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How to Save Money at Costco

25 Awesome Costco Shopping Secrets That Go Way Beyond Free Samples

If you're a savvy shopper, you probably have a Costco membership. The warehouse store offers massive discounts on bulk foods, household goods, and even gasoline — but the savings don't stop there! Prepare to save more money than ever before by getting educated about the inner workings of Costco's price schemes, in-store deals, and policies . . . it might just change your life.

1. Some locations allow nonmembers to buy alcohol.

Certain states require Costco to allow alcohol purchases by nonmembers, so keep this in mind when you're stocking your bar cart!

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2. Use the store to snag discounted gift cards, movie tickets, and local fares.

One of Costco's best offerings is the gift card aisle, which offers great prices for bulk movie tickets and store gift certificates. Some store locations even offer discounted bridge toll passes for area freeways!

3. Some prices never change.

You can always enjoy a great deal on Costco's signature hot dog and soda combo, because the chain refuses to raise its $1.50 price. This tasty meal is one of the best deals in the store!

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4. Check the mail before making your list.

Costco sends out coupon and deal booklets to members via mail, so be sure to check for any extra savings before making your shopping plan.

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5. Fill up on samples, but don't let their tastiness sway you.

Costco samples are the well-known perk of the store, but they can often lead to impulse purchases. Try to fill up on samples — a free meal that will stop you from "hungry shopping" — but don't sway from your set shopping list.

Image Source: Flickr user Jay Inslee

6. Buy store brand items for bigger savings.

Buying Costco's store brand items (labeled Kirkland) is one of the best ways to save money at the store. Kirkland brand products are extremely high quality, sometimes even coming from name brand factories!

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7. You can skip lines by shopping on weekdays, especially midday.

The biggest business days for Costco stores are Saturday and Sunday, so avoid the rushes by getting your shopping done during the week.

8. Stick to your shopping list.

Because Costco offers so many different items, it can be easy to get distracted from your shopping goals. The best way to avoid overspending at the store is by creating a physical list and only walking out with the specific items that you needed.

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9. Enjoy unlimited free samples.

Costco policy encourages sample distributors not to limit samples, which means that you can have as many as you want without getting in trouble. Happy eating!

10. Bring your own bags to avoid getting stuck with cumbersome boxes.

Because Costco doesn't offer a bagging system, the store offers cardboard boxes from product shipments for customers to carry purchases with. You can make things easier on yourself (and reduce your carbon footprint!) by bringing along reusable shopping totes for your grocery trip.

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11. Divvy up your deals with a friend.

If you want to save money on household supplies at Costco but don't have the need or space for a large quantity, consider dividing up your purchases with a friend and splitting the cost.

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12. Take advantage of Costco's book and movie releases.

As many Harry Potter fans know, Costco typically stocks new book releases as early as specialty bookstores. If you're waiting on the latest installment of a popular series, avoid the midnight rushes to snag it at Costco!

Image Source: Flickr user m01229

13. Ignore the fun impulse items displayed at the entrance to the store.

You don't need a grizzly-size teddy bear, bright pink footie pajamas, or a 120-inch television . . . so just ignore the special displays at the front of the store.

14. You can use Costco's membership benefits to purchase cars, vacations, and even coffins.

Included in your membership to the store is access to Costco Travel, as well as many other special services. Enjoy the discounted vacation packages and stress-free planning!

Image Source: Flickr user Sam Howzit

15. Double check per-unit prices to ensure that you're actually saving money.

While Costco typically offers low prices, you can sometimes find cheaper offerings at other stores. Family Circle suggests checking the unit prices (the price per ounce, quart, etc.) to make sure that you're actually saving on your purchase.

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16. Buy bulk treats for holidays like Halloween and Christmas.

Most people have no need for 30+ king-size candy bars during normal times of the year, but holidays are the perfect time to save money on Costco's large selection of treats.

17. Look for seasonal savings on everything from food to home decor.

Costco begins stocking for the holidays earlier than many stores, displaying discounted Christmas trees and selling frozen Thanksgiving turkeys in September. You can save major cash by buying these things before the desperate holiday rush!

Image Source: Flickr user Joe Barney

18. The real bargains are found around the edges of the store and in the center, not on aisle endcaps.

According to Lifehacker, the middle area of the store is referred to as "action alley" because of the high traffic. "Makers and distributors often pay for the privilege of being there, and the prices are aggressive," the site says. The flashy displays at the end of aisles, where lucrative samples are given, tend to be the worst bargains in Costco.

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19. You can save big by buying bulk meat and freezing it.

One of the best deals for Costco grocery shoppers is bulk meat, because you can divide and freeze portions to extend your purchase.

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20. Costco offers liberal price protection, satisfaction guarantees, and return policies.

As a club member, you are entitled to Costco's numerous customer satisfaction policies. From a 30-day price protection policy to a 90-day return policy, the company has many stipulations in place to make sure that members are satisfied with their purchases. The store will also give you a full refund on your Costco membership, no questions asked, at any time.

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21. Organic and health foods tend to be cheaper at Costco.

Real Food, Real Deals outlines precisely how much healthy eaters can save by purchasing their favorite organic eats at the warehouse store chain.

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22. Learn Costco's "price codes" to get an inside look into your savings.

Check out the secret price code that Costco uses when tagging items to get insight about how much you're saving, if the item is priced at a historic low, and so on. Who knew that price tags could mean so much?

23. Customer service is the best way to save at the store.

Costco's customer service team exists to help you, so don't be afraid to ask. The customer service counter is a great place to ask for extra coupons, look up past purchases without a receipt, and learn about the rewards (like American Express cash back bonuses) offered through your membership.

24. Save at the pump with Costco gas stations.

Costco offers gasoline at many locations, which means you can fill up your car's tank for a fraction of the normal cost. Try to time your grocery trips to coincide with gas fill-ups to save the most money in one go.

Image Source: Flickr user atomictaco

25. Costco offers the cheapest prescription drugs on the market.

A recent Consumer Reports survey found that, when it comes to generic prescription drugs, Costco's pharmacy is the most affordable. Save money on your prescriptions by picking them up with your groceries!

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