Spending

How to get Costco savings without buying the $60 membership

jetcityimage | iStock Editorial | Getty Images

With 94 million members and more than 500 U.S. locations, Costco is one of America's favorite places to shop. And while buying in bulk can save you money, the warehouse club does have a yearly membership fee of $60. Same goes for Sam's Club, which is $45 per year, and BJ's, $55 per year.

Paying for membership doesn't suit, or make sense for, everyone. "When a warehouse store isn't conveniently located or you simply don't like to purchase large quantities of household products regularly, buying a membership may not be the best bang for your buck," says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch.

However, there are some ways to take advantage of the kinds of prices you'll get at clubs such as Costco, BJ's, or Sam's Club without paying the yearly fee. Here are a few expert-approved suggestions:

Make purchases that don't require you to be a member

Depending on the club and where you live, you may be able to make certain purchases without paying the annual fee:

  • Eye exam: Making an appointment with the in-store optometrist typically doesn't require a membership, and exam fees tend to be lower. Nationwide, the average price of an eye exam is a little more than $100, according to Angieslist.com. At warehouse stores, however, the price hovers around $70. For instance, in Southlake, Texas, an eye exam at Costco is $65. At a Sam's Club in Columbia, Missouri, you'll pay $59. But only members may be able to buy glasses or contact lenses. Kristin McGrath, a shopping expert at Offers.com, recommends getting the eye exam and then taking your prescriptions elsewhere.
  • Alcohol: Depending on what state you live in, you may be able to buy alcohol at warehouse clubs without a membership. "It can be a great way to save, especially if you're buying Kirkland-branded alcohol," McGrath says. "Kirkland has versions of vodka, whiskey, scotch, tequila, and several red and white wines, so you have plenty of options." For example, a 1.75 liter bottle, usually referred to as a handle, of Kirkland's vodka is $19.99. The same amount of Tito's will cost you just over $29 at Total Wines & More. And a handle of Grey Goose from Total Wines & More will run you more than twice as much at just over $51.
  • Prescription medications: Generic prescriptions drugs in some states can also be bought without a membership, McGrath says. Prices are often lower, she says, but it's best to call ahead and be sure the store can fill prescriptions for nonmembers.
VIDEO4:2204:22
How cooking at home can save money and still be fun

Video by Courtney Stith

Sign up for a grocery delivery service

BJ's, Sam's Club, and Costco grocery delivery service Instacart. Even if you're not a warehouse club member, you can get items delivered from local clubs through Instacart. A yearlong membership, which includes free delivery, is $99. Or you can pay a per-delivery fee of $3.99 for orders of at least $35.

On Instacart, BJ's offers a carton of 24 Nellie's large free-range eggs for $7.49 (31 cents per egg) and a 40-pack of Poland Spring water for $6.99 (17 cents per bottle). Order at grocery chain ShopRite, and you'd pay $10.32 for two dozen eggs (43 cents per egg) and $5.49 for a 24-pack of the same water (about 23 cents per bottle). (Prices calculated based on a Fort Lee, New Jersey, ZIP code.)

Price-match at warehouse club competitors

Check the pricing policies at your favorite stores to see if they will match warehouse clubs' advertised deals. Stores like Target and Kohl's "will match Costco's prices, which means you can get their same savings without a membership," Woroch says. For example, 30 rolls of Charmin toilet paper from Costco costs $24.49, but 30 rolls from Target costs $29.99, so you should be able to bring proof and buy from Target for what you'd pay at Costco.

When a warehouse store isn't conveniently located or you simply don't like to purchase large quantities of household products regularly, buying a membership may not be the best bang for your buck.
Andrea Woroch
Consumer savings expert

And if you're looking for the Costco experience, along with the prices, try having lunch in their food court, which has cultivated a kind of cult following, due, in part, to how affordable it is. A hot dog is $1.50, a chicken Caesar salad is $3.99, a whole pizza is $9.95, and a churro is $1.

"This [tip is] unofficial," McGrath says. Technically, Costco employees should ask to see your membership card upon entry, she cautions, but "if you're shopping with a Costco member, are at a Costco with an outdoor food court, or walked [in] through the exit," you could easily stop in for a quick, cheap lunch.

More from Grow:

Get the Grow Newsletter Every Week
Weekly money news and advice to grow your wealth, delivered straight to your inbox.
Weekly money news and advice to grow your wealth, delivered straight to your inbox.
 

acorns+cnbcacorns cnbc

Join Acorns

GET STARTED

About Us

Learn More

Follow Us

All investments involve risk, including loss of principal. The contents presented herein are provided for general investment education and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any specific securities or engage in any particular investment strategy. Acorns is not engaged in rendering any tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consult with a qualified professional for this type of advice.

Any references to past performance, regarding financial markets or otherwise, do not indicate or guarantee future results. Forward-looking statements, including without limitations investment outcomes and projections, are hypothetical and educational in nature. The results of any hypothetical projections can and may differ from actual investment results had the strategies been deployed in actual securities accounts. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

Advisory services offered by Acorns Advisers, LLC (“Acorns Advisers”), an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). Brokerage and custody services are provided to clients of Acorns Advisers by Acorns Securities, LLC (“Acorns Securities”), a broker-dealer registered with the SEC and a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (“SIPC”). Acorns Pay, LLC (“Acorns Pay”) manages Acorns’s demand deposit and other banking products in partnership with Lincoln Savings Bank, a bank chartered under the laws of Iowa and member FDIC. Acorns Advisers, Acorns Securities, and Acorns Pay are subsidiaries of Acorns Grow Incorporated (collectively “Acorns”). “Acorns,” the Acorns logo and “Invest the Change” are registered trademarks of Acorns Grow Incorporated. Copyright © 2019 Acorns and/or its affiliates.

NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns Grow Incorporated.