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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Is a Costco Membership Worth It?

In 2019, Costco warehouse shopping club sold 98.5 million memberships. But then the pandemic came, along with toilet paper shortages and fewer grocery runs. Is it still worth the $60 gold membership, or even pricier executive version?

The answer seems to be a resounding “Yes!” as a record 90% of members renewed for this year, and sales in March were 11.7% higher than in 2019.

Costco was one of the first stores to get serious about masks in the pandemic, and customers appear to love the wide aisles that make distancing a lot easier than at the local grocery store. There was never a need to put arrows in the aisles, because they are wide enough for people to pass down either side while keeping six feet between them. But what you’re really there for are the deals.


Admission to Costco comes in a few different flavors. There is a $60 business membership, but for individuals, there are two basic choices. The $60 gold star membership admits the purchaser and one additional member living at the same address for a year. A gold star executive membership commands a $120 fee, but the holder will get 2% back on qualified Costco purchases, up to $1,000. You’ll also get added benefits and discounts on select Costco services. Compare memberships here to check which might be right for you. 

Buy at Costco Without a Membership

Many readers may know that if you go to a Costco with a friend who has a membership, you can shop and the cashier will subtotal your items. You pay your friend back afterward, and you get Costco pricing. But were you aware there’s an easier way? 
Pay your friend up front and ask him or her to pick up a Costco Cash Card that comes in a variety of price points starting at $25. Use your card at any Costco in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada, or even online. It will let you in the store and no membership is required!

You can also buy prescriptions and alcohol at any time without a membership, plus get a flu shot (one of the cheapest available if you don’t have insurance). Another benefit is Costco’s optical department, where you can book an appointment with an on-site optometrist for a low-cost exam with no membership needed. Unfortunately, you can’t shop for glasses or contacts without a membership (or that great cash card!) but you can run over to the food court and chow down, maybe on the $1.50 hot dog combo. 

Costco’s Rotisserie Chicken

If you adore a good bird, perfectly spit-roasted and seasoned, with the aroma wafting out across the back of the store, then you may be able to justify your membership on this one item alone. After all, at only $4.99 for a hefty 3-pound fowl, you are getting enough meat for an entire week. Night one is the warm, toasty bird as is, perhaps with a side of mashed potatoes and green beans. Portion up the rest and put bags in the fridge and freezer, and you’ve got protein for chicken enchiladas, chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, chicken and dumplings, chicken and you name it. Yum! 

As a loss leader that hasn’t risen in price since 2009, the bird is a brilliant ploy to get you to travel to the back of the store, impulse buying along the way. And who can resist, when a similar uncooked squawker actually sells for more than the ready-to-go version? There are only 10 ingredients in the gluten-free wonder, but Costco leaves the spices unnamed so it can’t be duplicated. Even Dr. Oz says it’s one of the “healthiest processed foods out there, especially if you remove the skin.” Oh, but don’t. It’s that good. How to know when there’s a new batch ready? Listen for the bell ringing back in the deli. Now go get one!

Cult Followings

First thing you want to do is drop off your car at the auto area outside for a set of new tires. Costco regularly features a brand at $70 or $80 off the regular price, and they’ll slap them on your vehicle while you shop. Air is always free, and they’ll remove nails as well. Oh, and the gas pump located just outside the store can save another $.10 to $.30 per gallon, so don’t forget to fill up every time you shop.

When you have a membership card in your hot little hand, a magical world opens up to you. The store brand is one of the best things about Costco. The Kirkland name adorns everything from packaged bacon to cashmere sweaters, and the quality is high across the board, while the price is low. Need a sheet cake for a birthday, wedding or other celebration? Forget about the cardboard-flavored rectangles you’ve bought from other stores. Costco delivers an amazingly tasty product you can be proud to bring anywhere.

Watch yourself back in the bakery section — they actually bake their own delicious croissants and chocolate-filled buttery wonders that will make you think you’re in Paris. Pick up a pack and freeze them, or have a socially distanced party where everyone can make their own little croissant sandwiches. 

If those sandwiches need cheese, well, you’ve come to the right place. A constantly rotating selection of stateside and world cheeses will make your eyes grow wide, especially when you see the price. At Costco, a giant hunk will be the same price as the tiny wedge your grocery store sells. Then there are the peanut butter-filled pretzels, the jars of premium nuts, the crackers and cookies and soups and condiments. Your biggest worry will be over-indulgence. 

We’ve haven’t even touched on the giant poinsettias at the holidays, or the pots of flowers that will astound neighbors in summer. How about a space heater for the back patio to accompany the smart wooden gazebo you got at Costco last summer? A new set of luggage? Pots and pans? They’re here, they’re quality, and they’re offered at a great price. 

Another perk is the full pharmacy with vitamins, supplements and make-up. The Kirkland brand is in evidence here, as are some higher-end lotions and name brand goods. Need flowers? Bouquets are fresh and ready to take home. What about the latest bestseller? Or a gift for the grandkids? 

How about coffee? There are always at least a dozen offerings at prices that will make you smile. Like your cup of Joe to be freshly ground? No problem, just go to the handy station after checking out, snip off the top of the bag, put it in the grinder and watch the beans go back into your bag minced to perfection. The coffee smell mingles with the odor of roasted chicken in your cart, making your mouth water as you head to the parking lot.

Click below for the other articles in the October 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors