Shopping at Costco and other warehouse stores often seems best for large families and businesses. A package of a dozen giant muffins calls for many mouths, or at least lots of freezer space. But there are Costco purchases that make sense for single people and couples, even after taking the annual membership fee into consideration. Here are some examples of the savings (prices vary by location).
Uncooked rice, dried beans, dry pasta, oatmeal, and canned goods come in bulk quantities, but all have a long shelf life and are pantry staples that will help reduce weekly grocery costs.
Costco has a reliable supply of clothing staples and sometimes even carries brand names. Hunter rain boots, normally $140 and up at most retailers, can sometimes be found for $79 at Costco, and a similar deal pops up on Sorel brand boots. Matty M leggings, a high-end line sold at stores such as Nordstrom, sell for $15 at Costco. Price cuts can be deep enough to cover a $55 Costco membership fee in one shopping trip.
Spruce up the yard or porch with Costco plants, which are often large and well-established. Large mums sold this fall for just $15 each -- the same price a garden center would charge for a container half the size.
Alcohol is cheap at Costco -- really cheap. Its Kirkland Signature brand vodka, gin, whiskey, and other hard liquors cost $15 to $20 less than name brands. Likewise, don't dismiss brands you don't recognize. A Metasip blogger says his former company sold expensive wines at Costco that were remaindered from other producers. A bottle that would cost $50 under another label at a liquor or grocery store might average $12 to $16 at Costco. Costco's low profit margins also keep alcohol prices low, regardless of the brand. Don't have a membership? Check state laws, as some allow alcohol purchases at Costco without one.
A Cheapism.com comparison found Costco significantly cheaper for TVs, Blu-ray players, and other electronics than conventional retail stores. When it's time to buy, consider putting down the money for a membership, which pays for itself with one big-ticket purchase. Take a Samsung 50-inch 4K TV for $650 at Costco compared with the same TV for $100 more at Best Buy.
Lotions, hair care products, soaps, toothpaste, and more can all be found at bargain prices in large quantities at Costco -- and don't take up much space, even in large containers. A pack of four 8-ounce tubes of Colgate Total Advanced Whitening toothpaste is $13 at Costco, or 41 cents an ounce. Even at Jet.com, a subsidiary of Walmart that's been pitched as a kind of online warehouse store, a four-pack of slightly smaller tubes sells for more than $16.
Health products, including allergy pills and over-the-counter medicines, can be good buys at Costco (but be sure to check the expiration date to calculate whether a supersize quantity will get used in time). Two 16-ounce bottles of contact lens solution cost $19 at Costco, or 54 cents an ounce, while 12-ounce bottles are $16 at Walmart, or 66 cents an ounce, for the same brand.
Cleaning wipes, toilet bowl cleaner, dish detergent, laundry detergent, dusting spray, and mop refills can be found in bulk for less at Costco. Because these items don't expire, shoppers can save a bundle -- as long as they have the storage space. Take Lysol toilet bowl cleaner: Four 32-ounce bottles can drop to $7.50 at Costco. The same amount would cost $12 at Home Depot. Even in a small house or apartment, storing four 32-ounce bottles shouldn't be too much of a challenge.
The Costco travel department helps members find rental cars for less than other travel services by scanning the market for money-saving coupons, discounts, and deals. It's not only a budget boost but a time saver, and some rental car companies waive their additional-driver fees for Costco members.