In addition to writing my own content, I contribute to money-saving articles written by top talent in the smart shopping, beauty, and personal finance space. The post below from Kiplingers is the latest!
Written by Bob Niedt
Costco gets big ups from shoppers and shopping experts alike for its high quality and low prices. During recent research trips we’ve been impressed too, highlighting some of the best things retirees should buy at Costco as well as some of the warehouse club’s best store-branded Kirkland Signature products.
With annual membership fees ranging from $60 to $120, it’s tempting to wring as much as you can from every Costco run: bulk packages of toilet paper, eggs in 24-packs, 10-pound bags of flour or a 12-pound Japanese Wagyu boneless ribeye roast (just $999.99). But as enticing as buying everything in bulk at Costco might be, it’s not always the wisest choice, says Tracie Fobes of money-saving website PennyPinchinMom.com. “For example, that big pack of toilet paper may look like a great deal, but what do you pay at your [local grocery] store? What is the price per roll there versus what you are getting at Costco?”
Fresh fruits and vegetables are certainly healthy, but they have a short shelf life. Can you really get through a pre-packaged bunch of bananas – at Costco, you can’t break them off into smaller bunches like you can at a supermarket – before they go brown and mushy? How about a 5-pound bag of apples or a ginormous container of mixed lettuce?
“That big bag of avocados may look like a great deal, but if you can’t eat them before they go bad, then that is money wasted,” says Fobes. “You have to know what it is you will eat in the time that the product is consumable.”
Shopping expert Trae Bodge agrees: “If you serve a salad every night with dinner, get the giant bag of mixed greens. If not, get your greens at the grocery store.”
Liquid Cleaning Products
It might come as a surprise, but liquid cleaning products don’t last forever. As such, buying them in bulk isn’t necessarily such a thrifty idea.
“Liquid cleaning products tend to become less effective over time, so they are best to buy in smaller containers unless you regularly do laundry for a big group,” says Bodge. “Powdered cleaning products have an unlimited shelf life though, so this can be a good buy at Costco.”
Of note, Consumer Reports gave high marks to Costco’s Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean powdered detergent. The product-testing outfit lauded the store-branded detergent’s stain-fighting abilities and low cost per load.
Bodge said, “It’s wise to compare the unit prices between the price club and your grocery store. You’ll find that buying in bulk is a good deal only some of the time, especially when you factor in any grocery coupons that you might use.”
Personal Care and Beauty Products
Be cautious when weighing whether to buy personal care or beauty products in bulk at Costco, advise the shopping experts we talked to.
“Only buy items that you go through quickly – for example, body lotion, shower gel, and hair conditioner. If there’s something you use only sparingly, like an eye cream, face cream or antiseptic ointment, I would not advise buying it in bulk,” says Bodge. “Sunscreen products also have a limited shelf life, so if the whole family is using it, great. If it’s just you, get it at the drugstore.”
As with bulk-purchase cereal, you run the risk of your salty snacks going stale if you buy them in oversize packages.
“Chips, cheese puffs, and other snacks are probably cheaper in bulk, but it’s not a good deal if half the bag goes stale,” says Bodge. “There are only three of us at home, so I only buy snacks in bulk if we’re planning to have company.”
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