Tuesday, January 11, 2011

CostCo Savings vs Coupons Elsewhere

A couple of other blogs are blogging today about the savings benefits of Coupons vs CostCo, and I've found myself posting this same response (to some degree), so I thought I would flesh it out a bit and post it here to share it with my readers.

By now you should know we are CostCo members.  I've been an avid fan of CostCo since my best friend bought me a membership 5 or 6 years ago (after handing over her CostCo card a time or two for me to get gas at their cheap prices).  She bought my first year membership for me and since then I've renewed year after year. When a cashier first told me about the Executive membership it just made sense to upgrade.

A standard membership is $50/year.  The Executive membership is $100/year but you get 2% cash back on all your purposes (there are a few categories that don't apply - alcohol and tobacco I think), and you are guaranteed at last $50 back (if your purchases don't equal enough to get you at least the $50 then they will round it up to $50 (making the upgrade to Executive free). 

Over the years we've bought some big items at CostCo including the double vanity in our master bathroom (about $800 for a very nice real wood vanity with granite countertop) and our bedroom tv, as well as saved some big bucks on purchases like glasses for my husband and his replacement cell phone.  You can always find a good deal on a cell phone unless yours just broke.  In the case of my husband he goes for the cheapest phone available with a full keyboard; last time he broke his phone the cheapest phone available with a keyboard was $99 - $50MIL (or if purchased online and we waited for 3 days, $50), for some reason we decided to go check CostCo and found the same phone for $20 (no rebate needed) and it came with the full accessory package (additional charger, holder, etc).

When we first started couponing, there were a good handful of items that we always bought at CostCo - toothpaste, paper towels, toilet paper, popcorn, plastic spoons & forks, paper plates, generic Splenda and a few other products. 

Toohpaste - Since we've started couponing, I've pulled toothpaste off of that list.  While CostCo's price on Colgate Total (our preferred brand of toothpaste) is cheaper than the sale price at most stores, when you combine sale prices and coupons you can usually find it for free and thanks to that we've built up a nice little stockpile of toothpaste. 

Toilet Paper - The CostCo (Kirkland's) brand of toilet paper is the one and only brand we've been able to compromise on in this house so we will continue to buy it (despite the knowledge that we could probably stock up on some really cheap to free toilet paper if we were a little more flexible). 

Popcorn - My hubby likes the 100 calorie microwave popcorn packs and eats them often as snacks at work.  CostCo often releases their own store coupons for $5 off the 42ct box of Orville Redenbacher popcorn, making it just $5 for 42 bags.  When they do this we stock up.

Plastic Spoons/ Forks - I realize the cheaper answer would be to not use them at all.  But, hubby uses them at work and we end up using them around here so we buy them at CostCo. I've rarely ever seen these types of things on sale for anything remotely resembling a discount.

Mucinex - $25 for a 40ct maximum strength. I did the math on this one and it came out better than the sale prices I've seen elsewhere on the small (14ct) and large (28ct) boxes.  Thanks to living in allergy country we both take this quite a bit, so I'm thinking we will start buying it at CostCo (if they continue to have it - I hadn't seen it before my last visit).

Meat  - I may or may not continue to buy my meat at CostCo but I like their quality and their prices beat the prices at most stores (perhaps not their sale prices).  I've yet to manage to get to the grocery store when there was a better price and attempt to stock up.  I also like that CostCo doesn't charge me any extra to portion out my hamburger for me (which saves me time and aggravation) and that their pork loin (priced about the same as I usually see it at the grocery store) comes portioned into 4 pieces (which are about perfect size for the two of us - although probably more like 3 - 4 actual servings).

The biggest savings for us, however are on 3 categories:
- Glasses - my husband's - he gets his frames with transition lenses and all the other add-ons for roughly half the price of what just the lenses would be at your typical optical store and their frames are designer brands. The last time he bought a pair, he wore them about 4 months before deciding that they just didn't fit him right. We went back to the store and had no trouble at all getting them to replace them.

- Gas - I've been comparing gas prices there to the cheapest places near us (short of driving 20 miles to get gas, which pretty much eats up any cost savings) and have found that at worst CostCo is within a penny or two, but usually beats them by .04 to .05cents/gallon.  Recently, I found out about Kroger's fuel savings reward program (spend $100 there in a month and get .10/gallon off a fill-up). The Kroger is pretty much right next door to CostCo, and CostCo was the same price as Kroger (after the discount).

- Prescriptions - this is a new one for me and I recently posted about this.  I'm still working on getting all my prescriptions switched to CostCo, but we figured out that in the end just the 2% cash back on prescriptions will more than pay for our membership.

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