The 1 Insight I Use to Save Money at Costco

April 7, 2018

I saw a twitter exchange yesterday that reminded me of the terrible lunches I used to pack for work before I became a Costco member.

Every week I would drag myself to the local grocery store and buy a bunch of stuff to cobble together a sad lunch – usually just a turkey sandwich.

I made these sad lunches because that’s what my go to lunch in school was: I ate a TON of PB & J sandwiches. So when I entered adulthood I kept on doing this too – it made sense. I just continued a habit ingrained because I didn’t know any differently.

And eating those sad lunches worked well for my budget, especially right out of college.

The first serious job I had was at a non-profit, in a VERY expensive city. So, I didn’t have much extra money for eating out.

Thus I continued the tradition of the terrible lunches.

At one point I was buying microwavable Thai noodle boxes for $1.50 from Trader Joe’s and making that my main meal of the day. I usually just had coffee for breakfast.

Not exactly a nutritious diet but hey, it was cheap. After several years of eating that kind of junk I started to get sick of it.

And it was around that time that I discovered Costco.

Now, I grew up in the Midwest- well sort of in between the South and the Midwest, but that is a story for another day – and we didn’t have Costco in my state. Another big box retailer, who shall remain unnamed, dominated the local market.

And for whatever reason – probably to save money – my family didn’t join the local alternative to Costco, but I digress.

So back to my lunch story: After I “discovered” Costco – and by that I mean I simply got a membership. I had a family now and we needed to buy some things in bulk.

I got in a routine of going a couple of times a month, and that’s when I fell in love with the place. Yes, I admit that I fell in love with Costco. It’s an amazing place. It is also a dangerous place. I can splurge on a bunch of stuff in a massive quantity that I really don’t need.

One time I bought a year’s supply of toilet paper. It was cheap! Only I got home and realized the quality was terrible. I didn’t like it.

But then I was stuck with it. And for whatever reason (retention bias?) I didn’t want to just throw it away.

And that brings me to the main point: while while I can waste a bunch of money on stuff I don’t need (like TP), I can also get some great deals on things like prepared food. For example, I get more lunch meat for $10 at Costco than I do at my local store.

And that observation made me realize the first important lesson of Costco membership.

I realized while I could get excited and find amazing deals, I also needed to shop mindfully to keep myself in check.

I think this lesson applies in life, too.

After all, in 2018 I find it so easy, almost too easy, to shop and spend money.

I have available to me, in 2018, Amazon (& Amazon Prime!), Free shipping, infinite coupons on my smartphone, and on and on.

But this can negatively impact my budget, saving for the future, and living within my means.

I personally have dropped $100 on one Costco trip when I only meant to spend $20, so I know how tempting the Costco deals are.

This is why I now shop mindfully when I shop at Costco.

This approach allows me to keep my excitement in check and focus on the long term money game.

I know, we are all humans and, I still have my moments of weakness, but I find this whole concept of shopping mindfully really helps.

So don’t keep falling into a similar rut. I’m going to be writing more about mindfulness and what I’ve learned about it in the coming weeks to my list. Sign up here.