same things that are normally on my list — except now I buy them in larger quantities and at lower prices.

(Image credit: Heather McClees)

2. Check the price tag for hidden information.

When I check the price tags at Costco, I look for a few things. First, I compare the amount of servings per unit to make sure I’m getting the best price. Then, I look to see if there’s an asterisk in the corner of the price tag, which indicates that an item won’t be back in stock. If I see that asterisk on something I typically buy and the price is good, I’ll buy at least one (as long as I have the storage space at home). I also try to buy things only when they’re on sale, which is pretty easy because the bulk sizes can usually hold me until the next sale rotates through.

(Image credit: Heather McClees)

3. Lean on your freezer.

You can save the most money and reduce waste if you embrace your freezer. I love to buy the frozen fruits and veggies, and when I buy fresh greens in bulk for smoothies, I simply freeze them in zip-top baggies and pull out handfuls as needed. This way, I don’t feel rushed to use up stuff before it wilts or goes bad. I don’t eat meat, but if you do, freeze, freeze, freeze.

Another tip: Share! If I find a deal that’s too good to pass up and I can’t freeze it, I’ll split something up with my mom.

(Image credit: Heather McClees)

4. Plan fewer trips.

I now shop in “hauls” making one Costco haul a month, sometimes every two months. This saves me so much time! No more weekly trips to the grocery store (especially right now, when we shouldn’t be doing that anyway). I spend more on this big trip than I would on a weekly trip, but my monthly total is always less.

(Image credit: Heather McClees)

5. Be honest with yourself.

If you live alone, you probably don’t need the five-pound bag of coffee or giant packages of snacks. I learned to be true to myself and really ask myself, “Will I actually use this? Will I enjoy it enough to justify buying it bulk?” If the answers are, “I’m not sure,” or “No,” I don’t buy it. This has helped me avoid wasting anything I’ve ever bought at Costco.

(Image credit: Andriy Blokhin)

More on Costco Memberships

My Costco membership has already paid for itself! Are you already a member? What are the biggest lessons you learned when you first joined?