3 Sneaky Ways Costco Gets You to Spend More Money -- and What to Do About It (2024)

An estimated 73 million people have a Costco membership. So clearly, the store is doing a pretty good job of offering up great value.

See, most stores don't charge you a fee just to enter and shop. But Costco's entire business model is centered on membership fees. In fact, because Costco generates so much of its revenue from membership fees, it's able to offer competitive prices on the items it sells.

Costco's business model is also focused on customer satisfaction. It's for this reason that Costco maintains a very flexible return policy, and why it simply will not stock items it feels it can't offer at a reasonable price point.

But while shopping at Costco definitely has the potential to save you money, it might also, at times, bust your budget. That's because Costco does have some tricks up its sleeve that may be causing you to spend more money than you normally would. Here are a few sneaky ways Costco pulls that off -- and how to get around them.

1. Putting sale items at the front of the store

When you first walk into Costco with an empty oversized shopping cart, it's like coming in with a clean slate. So if you're tempted with sale items the moment you enter, you may be more inclined to scoop them up. After all, you haven't spent any money yet, so why not grab a neat-looking kitchen gadget or fleece blanket at a discounted price?

But of course the problem with falling into this trap is that you're buying things you don't actually need. So rather than adding items to your cart within seconds of entering Costco, force yourself to do a complete walk-through and tackle your shopping list in its entirety first.

If, by then, you're still tempted to go back to the front of the store and add one of those sale items, you've at least had time to think about it. But what may happen is you realize you don't need to add another purchase to a cart that's now full.

2. Tempting customers with free samples

Costco's free food samples are often regarded as a neat little perk of shopping at the store. But while they might make for a tasty snack, they also have the opportunity to lead to impulse buys.

It may be that ravioli bites weren't at all on your radar. But then you tasted one when you were hungry already, and boom -- you're bringing home a $15 box of ravioli bites when you're not even sure it's something your kids will eat.

It's perfectly okay to enjoy free samples at Costco. But don't let your taste buds alone guide your purchasing decisions. Instead, be practical and ask yourself if the item in question is:

  • One you need in a bulk quantity
  • One your family members are likely to enjoy
  • One you even have room to store

You might enjoy the bite of the ice cream sandwich you sample on your way to the checkout aisle. But do you really need 48 of them? And do you even have room in your freezer? And if you do have room, will fitting that giant box of ice cream sandwiches mean not being able to fit staple items, like chicken nuggets and French fries, that you rely on as quick meals for your kids? These are the questions you need to ask yourself before you buy a product you've sampled that wasn't on your list.

3. Stocking so many rotating products that you're constantly tempted to buy new things

The fact that Costco frequently rotates its product line is a good thing. But it can lead to extra purchases, since you're more likely to get excited about a new product than the same fleece top you've seen on the shelf for months.

If you frequently overspend on new items, you may want to set a monthly budget for Costco impulse buys. That way, you're more likely to enjoy your shopping experience, but you may be less likely to really go overboard.

So for example, you may decide that you can afford to spend $30 a month at Costco on non-essential items. You could then use that $30 to buy a single piece of home decor, or you could use it to buy two different snacks for $15 apiece.

Costco is really good at getting consumers to spend money. And look, it has to be in order to be successful. But you don't want your love of Costco to wreak havoc on your finances. So do your best to avoid impulse purchases so you can enjoy the savings a membership has to offer.

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3 Sneaky Ways Costco Gets You to Spend More Money -- and What to Do About It (2024)


3 Sneaky Ways Costco Gets You to Spend More Money -- and What to Do About It? ›

A “treasure hunt” shopping experience.

Costco offers many limited time deals and products enticing customers to go back to Costco often to see what is new and exciting and to make sure they don't miss out. Retailers like T.J. Maxx and Dollarama also employ a similar strategy and it's working.

How does Costco make you buy more? ›

A “treasure hunt” shopping experience.

Costco offers many limited time deals and products enticing customers to go back to Costco often to see what is new and exciting and to make sure they don't miss out. Retailers like T.J. Maxx and Dollarama also employ a similar strategy and it's working.

Why do you spend so much money at Costco? ›

Costco members frequently spend more money than they plan to, and for a variety of reasons. The fact that everything comes in huge packages is only one reason why. Costco is highly effective at getting people to make impulse purchases, too.

What does Costco make the most money on? ›

Key Takeaways. Costco makes some of its profits from its merchandise, but the bulk of its profits come from membership dues. Only members can shop at Costco. The membership business model allows Costco to undersell the competition by offering products in bulk at lower prices to ensure customer loyalty.

Do people actually save money shopping at Costco? ›

By my calculations, you'd save over $1,000 in a single year by shopping from a wholesale retailer. Below is a breakdown of how I reached that figure. (And if you get a Costco Executive membership, you could save even more.)

How much do you have to spend at Costco to make it worth it? ›

How much you'd need to spend to make Costco Executive Membership worthwhile. In order to receive $60 in reward dollars and recoup the $60 more that an Executive Membership costs, one must spend $3,000 over the course of the year at Costco on eligible purchases, an average of $250 a month.

How to not spend too much at Costco? ›

Making a list can help you avoid overspending at Costco. You can also limit how much you spend by shopping only with cash. Not getting a cart is another good technique if you're only buying one or two items.

What does the average person spend at Costco? ›

While the average person spends $100 per Costco shopping trip, it's OK if that's not your reality. No matter how much you spend or how often you shop there, it's important to remember these are just averages.

What does .69 mean in Costco? ›

69 Mean You Could Be Getting A Deal. Shopper in Costco pharmacy - Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images. If you see a price ending in 9 other than . 99, the manufacturer will most likely discount this item.

How to be frugal at Costco? ›

Avoid Impulse Buys

Because of Costco's low prices, it can be easy to overbuy. But because of the bulk quantities, impulse buys at Costco are riskier than they are at other stores. “Buying in bulk doesn't always help you save more money,” said Cooper. “Things at Costco like baked goods aren't suitable to buy in bulk.

Who shops at Costco the most? ›

But compared to its peers, the wholesale club is more popular with higher-income millennial and Gen X households. In particular, Asian-American shoppers are even bigger fans of the brand, and are nearly twice as likely as the average US consumer to shop at Costco, according to Numerator's data.

How much is a senior membership at Costco? ›

As of 2023, Costco does not offer a specific discount for seniors on either memberships or in-store purchases. The starting price of a Costco membership is $60 per year, paid in one lump sum. Costco discounts on hearing aids, gas, and general merchandise make a membership worth it for seniors.

How much money does an average Costco make in a day? ›

How much does one Costco make a day? One Costco makes $526,000 a day, on average. With the average annual sales per warehouse at $192,000,000 and 365 days in a year, the average Costco location pulls in over half a million dollars each day. Why is Costco brand called Kirkland?

Does Costco make you spend more? ›

The way Costco positions its sale items might drive your spending upward. Costco's free samples might seem like a neat perk, but they can actually be a trap. An ever-changing product rotation might also result in higher spending on your part.

Does Costco encourage impulse buying? ›

And so, that's what we do as merchants." Of course, Costco isn't the only retailer to try to tempt consumers with impulse purchases. If you go to Target or even a regular supermarket, you're apt to see displays of new and/or seasonal products that can trigger the impulse to pick one up before it's too late.

How much does Costco make per store? ›

As a result, Costco's average sales per warehouse amounted to 252 million U.S. dollars that year. The average number of sales at Costco has risen in recent years from 155 million U.S. dollars per warehouse in 2012 to 252 million U.S. dollars per warehouse in 2023.


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