Costco and Coupons: Coupon Tip Tuesday

June 8, 2010 59 Comments | Disclosure

Before I couponed the fabuless way I did most of my shopping at Costco! I would go there at least once a week and spend at least $100.

The only way I used coupons was to use the ones in the Costco coupon booklet. Buying in bulk was saving me money, but I had no idea how much more money I could be saving.

When I started couponing I had to still shop at Costco sometimes because I was still in stockpile building mode. I missed it, I love shopping at Costco, but when I walk through the warehouse now it makes me sick to see how much I used to pay for things I now pay pennies for.

We often get this question in our inbox:

Do you use the Costco coupons?

The answer is rarely. I find that almost every time I can get an item for less if I wait for a sale and use my coupons from the newspaper or

Can Costco coupons be used anywhere else?

No they can only be used at Costco!

Items I used to buy at Costco, but can now get for less shopping the fabuless way:

Chicken Now I stock up on this and freeze it when I can get it for $1.88/lb or less for boneless skinless
Carnation Instant Breakfast
Prego Sauce
Hamburger $1.88 or less I stock up and freeze
Cheese I buy cheese for $2/lb or less and buy several. These can be frozen. They have a long shelf life in the fridge as well as long as you do not open them
Toilet Paper
Fruit Snacks I have BUY fruit snacks  for .10 a box
Sour Cream
Granola Bars I can get these for about .40/ 10 pk or .04 each or less
Shaving Cream
Produce I buy the produce that is on sale where I coupon shop or get it from HCP
Paper Towels
Shampoo I like to get FREE  shampoo
Body Wash
Razors will not pay more than $1 for razors
Toothpaste I only buy free toothpaste
Bagel Bites I lie to get my   bagel bites for free
Laundry Soap
Dish Soap
Cereal do not pay more than .50 a box and often get FREE cereal
Dish Detergent

See more of my stock-up prices!

After getting the hang of couponing I found that I did not need to shop at Costco much at all. Instead of spending $5,000 a year at Costco I was spending more like $500 a year at Costco. So here is the next big question we get…..

Is it worth it to keep your Costco Membership?

buy clothes at costco

Yes. To me it is. Why?

It costs me $50 (even with my executive membership) a year but look what I can still do with it…..

Electronics: Costco has great prices for electronics and a 90 day return policy no matter what!

The Return Policy: Costco will  “guarantee your satisfaction on every product with a full refund.”This means you can return anything for any reason, even dead trees! haha.

Clothing: It is hard to beat Costco’s price for name brand jeans!

Gifts: We love to shop Costco at Christmas time, we always find some great gifts there!

Gas Prices: Costco has the lowest price in town for gas! Yes, I can get if for less at Albertsons some of the time with my preferred card gas rewards, but not every time.

Prescriptions: Costco usually has the lowest price for prescriptions! Don’t believe me? Check out the Costco Drug Price Checker! Type in any prescription you usually buy and I bet it will be less. They even give you the price for the generic alternative! Thanks Fab FruGAL Megan for reminding me of this!

When my stockpile runs low and I need to go get a good price for things I need Costco is where I go!

You really have nothing to lose because, Costco “will refund your membership fee in full at any time if you are dissatisfied.”

So I want to know.

Is it still worth it for you to shop at Costco?


  1. We are lucky and dont pay for our membership fee, so heck ya!! Kirkland brand milk is the only milk I like, so I will always be loyal to them for that. We also buy their butter crossaints, and occasionaly we will buy berries if there is not a great price somewhere else. We will buy gas if I dont have enough Albies rewards to make it worth using them. Besides that we dont buy anything else there anymore because it is cheaper using the Fab Frugal way!!! I used to buy practically everything at Costco so it is so nice to go in every two weeks and walk out only having spent around $10!! I still look around at everything because I love Costco. Woo hoo!!

  2. Kirkland brand allergy medicine (for either Zyrtec or Claritin) singlehandedly pays for my membership fee. Also my kids like to eat their samples! :)

    • Tiffany says:

      oh yeah…the samples are great! I LOVE the coconut cream pie….I went two days in a row just to get a sample of it, LOL!

    • I agree with the allergy & hart burn medicine, the vitamins, and clothes. I also get dog food there because my dog is allergic to corn, and it is the only place I have found that has a price I can live with.

  3. Lindsay says:

    I love costco but always buy something I did not need, so I didn’t renew my membership this time, I have a stockpile there is no need to go to Costco. I also love their milk but it is not worth 50/year for milk so I pay for my newspapers with my costco membership and if in the spring I want a fruit tree or something I can go with my mom.

  4. Savvymama says:

    We love ours. With 4% back on gas each year ( an extra 170.00) to stock pantry or clothing. My regular items are milk, eggs, huge can of tomato sauce( that i freeze in smaller containers), butter, salt, pepperoni slices, bacon, jimmy-dean sausage and tobacco.

  5. I go there for bread – my kids love their wheat bread, and milk. They have a great coupon, in my opinion, for dishwasher soap starting on the 10th, it is for buy one get one free on finish powerball tabs. I did this deal last summer and I just barely ran out, I paid about 15 for a year supply, to me that is a pretty good price. I was able to get some dishwasher soap for free earlier this year, but not enough to last all year, so I will be doing this later this week.

  6. Heather says:

    I love Costco. I recently just bought a frozen bag of chicken Perdue brand for 1.99 per lb. I thought that was a great price for Costco. I don’t buy certain things there anymore after I started couponing, but they carry neat stuff and it is very convenient to shop there, so I will always keep my membership.

    • That is a good price for chicken! Is that the boneless skinless flash frozen kind?

      • I bought a bag of the purdue chicken breasts a few months ago, but we didn’t like it. The texture was “off”. I’ve wondered if maybe that was just the one bag I bought. Did you like the quality of the chicken? If so, I might try buying another bag, because the price was great.

  7. richelle white says:

    We love it for their Rice Dream milk, I can’t find it cheaper! We also manage to find other goodies there too, especially their books, toys, beds ect. and just the convenience of returns, way nice.

  8. They are worth it to me just for the Kirkland Super Premium Dog and Cat food. This is a great pet food that is great for our pets. I could get free/super cheap pet food but I feel my animals are worth the extra expense to stay healthy and happy. I can buy a large bag for about 24.00 for the dog food which feeds all three of my medium to large dogs for almost a month. The same brand cat food is about 16.00 for a large bag that feeds our 4(we ended up with some cats that people had dumped on the side Hwy 55 here in Horseshoe Bend) for almost 6 weeks.

    I also like to get a big case of cheap paper plates just before camping season. A case will last us about a year cause we only use them when camping or if I am sick.

  9. EGGS! Large eggs, 5 dozen, best price. Got to love it!

  10. Tiffany says:

    Milk! $3.39 for 2 gallons! Eggs – usually…and we really like the kirkland mozzarella – I’ve stocked up on the kraft and my hubby and boys dont like it. I love costco! But it is too easy to spend more than you planned when you go there!

  11. Heather says:

    Ya I don’t buy rearly as much as I used to there but keep the membership just for my contacts! So much cheaper than elsewhere.

  12. I am glad that you posted this topic. I have been debating with myself (my husband doesn’t care one way or the other) if a Costco memebership is worth is. So to make sure I understand, you have to pay $100 a year and you get $50 back so you still have to pay $50 a year? Does the gas you by go towards getting your $50 back? Can you get more than that back? No one I have asked really knows the answers to these questions. Thanks!

    • Yes the gas you buy goes toward earning cash back!

      The first 50 of the cash back goes to paying for your membership renewal. I only earned like $32 this year so Costco payed the other $18 to cover the first $50 on my renewal.

      Then I used my american express reward to pay the remaining $50 and still had cash left over.

      Yes you can get more than $50 back but you have to spend more to earn it!

    • I pay $99 for the Costco American Express card and use it for gas, costco purchases and dining out (for double rewards) and it pays for itself. Sometimes I get a little extra, but not much. I also don’t shop for as many things there as I did before couponing, but I LOVE Costco! I’m a newbie, just started couponing in Sept 2011, so I’m still trying to figure out how much to pay for what! This is a great article and thread! Thanks!

  13. DaVette says:

    I love Costco. I do not spend as much as I used to. I try to buy the things that I cannot get cheaper elswhere. I love the milk and bread as well. My husband likes the Rice Dream Ricemilk too. I have not found it anywhere for cheaper. We also get most of our gas there. If I have enough points from Albies, we will buy gas there.
    We also love the hotdogs. Great price for a yummy hotdog. My son and I can share one.
    I think I will always keep my membership, I am more careful at what I buy there. I still love the store and I get excited for their coupons, but it still has to be a great deal!

  14. Can you use Sunday newspaper coupons at Costco?
    For ex/ Tide coupons or Post cereal coupons, etc.?

    Can you use a Sunday paper coupon + a Costco coupon at the same time on 1 product at Costco?

    I love Costco. I like to get food storage items, like wheat for example that is prepared to be stored for 20+ yrs. I’ve learned to just get what’s on my list: bread, milk, gas, etc.
    We also use our Costco Am Express card (with no monthly/yearly fees) and in February I get a nice check in the mail for me. I take the check to the Costco front counter, and cash the check. I love getting money back for buying basic things for our family like gas, bread, and milk, etc.

    • Katie – you can’t use manufacturer coupons at Costco… just the ones they mail out in their booklet.

      I buy the bread and milk there as well. :)

  15. To answer your question, Monica, yes the Perdue chicken that is $1.99/lb at Costco is the individually flash-frozen boneless skinless breasts. It is worth it to me to pay a little extra to get the individually frozen ones (over the Albertsons ones that haven’t really been on any great sales for a long time), and it is always this $1.99/lb price (at least it has been everytime I have looked over the last year). And, IMO, it has better flavor than the Albertsons chicken. So, a great fall-back when you need it, if nothing else!

  16. TeacherLaLa says:

    We go for items like:
    Organic Milk- we fork over the money for organic dairy-We watch the sales at other stores, but buy usually at Costco.
    Butter croissants for special occasions.
    Lastly, gifts around Christmas.

  17. I work at the Costco Wireless kiosk and until I started working there I didn’t really know how great of a deal you can get on cell phones. most people I sell phones to save at least 50 dollars on the phones with no mail in rebates which pays for your membership! And thats not the salesmen in me talking ether! I also love love love the price on milk and gas.

  18. Tiffany says:

    Here’s my thinking – milk is saving me around 50 cents a gallon…we go through 4 to 6 gallons a week – that’s up to $12 a month or $144 a year (if my math is right) I save on milk at Coscto – subtract out the $50 fee and I’m still saving $94 – am I looking at it right? Math/numbers are not my thing, haha! Plus the other benefits – clothes…samples….big ticket items, Christmas gifts. I do watch what I’m buying way more there, it gets confusing how they price out things per oz at times..I have to carry a calculator with me.

    • Tiffany

      I totally go there for milk, but I have to be careful that I am not making a special trip for just milk, with the money I pay in gas I could have just spent an extra .30 at Albertsons for milk and avoided the drive! Again I love the numbers putting it all into perspective!

      • Tiffany says:

        I’m lucky, I can stop on my way home from work once or twice a week for a milk run….and if I dont grab a cart to put it in, I cannot get anything else but the milk! haha!

  19. We have the executive I think? It pays for itself at the end of the year when we get a check.

    I used to buy the ground beef there because I’m very leery buying it anywhere else. But the price wasn’t always great. So I do look out for ground beef at stores I feel comfortable buying it from.

    I only print photos at Costco because of the price. I also get diaper wipes there because after figuring it out, it was the cheapest for us.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Yes – LOVE the photo services!! 5×7’s are over a $1.00 less per print than Walfart Walmart!

  20. We have Sams instead of Costco, and I don’t pay the membership fee (my parents do, and I just have their “extra” card). If I had to pay it, we probably wouldn’t because there is nothing we actually need there that we can’t get cheaper somewhere else and the selection is obviously way more limited than it would be at other stores. We go there only about 4 times a year and buy beef jerky (which is way cheaper there than anywhere else), goat cheese (again, vastly cheaper than at supermarkets), and a few other things like that. If we’re there anyway, we might pick up some produce or chicken breasts, but I’ve done a lot of comparison, and using coupons, I can even routinely get dog food cheaper at other places. So, no, it wouldn’t be worth it if I had to pay for the membership.

  21. I still love Costco, but yes, with couponing many items are cheaper elsewhere. I still get my milk, TP, and gas there. We also have the Costco AmEx card (you don’t have to only use it at Costco; you can use it anywhere) and last year we got over $160 back that we used to stock up. It was awesome! And let’s not forget the food court …. My family of five can “go out” to eat for about $12 and everyone’s happy. ‘Nuff said on that one.

  22. Lyndsay says:

    Just a thought…for us its not worth it to keep our membership for how little we purchase there. But what we do is have one of our family members purchase us a gift card (we pay them back) to Costco and then you can go in and use it even without them with you. It gets you in the door just the same as a membership card and there are no added fees. I am sure this isn’t for everyone but for those who have mentioned just liking the milk this may solve your problem! Good Luck!

  23. We don’t pay for our membership, but I would anyway. I have a great stockpile now of free and cheap grocery store items, so I no longer buy cereal or canned goods there, among other things. However, the fruit there is way cheaper (unless there’s a great sale) than other grocery stores. I’ve even comparison shopped Winco. Our household LOVES fruit and so we spend quite the $ on fruit year round. We do u-pick and freeze fruit in the summer, but during the winter we buy fresh fruit at Costco probably once a week.

    Other than fruit… we sometimes get gas there! Oh, and gifts or books for kids…

  24. Kristan says:

    I don’t spend as much at Costco as I used to. There are still a few things I always get though: The baby wipes (I like my Kirkland wipes), the Carters baby clothing/jammies, the frozen Foster Farms Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts for $1.99/lb (Great price for quality chicken. It tastes much better than Albies), milk, some produce, and Hummus (have you tried their Hummus??…YUM).

  25. I have no clue if you have to be a member to do this, but if you refill your ink cartridges on a regular basis, I think Costco has the best deal for the quality. They dont fill HP Vivera cartridges yet, but most others are $7.99 for black and $9.99 for color. That is cheaper than anywhere else I have found. Plus, if you have any issues, just bring it back. That is what I love about Costco!

  26. If you have prescriptions i have yet to find one that is not cheaper at costco…..convenience wise maybe a albies or wags is easier and they all price match but there are alot of scripts that costco doesnt post online so they will not match them at the other stores on of my daughters megs ranges from 150.00-322.00 bepending on the store but at costco 42.00!! if you add up all the prescriptions and what we save just for those alone, we save over 800.00 a month!! I am lucky that I am added under my parents business and they pay the extra 40.00 a year so i hate the drive and the parking and the crowned people but 800.00 bucks is 800.00 bucks!!

    • great tip MEGAN! I forgot about that one. I save money on scripts at Costco too! I just might have to add that one to the post!

    • You do not need a Costco membership to fill a pescription at the Costco Pharmacy. If my insurance does not cover my medication, I fill it at Costco!

  27. I just asked our Membership desk at Costco if the gas purchases goes toward the year end rebate and they said NO. It only goes toward your American Express rebate if you use your American Express card. I was so bummed….

    Have you asked your membership desk?

    I love Costco for the Kirkland Milk, Kirkland canned chicken and canned salmon, Dave’s Killer Bread, Blueberries, and Organic Apples…..and the Baby wipes. We have purchased several electronics there too for the best price: camera (on coupon,) hard drive (on coupon,) memory card (on coupon) etc…. Also, I stockpile my pictures to print until they do a coupon for $.09/picture.

    My secret confession is that I buy the All Free & Clear Liquid Laundry detergent or the Kirkland Free & Clear because I haven’t been brave enough to try making my own laundry detergent. Must get on this…..

  28. Just an FYI you can use their pharmacy without having a membership:)

  29. Mary Portillo says:

    Loe Costco

  30. My staple that I love to buy from Costco is Kirkland Liquid Laundry detergents, garbage bags, and certain snack items. Yes, i know some stores like Rite aide do couponing in deals but the coupons are for small detergetn bottles… I save buying mine 3 at a time, my bags, 2 boxes.. I don’t have to buy either item for at least 4 months… Where as laundry detergent I am swapping out almost every 2 weeks iwth other brands..

  31. You can buy prescriptions at Costcos w/out being a member: I do! :)

  32. Just in case you are getting a Costco membership to use the pharmacy.Costco cannot restrict the pharmacy to members only ,some federal regulation on pharmacies. If you are not a Costco member they still will sell to you. I often send many uninsured patients to get medications at Costco. They just need to let the person at the front door know they are going to the pharmacy.

  33. Love this post about Costco. Just a few days ago I realized what a great deal I was NOT getting by shopping at Costco! This past week with all of the toilet paper, paper towels, Cascade and other non-necessary grocery items being on sale I was curious if I was REALLY getting a good deal at Costco. Costco is normally where I buy all of those kinds of items. I went to Costco, wrote down prices-including the cost with coupon price deducted, and was SHOCKED that I am paying WAY WAY WAY too much for toilet paper and paper towels! Just to name a few items… So glad that I did some “investigating”. It was a little bit of work and will save me money!

    • Awesome Katie! I would love to see your current cost comparison if you want to share.

    • Me too! I would love to see your price comparisons especially those items you mentioned!

      • I’m curious what you found too, because this week I did some investigating and thought I’d be going back to costco for toilet paper and maybe paper towels. I noticed that the Charmin deal had a red star beside it at Target last week so I thought I’d gather some info to do a comparison. One thing I’ve noticed is that I go through toilet paper much faster on the brands I’ve gotten since I started couponing, than the Kirkland TP. Costco’s TP has 425 sheets per roll and it ends up being about $0.45/roll (.001 cents per sheet). I looked through the whole aisle at Target and saw rolls ranging from 200 sheets to around 350 – none as large as the rolls at Costco. Granted, the Costco TP is not extra thick or anything. I’ve only been couponing for about 7 months, so I’m wondering if I’m looking at this wrong. I’m guessing that Charmin will never be a better deal than Costco and that unless I’m getting something for practically free, that I’d be paying less per square at Costco. Also, it seems like the frequency of sales on TP doesn’t seem to keep me stocked up even if I take advantage of them. Maybe I need more newspaper subscriptions! I’d love to know your thouhts on this. I appreciate the quality and helpful information here! It’s my favorite couponing site!

    • I went to Costco 1-7-2011 and this is what I found:

      81 load liquid Tide $19.99 (+2.50 costco coupon)
      with the coupon, that ends up being .26 a load
      Smith’s price for 20-32 load liquid Tide was $4.99 (+ 2.00 coupon)
      that ends up being .15 – .09 a load

      12 roll Bounty paper towel $17.99 (+2.00 costco coupon)
      with the coupon, that ends up being $1.33 a roll
      Smith’s price for 8 Bounty paper towels was $5.99 (+ .25 coupon)
      that ends up being .72 a roll
      The price difference for paper towels really surprised me. At my house we use a lot of paper towels, so this was important for me!

      30 roll Charmin toilet paper $19.99 (+2.00 costco coupon)
      with the coupon, that ends up being .60 a roll
      Smith’s price for 12 toilet paper rolls was $5.99 (+.25 coupon)
      that ends up being .48 a roll.
      However, I need to give a shout-out to my new favorite Smith’s cashier for helping a sister out :) She had in her apron some $2.00 Charmin coupons she shared with me, making my actual price per roll .33 :) Hooray! It totally made my day :)

      Yes, the toilet paper and paper towels compared at Smith’s and Costco were the identical product.

      Kim, I haven’t been counting sheets per roll-but that is certainly a way to ensure that you are getting more bang for your buck! I’ll be honest, while I’ve been “couponing” for just over a year now, I’ve just started branching out into non-grocery items. Now I feel confident in couponing grocery items and am now ready to exert my energy towards other necessary items, such as the above. For me, in the beginning a lot of energy does need to be put forward, but then it kind of becomes second nature. Like now I know not to spend more than $2.00 for a lb a butter!

      I did find a better deal at Costco than Smith’s:

      90 ct. Cascade $16.99 (+3.00 costco coupon)
      with the coupon, that ends up being $.16 a tab
      Smith’s price for 26-32 ct. Cascade was $5.99 (+ .25 coupon)
      that ends up being .22-.18 a tab
      Not a tremendous savings, but significant enough I suppose!

      I will say this, I am a bit of a snob when it comes to products/brands. I have bought Finish tabs before and I don’t think they got my dishes as clean! Because I’m not too big into scrubbing the dishes clean BEFORE putting them in the dishwasher. :) I also LOVE Tide detergent, so though I have gotten All or Surf at a good price-I always throw in a Tide Stain-Release pac!
      Which by the way, I have been scoping out good prices for… the best deal to date was two weeks ago with Albertsons doublers. The Tide Stain Release pacs that are “Free and Gentle” were marked down to 7.00 from 12.99. Then I doubled a 1.00 manufacturer coupon (catalina) and got them for $5.00. And it was the 34 pack! Probably my most proud couponing moment ever because I seriously love those things. I wish they would ask me to be on a commercial for them :) I got 18 pacs for $2.99 at Fred Meyer the day before that and thought I had scored…

      Thanks everyone for asking to see my comparisons! It was fun to write these down and relive what an exciting time it was saving money! Of course, as time goes on and I learn more, I hope to save even more money on these products. But right now, this will do for me!

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