Alana Vandagriff | 

Is Costco Worth It? How Much You'd Need to Spend

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Becoming a Costco member has been one of the best decisions I've made for my family. But is Costco worth it for everyone? Not necessarily.

Joining the club requires an upfront investment, as an annual Costco membership starts at $60 for the basic Gold Star level and $120 for the Executive membership. But once you're in, you'll get access to grocery deals, Costco gas savings, travel discounts, and a whole lot more.

So how do you decide if Costco is worth it for you? It all comes down to your spending levels. If you get Costco gas at least once a week or need to buy wine in bulk, a membership could save you money in the long run, even if you're just a household of two. But if you don't have the storage space for bulk goods, you might want to pass.

In my many years as a member, I've discovered some additional Costco Membership Benefits that justify the hype. For instance, the Costco price adjustment policy is a game-changer, especially during Black Friday sales. And the Costco return policy is a major perk, providing a 100% satisfaction guarantee on nearly everything.

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Here's What Makes a Costco Membership Worth It

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Groceries

If you have a large family and enough storage space in your home for bulk buys, getting a Costco membership is a wise decision. Considering that a basic Costco membership costs $60 a year, that breaks down to a $5 per month investment to get access to Costco food deals that beat grocery store prices. So as long as you save at least $5 per month compared to the grocery store, joining Costco is worth it.

We've got a deep freezer that's mostly filled with Costco finds, and it's been a game-changer for storing frozen goods that are cheaper at Costco. For example, their Kirkland Signature Three Berry Blend frozen fruit comes in a four-pound bag for $10.99, which breaks down to $2.75 per pound. At Walmart, you'd pay $10.74 for a three-pound bag, or $3.58 per pound. That's a $0.83 savings right there.

And their bulk bag of frozen Kirkland Signature chicken breasts comes out to around $2.84 per pound ($18.49 for a 6.5-pound bag). Compare this to Walmart's price of $2.99 per pound ($23.92 for an 8-pound bag), and you're saving $0.15 per pound of chicken at Costco.

But if you have a small family, live alone, or lack the storage space for bulk food, I would say that a Costco membership isn't worth it for you. You'd need to shop more strategically than a larger household so that way no food goes to waste, and freeze items to extend their shelf life.

KCL TIP: You'll rack up more grocery savings if you upgrade to the Executive membership level, where you earn 2% rewards on most purchases. If you spend at least $250 a month at Costco, the Executive membership is worth it, since your annual earnings ($60) would cover the cost to upgrade.

Gas

Based on my research, Costco gas prices are typically about $0.11 cheaper per gallon than other nearby gas stations. For a 12-gallon gas tank, that adds up to about $1.32 in gas savings per fill-up.

So with a 12-gallon gas tank, you'd need to fill up about 45 times in a year to cover the cost of a $60 basic membership (about one fill-up per week).

To cover the cost of a $120 Executive membership, you'd need to fill up your tank about 91 times in a year (about two fill-ups per week).

My Costco gas station is convenient to many of my family's activities, so for me, it’s pretty convenient to get gas there. But if your local Costco warehouse is out of the way, 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.

Note: Although the Executive membership gives you 2% back on most Costco purchases, gas is not included. But if you get the Costco credit card, you can earn 4% on eligible gas purchases (up to a maximum of $7,000 per year).

Wine and Liquor

Is Costco worth it for the alcohol savings? It depends.

A Costco membership is worth it if you buy at least four 1.5-liter bottles of wine from Costco in a year. That's because these bottles average under $10 at Costco, whereas at a liquor store, you'd spend about $25 or more for wine of a similar quality. So after just four bottles, you'd save enough to cover the cost of a $60 membership.

And for liquor, Costco's store brand spirits come from well-known distilleries and are cheaper than the name-brand stuff. For example, Kirkland Signature premium vodka is crafted by a California brand (not Grey Goose, like the rumors about who makes Kirkland vodka suggest). A 1.75 L bottle of Kirkland vodka is $13.49 at my Costco. For a similar domestic vodka made from corn — like Tito's Handmade Vodka — you'd pay around $28.49 for a 1.75 L bottle at Costco. The Kirkland version saves you $15, so in this case, you'd cover the cost of your yearly membership after about four liquor purchases.

Travel

If you haven't checked out Costco's travel deals yet, you're seriously missing out! The savings from just one travel package could cover the cost of your Costco membership.

For instance, when I compared a trip to Los Cabos from Tampa, FL, the complete travel package from Costco, including hotel, flights, and transportation, would have saved me $1,501.90 compared to booking through Expedia.

And if you have the Executive membership, you'd earn 2% in rewards on all of your travel bookings, which could be extra money to spend on future travel.

Bonus: Get your membership refunded if you don't like it.

The Costco return policy is one of the best around, as their 100% Satisfaction Guarantee doesn’t end at their products. It covers the membership, too!

That means if you’re not satisfied with your Costco membership — of if you find out that you're not getting enough value out of it — you can totally return it for a full refund. If you're planning to purchase something big like a TV, having a Costco membership for just one year could be worth it for the potential savings. But keep in mind, you’ll lose any points you earned as an Executive member if you cancel your membership.

KCL TIP: If you have a Costco credit card, that'll also get canceled when you cancel your membership.

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