Prior to becoming a member of Costco, I remember constantly thinking, “is a Costco membership worth it?” Every adult I ran into ranted and raved about why I had to become a Costco member. So when I saw my first Costco membership deal, I jumped on it. Based on my experience (I’ve been a Costco member for two years now!) and the advice of other Costco gurus at The Krazy Coupon Lady, I’m here to explain if the membership is really worth all the hype — and what benefits we love (and which ones we can live without).
Whether you’re trying to decide if you want a Costco membership, which level of membership to get, or if it’s worth signing up just to get the Costco gas deals … I found all the answers you need! Let’s get to it.
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1. What are the best perks of being a member of Costco?
- The Costco Price Adjustment policy is hands down the best — especially during the Black Friday holiday season. You have 30 days to request a price adjustment from Costco, including during the Black Friday sale! That means they’ll match the lowest price on an item, even if you bought it weeks before it went on sale.
- Costco’s return policy is a close runner-up for top perks. Costco has a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so you’d better believe you can return almost everything.
- The Costco Coupon Book comes out once a month. It’s like their version of a sales ad for the entire month.
- Costco has amazing Black Friday deals that only members get access to.
Oh, and I have to mention the Costco bakery treats (like these top Costco desserts!) and their rotisserie chicken. They make some of the best pies, cakes, and muffins. Where else can you get half a sheet cake for under $20?!
2. Is the standard Costco Gold Star Membership worth it?
The standard Costco Gold Star membership is going to run you $60 per year. If you have a small family — or even if you live alone — and don’t have a lot of space to store bulk food, I would say that any Costco membership won’t be worth it for you. With the cost of gas, I would also factor in the distance to your local Costco. If you can’t get to Costco within 20 minutes, I wouldn’t recommend getting a membership.
If you have a larger family and also have the ability to store food in bulk, then I would say get a Costco membership. We have a deep freezer that’s 75% filled with Costco items. I would highly recommend investing in a deep freezer if you anticipate buying a lot of frozen items at Costco.
3. Is the Costco Executive Membership worth it?
The Costco Executive Membership will cost you $120 per year. That’s $60 more than the standard Gold Star Membership. With an Executive Membership, you get 2% in rewards on qualified Costco purchases annually, additional benefits and more savings on Costco Services, and extra benefits on select Costco Travel packages and bookings.
Roughly three months before your renewal date, Costco will send you the 2% back in the form of a reward voucher to use on future Costco purchases. Our family spends over $6,000 a year, so we like to use this money to renew our membership. It’s like getting a Costco Membership for “free.”
If you spend at least $500 a month at Costco (or $6,000 a year), you’ll earn your membership fees back in rewards. You can earn up to $1,000 in rewards each year. With the average cost of groceries per month rising, I think it’s safe to assume larger families could easily spend $500 a month at Costco to pay for the Executive Membership.
4. Should you get a Costco membership just for gas?
The short answer is yes! You should totally get a Costco membership just for the gas savings alone. We did the math to show you it’s worth it. Here’s what we found:
Costco gas prices per gallon are typically $0.20 lower than other gas stations nearby. An average gas tank size has 16 gallons, so this means you’d save $3.20 per fill-up. In order to break even for the $60 membership, you’d have to fill up almost 19 times in a year. With work-from-home positions on the rise, let’s say you’d need to fill up your gas tank every two weeks. If you fill up every two weeks with a $0.20 savings per gallon, you’d save $83.20 per year just in gas with a Costco membership. That more than pays for the standard Gold Star Membership!
My Costco gas station is on the way to many of my activities, so for me, it’s pretty convenient to get gas there. But if your local Costco warehouse is not on the way anywhere, or if you don’t plan on visiting Costco every other week, getting a Costco membership just for the gas may not be worth it. If you have to drive too far, you’ll make your potential savings disappear.
TIP: The best time to get gas at Costco is on weekdays between 10 – 11 a.m. Try to avoid the gas pumps on the weekends due to heavy crowds.
5. If you get a Costco membership, make sure you use it for groceries.
Regardless of which membership type you get, you’ll be saving plenty of money on groceries as you spend it. According to Inc.com, the markup on items at Costco is capped at 14% for outside brands and 15% for in-house (Kirkland) brands. Compare this to grocery stores, where markups can be as high as 44% on name-brand cereals, 60% on prepared meats, and 100% on spices.
6. A Costco membership is absolutely worth it if you drink at least eight 1.5-liter bottles of wine in a year.
Costco has some of the best “knockoff” brands for wine and liquor. Plus, the bottles are a healthy size. In my area, a 1.5-liter bottle of Kirkland Pinot Grigio is under $8, making it just $0.16 per ounce. A similar bottle of Pinot Grigio at Kroger will run you $0.39 per ounce. If you want to pay for your membership with just wine savings, you’d need to buy eight 1.5-liter bottles a year to cover your membership cost.
7. Use your Costco membership to buy diapers if you don’t feel like couponing.
Spoiler alert: buying diapers and wipes at Costco isn’t the cheapest option out there if you’re a person who’s willing to coupon for diapers. I won’t lie, sometimes I’m tired and don’t feel like clipping a coupon or getting CVS ExtraBucks. When this is the case, Costco wins for diapers. Costco will offer sales on their brand of diapers and Huggies. I try and wait for those to go on sale when I buy diapers at Costco. If you want the lowest price possible for diapers, then buying them at Costco isn’t the answer.
P.S. Kirkland-brand diapers are actually made by Kimberly-Clark, the manufacturer of Huggies.
8. Get your membership refunded if you hate it.
The Costco Return Policy is one of the best around. Their Satisfaction Guarantee doesn’t end at just their products. It includes the membership, too. If you’re not satisfied with your Costco membership, you can “return” it for a full refund. But keep in mind, you’ll lose any points you earned as an Executive Member. In addition, if you have a Costco credit card, it’ll be canceled when you cancel your membership.
9. Practice self-control when shopping in Costco.
None of these money-saving tips will be worth a thing if you go in and buy nonessentials every. Single. Time. You. Shop. I am notorious for going to Costco and coming home with a new plant. Does that add up? Of course. But man, do I love my plants.
Related: We found lots of surprising name brands at Costco, like Adidas, Levi’s, Toms, and more.