27 Things You Should Never Buy at Costco
It's time to stop buying your sunscreen and spices in bulk.
For big families and people engaged in party prep, Costco is something of a sweet savior. As anyone who’s ever shopped at the retail giant knows, everything is sold in bulk, and there isn’t a product on your list that they don’t offer. But while Costco is the ideal marketplace for certain individuals, others might actually find that shopping there results in overspending and an overwhelming amount of expired goods. (As they say, sometimes too much of a good thing is, well, too much.)
Before you make your next trip to the warehouse, read up on some of the things you should never buy there lest you want to waste money and food.
Though Costco is a great place to score deals on certain products, you shouldn’t rely on the superstore for the best discounts on paperbacks or hardcovers. If you’re in the market for a brand new book, Barnes & Noble almost always has coupons available for its email subscribers, and if you don’t mind buying used, then the Amazon marketplace easily has the best prices around.
Unless you actually plan on using two pounds of strawberries in one week, buying fresh fruit at Costco is a waste. Since the store only sells things in bulk, you’ll have to buy dozens of oranges and pounds of peaches if you want to buy them at all (and good luck getting through those before they expire).
Vegetables are another perishable product that you should never buy at Costco. Unless you’re stocking up for a party or need hordes of legumes for a big batch of ratatouille, buying vegetables in bulk is only going to waste money and product.
New parents should skip the baby aisle at Costco and sign up for Amazon Family instead. Not only do they offer the same bulk buying that Costco does, but subscribers also get as much as 20 percent off everything from diapers to baby food. Win-win!
There’s nothing wrong with Costco’s milk, per se, but people tend to despise the square-shaped jug that it comes in as it makes it almost impossible to pour without spilling. Seeing as Costco doesn’t offer much of a discount on milk, you’re probably better off sticking to other stores’ brands bottled in containers you can actually use.
According to many shopping experts, Costco isn’t the best place to buy rice, especially Jasmine. When one frequent Costco shopper and YouTuber named Flo Lum did some research, she realized that the Asian rice sold at her superstore was as much as 35 percent pricier than the same product sold at a local Asian market. In some cases, the same amount of rice was $40 at Costco versus just $14 at a small shop.
Though Costco’s cereal prices aren’t terrible, most supermarkets and drug stores offer discounts on the same brands and will frequently feature additional coupons for those products. At the time this article was written, for instance, Rite Aid had a $3 off coupon on any 12 oz. box of Cheerios, putting the final price of the product at around $2. In comparison, buying two 27.5 oz. boxes of Cheerios at Costco would cost you $9.29 online, and your cereal would likely go stale before you could finish it.
With or without coupons, most soda brands are going to be cheaper at retailers other than Costco. For example, the same 12-pack of Diet Coke that’s currently selling online on Costco for $5.79 is being offered at Target for $4.99—and if you want 3 packs of cans, you can get them for just $10 total at Target thanks to a superb special.
Look in any Sunday paper and you’ll find at least one coupon for shampoo, if not several. With these coupons, you should be able to score incredible savings on brands like Pantene and Herbal Essences—savings that are far better than anything you’ll find at Costco. (Just a few months ago, I was able to use a manufacturers coupon combined with an in-store deal to get free shampoo and conditioner at Shop Rite.)
Buying coffee in bulk might save you a few bucks, but you’re going to have to compromise on taste in favor of these savings. As any coffee lover knows, the best coffee beans are the ones roasted within weeks of being brewed—and if you’re buying in bulk at a place like Costco, it’s unlikely you’re going to be drinking fresh coffee for long.
“I replace my baking powder and soda every three months just to be sure they are always fresh for my recipes,” writes Sally McKenney of the blog Sally’s Baking Addiction. For her, a semi-professional baker, going through a giant jug of baking powder of baking soda is no problem, but the amateur enthusiast is going to have much more powder leftover after a few months—especially if they’re buying it in bulk at Costco. To ensure that the pastries you’re making are as flavorful and fresh as possible, stick to small cans of this leavening agent.
Though purchasing dried pasta at Costco isn’t going to bankrupt you, there are better places to go to get steeper discounts on the pantry staple. According to price comparisons done by The Kitchn, both Walmart and Trader Joe’s have lower priced pastas available at any given time—and this doesn’t even take into account all of the coupons and deals frequently offered at other stores like CVS and Shop Rite.
Buying your spices in bulk at Costco will only save you money if you can figure out how to use cups of turmeric and oregano in under a year. Ground spices lose their flavor over time, and the longer you let them sit on your spice rack, the more flavor they’re going to lose.
When you’re in need of a bouquet of flowers, go to Trader Joe’s instead of Costco. While flowers at the wholesale superstore can cost as much as $30, you aren’t going to find a bouquet of flowers at Trader Joe’s for more than $10—and you won’t have to sacrifice quality to save money.
Even though it can’t “go bad” like produce or dairy, laundry detergent does have an expiration date. Once opened, detergent must be used in its entirely within six months or else it begins to lose its effectiveness. Unless you’re doing laundry every single day or happen to have an especially messy family, buying a massive container of detergent is only going to cost you money in the end.
When INSIDER compared razor prices at various retailers, they found that using coupons at drugstores resulted in greater savings than buying in bulk at Costco. At the time of their comparisons, buying a pack of Women’s Gillette Venus disposable razors cost $8.99 at CVS, or $0.99 per razor, and $24.99 at Costco, or $1.43 per razor.
Once you become a savvy shopper and a coupon expert, scoring deals on toothpaste—and even getting the occasional free tube—will be a breeze. So, unless you’re in desperate need of six tubes of toothpaste at once, you’re going to save more money every time by buying your breath-freshening paste at the drugstore or supermarket instead of Costco.
Not only does Costco’s in-house Kirkland brand toilet paper offer little to no savings, but it’s also poor quality. When Consumer Reports analyzed the products at the store, they found that the product had just “so-so strength and tearing ease.”
Once condiments like ketchup and mustard are opened, it’s only a matter of time before their flavor fades and you have to throw them out. According to the US Department of Agriculture, ketchup has a shelf life of six months and mayonnaise just two—and unless you’re working at a sandwich shop or hot dog stand, there’s a slim chance you’re going to use 32 ounces of ketchup or 64 ounces of mayonnaise in that short period of time.
If for some reason you’re still out there shopping for DVDs, then avoid doing so at Costco. Unsurprisingly, Amazon has Costco beat when it comes to DVD prices, and it doesn’t hurt that they’ll also ship the discs directly to your front door.
Though not all brands have expiration dates printed on the bottle, sunscreen is only designed to last about three years—and after that, its ability to protect you from the sun’s UV rays is pretty much non-existent. Generally, it’s not a problem using up a single bottle of sunscreen before it expires (especially since you should be using the spray all year round), but it’s another story when you buy a six-pack at Costco and need to finish it up in just a few years.
Gel Dishwasher Detergent
“The Kirkland Signature Gel is one of our lowest-rated detergents,” writes Consumer Reports about Costco’s exclusive dishwasher detergent. “It struggled with dishes, pots and pans, and resistance to water spots.”
Have you ever wondered how Costco is able to sell clothing for so cheap? According to Kiplinger, it’s thanks to the fact that items like sweatshirts and slacks are made with inexpensive and uncomfortable materials that come apart almost as easily as they’re put together. Though the clothing selection at Costco is cost-friendly, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll need to replace your frugal finds within a few months.
The best deals on canned goods aren’t going to be found at Costco. Rather, as Teri Gault, CEO and founder of grocery savings site The Grocery Game, explained to Kiplinger, other stores sell the same canned goods for anywhere from 20 to 40 percent less per unit, especially when there’s a sale.
Once again, using coupons—and not shopping at warehouse clubs—is key when it comes to saving money on your favorite lotion brands. If you wait for the right coupons and the right sale, you’ll easily be able to score the same body lotions offered at Costco for half the price at other retailers.
If you don’t know what Costco’s signature brand protein bars taste like, then it doesn’t make sense to buy 40 of them at once and risk hating their flavor profile. Plus, Costco sells their protein bars for about $1 per bar—and if you buy Pure Protein bars in bulk on Amazon right now, you can get them for cheaper at just $0.90 per bar. Basically, there is no benefit to buying your bars at the superstore.
While sometimes the prices of televisions at Costco are slightly lower, those $15 or $20 savings don’t really work out to much when you factor in the yearly cost of having a Costco membership. Plus, if you wait until TV prices are at their lowest (like during holiday and end-of-year sales), then other retailers like Best Buy and Target easily have the warehouse giant beat.
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