5 Warning Signs You Spend Too Much Money at Costco

It’s easy to overspend at Costco, but there are some ways you can save money while shopping at the warehouse retailer.
Last updated Jan. 30, 2023 | By Jenny Cohen Edited By Rachel Siegel
man holding grocery list with utility bag

We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Costco is a great place to shop if you’re trying to save some cash, but could you be saving even more??

Take a look at your purchases the next time you come home from Costco. Perhaps you bought stuff you didn’t really need or you don’t have the room to store it. You might also be using the wrong membership card.

So, before you go on your next Costco run, check out these warning signs that you may be spending too much money at the warehouse retailer and save money on groceries instead.

You buy too much produce

exclusive-design/Adobe colorful shot of vegetables and fruits

Costco has plenty of items that you can buy in bulk, from crackers and bread to canned drinks and pantry staples. But you can also buy plenty of fresh produce in bulk as well. 

That could be a good option if you have a big family who'll eat all those strawberries and bananas before they go bad. But you could also be throwing away plenty of fresh produce if you’re not going to eat the Costco bulk versions quickly.

Instead… Spend less with different produce options

Africa Studio/Adobe colorful bright frozen vegetables

Costco has some frozen options that may be better for you than fresh. For example, think about buying frozen berries if you’re going to be using them for smoothies. 

You also may want to limit your produce choices to smaller portions that you can find at your local grocery store instead of buying in bulk.

You buy name brands

ltyuan/Adobe freezers full of ice cream at store

You may be loyal to brand names when it comes to things like cereal, pasta sauce, or drinks. But those big brand names may also cost you big dollars when it comes time to check out. 

It can be hard to break free of those familiar brand names, and it may be time for you to try something else if you want to save some cash.

Instead… Pick up Costco’s Kirkland Signature brands

K KStock/Adobe kirkland snacking nuts on shelves at costco

One genius Costco hack is to buy Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand instead. The retailer’s in-store brand covers everything from groceries and household cleaners to diapers, clothing, and more. 

You may be pleasantly surprised by the quality and taste of Kirkland Signature products compared to the name-brand versions.

You try items and find out you don’t like them

Elnur/Adobe man suspicious at food on dining table at home

You may see something on the shelf at Costco and decide to give it a try. But what happens when you take it home and don’t like it? 

You could be staring at a bulk version of something that you can’t imagine eating, let alone finishing — and thinking about the money you wasted by buying it in bulk.

Instead… Take advantage of Costco’s return policy

dennizn/Adobe holding costco wholesale receipt at costco store

Costco wants you to be happy with your purchases, which is one reason why it has a generous return policy. Don’t like something? Take it back for a refund, even without your receipt. 

Be aware that there are some exceptions to the retailer’s return policy, but most items can be taken back.

You have the wrong membership card

dennizn/Adobe hand holding costco receipt with executive membership card at costco store

Costco has two membership options, depending on your needs. Costco’s Gold Star membership costs $60 per year while its Executive membership is $120 per year including a 2% annual reward. 

But you could be paying too much for the Executive membership without getting the most out of your rewards, or your Gold Star membership may not cover everything you need.

Instead… Find the membership that’s best for you

dennizn/Adobe costco wholesale card in hand with receipt

It may be a good idea to talk to a Costco representative to find out which card is best for you, given your spending habits at Costco. Then you can change your membership based on what can save you the most money. 

Remember that Costco’s return policy also covers your membership, so feel free to switch memberships without penalty.

You wander the aisles

trongnguyen/Adobe inside view of alaska costco store

Like any warehouse retailer, Costco is big and can be overwhelming. It’s also well stocked with different items from groceries to household goods and clothes. 

So it can be easy to wander the aisles for an hour or so until you’re ready to check out and end up spending much more than you had planned.

Instead… Take a list with you

Sergii/Adobe person shopping foods at the grocery

It’s a good idea to make a shopping list of what you need at Costco before you go into the store and then make sure you stick to that list as you shop. 

Staying within your list’s limits can help you stay on budget and limit your spending on extra items you may not need.

Bottom line

mandritoiu/Adobe Costco Wholesale store at sunset

Costco can save you money if you shop the right way. Check your wallet for the best credit cards for Costco shoppers and take a list with you to help you stay within your budget. 

And remember that there are ways to find some extra savings throughout the store that can make a trip to the warehouse retailer even more rewarding for you and your wallet.

Rocket Money Benefits

  • Automatically find and cancel subscriptions
  • Slash your monthly phone, cable, and internet bills
  • Save an average of up to $720 a year

Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.