If you live anywhere in North America (and parts of Asia and Europe) you probably have heard of Costco before. Costco is a huge wholesale store that sells pretty much everything and anything you can imagine. Since it’s a wholesale store, 90% of the items are in bulk. Buying in bulk means the prices are often cheaper than your every day grocery stores.
Shopping at Costco is like going to the mall on Boxing Day (or Black Friday for American readers). There’s people EVERYWHERE! The crowd is worst during the weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, it seems that everyone is having their weekend picnics at the local Costco store. People are everywhere and the cashier lines are ridiculously long. If you don’t have much patience, it can be a frustrating outing going to Costco on the weekend.
After years of shopping at Costco, sometimes at the expense of my sanity, I've finally come up with some tips on how to survive a shopping trip to Costco. Follow these important steps will ensure your personal and financial safety.
Survival Tip #1 - Go in with a shopping list
It is very easy to grab things that you don’t need when you're shopping in Costco. The best way to avoid this phenomenon is to have a shopping list in hand so you know exactly what you need. It is recommended to keep your list below 10 items (below 5 is highly recommended) for reasons to be explained later.
Survival Tip #2 - Do not go on weekends
This one is pretty trivial. Don’t go to Costco on weekends. Period. On weekends, you are often faced with the lack of parking spots, so you have to circle around the parking lot a few times just to find a spot... then someone cuts in and takes you spot. Not cool.
Frustration level = high.
Once you manage to get in Costco you’ll find people and shopping carts everywhere. Walking speed is as slow as a turtle. This will only increase your frustration level.
Survival Tip #3 - Avoid noon and dinner time
Around lunch and dinner time Costco usually has free samples. If you’re a starving student this is a good time to go to Costco and load up on free food. Be warned though, the free samples are often high in fat and salt, not good for your health.
While free samples are good, what you’ll find is massive crowds by each sample stand. 99% of time there will be at least 2 or 3 shopping carts parked by the sample stands, further restricting the already slow traffic flow. So the already slow turtle like traffic flow slows down further to become snail speed. Go luck getting anywhere.
Survival Tip #4 - Avoid shopping carts like a plague
The reason why you want to keep your shopping list below 10 items is so you can carry everything by hand. This will avoid the need for a shopping cart. You can walk around the store very quickly without having to navigate through multiple small cart traffic jams. This will also limit the amount of things you end up buying, saving your grocery bill in the end.
Survival Tip #5 - Go early in the morning or before closing time
If you go on weekends, go early to avoid the crowd because people like to sleep in. If you go on weekdays, go before closing time because most people are home already. Less people in the store means you can go in and get out quicker.
Survival Tip #6 - Shop with your spouse and split up the shopping list
Divide up the shopping list with your spouse or a friend so you can finish shopping twice as fast. Set a specific time to meet at a specific cashier line to further improve efficiency. This is something Mrs. T and I do quite often. We want to be in and out of Costco as quickly as possible. Move fast like Flash.
Survival Tip #7 - Compare costs
Although Costco is often cheaper than your everyday grocery stores, things could be cheaper at local stores when items are on sale. It's important to take notes on item prices and compare them with your local grocery stores. It makes very little sense to buy some items in bulk because they can go bad quickly. For these items, you're better off buying in smaller packages to save money.
Do you have any Costco survival tips that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them.