Costco Membership Review: How We Saved Over $90 in ONE Trip

I am married now!

More than ever, we need to be financially responsible. Well, my husband and I always tried to live below our means ever since both of us start working. Now that we are starting a family, things are getting even more serious.

We log our expenses in an Excel sheet and break it down into categories to see where the money flows. Lo and behold,  we spent more than $400 on groceries last month! While it is the median grocery spending for our family size according to the USDA, and yes, we eat home-cooked meals 95% of the time, it’s still too much. I know that we eat in moderation, consciously tried to cut back on the organic, non-GMO produces, and shop in an Asian/Arabic market when prices are supposedly lower (and to get halal meats). This mystery needs to be solved.

You know that if our willpower is aligned, the universe will magically steer us to the solution?

Yep, that’s exactly the case. In the spirit of accelerated savings, I become an avid reader of Mr. Money Moustache, a Colorado gentleman’s blog who successfully retired in his 30s. One night, before bedtime, I stumbled upon one of his articles of how he realized the absurdly large cost-saving if you do your grocery at Costco.

Now, Costco is a member only wholesale supermarket. To get to the door and shop, you need to pay the $60 annual fee for a basic “Gold Star” membership. The Executive membership earns you 2% cash back along with other perks, for double the amount ($120/year).

The Rationale

A quick Google search works in favor of Costco membership.  Even if you have no kids. But it’s not just the cost-cutting effect that I am fond of:

  1. You save time. By buying bulk, you buy a quantity that will be sufficient for a month or more. Meaning fewer grocery trips, less gas and time spent, and more meal planning. Also, they are more than just produce. They also have clothes, books, kitchen appliances, phones, medicine, even tires, diamonds, and gas station. I envision a trip to Costco will be the carefully planned once-a-month trip when we will tackle all household issues in one go.
  2. Their quality is incredible. Almost all produce is organic. Their house brand, Kirkland Signature, works like every other in-store brands, plus the exceptional quality. Costco doesn’t sell you cheap, flimsy, questionable stuff. They care about the real deal.
  3.  Fewer decisions to be made. There is a thing called “decision fatigue“: we have a limited capacity to make decisions in a period of time – any decisions. To choose green beans or peas for the stir fry count as one. Knowing that we will get almost everything at Costco to stock up for a month, and they have fewer selections, we just need to cruise aisle-to-aisle and choose between 3-5 options per category instead of 20. When combined with fewer grocery trips, it means fewer cumulative decisions in a month. Hence, I can use my decision quota to concentrate more on whether I should use “quickly” or “rapidly” in the marketing materials I write.

Taking the Leap

At this point, we were sold on the idea, thus we headed down to a Costco membership counter to understand better about how the membership works and sign up on the spot. A friendly Costco employee named Andres guided us through the whole process, and not only successfully convinced us to take the Executive membership, but also to sign up the Visa Citi credit card (give that man a raise!). A perfect timing indeed, because I need an American-based Visa credit card.

The pull behind the Executive Costco membership is that Costco will pay the difference if we get less than $60 cash back at the time of the renewal. Essentially, it’s a zero-risk move. For the Visa card, they give additional 2% cashback, double cashback on travel and services, no foreign transaction fee, and no annual fee. Oh, Costco, how can you be so sweet.

Signing up for Costco membership
Signing up for Costco membership

So, after snapping some photos and getting the membership card, we carried on fulfilled our 1-week old dream on shopping in the warehouse.

I will skip the boring details on the shopping experience itself, but here’s what we found out: shopping there doubled as exercise. Seriously, it’s like the IKEA of groceries. Walmart is humorously walkable compared to this mega establishment. Which I didn’t mind at all. Two birds with one stone is always a good deal. We encountered someone who actually jogs inside of Costco, with running shoes and headset.



Also, it should be obvious, but worth repeating: all products are in large size. Costco is wholesale at its core. You won’t get anything less than 1 lb – in fact, 1 lb of anything is unusually small. You can see the breakdown in the table on just how bulky the items are packaged. However, almost all packages are resealable, so it won’t be wasted. Awesome.

The Aftermath

So, here’s the lead you are all waiting for: just how much money we exactly save?

I compared it with an HEB next to our apartment because there is where we normally shop otherwise. Also, the comparison needs to be apple to apple, i.e.organic vs organic, 1 lb vs 1 lb, etc. You get the idea.

Here they are:

Costco vs Grocery Store

reaction after finishing the Excel sheet is,

OH MY GOD. I’VE BEEN RIPPED OFF FOR OVER A YEAR!

Good grace!! Over $90 of savings in a single grocery trip!

I knew Costco membership will save us money while simultaneously improve quality of food and household items, but I had absolutely no idea it will be this massive. I was being skeptical with Mr. Money Moustache’s article because he bought a lot of meat and deli which we don’t because we buy halal only.

To put you into perspective, we have covered 75% of our Costco membership fee in the very first trip we’ve ever taken. If this trend continues and we go to Costco for 11 more times this year, it will translate to over $1000 cost-saving compared to the old way of grocery shoppingSubtracting $120 membership fee still yields in $880 cost-saving.

Freaking. Insane.

I must disclose that there is one item, the white mushrooms, which HEB is cheaper. However, it’s a sale item, lowering from the normal $3.98 apiece.

I think getting Costco membership makes sense if you have a family and cook a lot. When I lived alone a year ago, I wasn’t able to finish a pack of mushroom by myself in 2 weeks, so shopping in the normal grocery store made sense. I also didn’t cook everyday.

I read that if you have babies, the diapers and baby supplies are mind-bogglingly cheap and good. Well, that will be another story.

So, do you need to run to the closest Costco and sign up? You decide. Rule of thumb: when you start to wonder how to cut grocery bills, it doesn’t hurt to start researching whether Costco membership fits you.

BONUS: Costco vs Amazon-which is cheaper?

Sure, Costco wins for the most part when compared with brick-and-mortar grocery stores. But what about e-commerce giant like Amazon?

Mike from LendEDU has run an exhaustive price comparison between Costco vs Amazon across 5 different product categories, including technology products. If you are wondering whether to keep your Prime membership or ditch it for Costco executive card, this article will be the moment of truth for you. Check it out here.

 

3 thoughts

  1. Hi Sau! That’s so awesome that you’re being thoughtful about your grocery spending and finding ways to save. I love Costco for their great quality, customer service, and most of all how much they save me. I am always cautious to pay the membership, but after cost comparisons like what you did, I know it really does work. Thanks for linking to my post about How much to budget for groceries. I hope this is a help to your readers. 🙂

    1. Your comment made my day! Thanks for stopping by Shannon 🙂 yeah I’m totally Costco-ing everything now hahaha. Shopping there is quite fun, too, like a treasure hunt!

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