I am not a Costco member. Nor do I hold a membership at any of the other warehouse clubs. We used to shop at them when I was a kid, and I loved the products that they had. In my early 20s I went ahead and signed up for a membership, but since it was just me I couldn’t justify the membership cost for the savings (a six-pack of deodorant I purchased there lasted me almost ten years).
My coupon  and savings  know-how has grown ten-fold since the last time I stepped foot into a Costco. That, coupled with hearing that many other people I know do shop at Costco, made me curious as to what kind of stacking  can be done. “Stacking” means putting together as many different types of discounts as possible on each product in order to realize maximum savings (for example, using a store coupon, manufacturer coupon, and rebate on the same product). Here’s what I found.
Maximize Great Savings at Costco
- Go at Lunchtime and Sample Your Way Through: One nice thing I remember about Costco is that I went around mealtime and there were literally enough samples offered that I felt comfortably full when leaving (note that typically you do not want to go grocery shopping hungry; Costco and other warehouse clubs are the exception if you are not an impulsive shopper!).
- Split Purchases with Others: In college there were roommates who shopped at Costco and split up the goods/costs. This gave them the bulk discount prices while ensuring they did not drown in shampoo. Do you have a neighbor, friend, or coworker that you can share Costco shopping and bounty with?
- Fill Up Your Gas Tank: Costco offers a discount on gas to its members. Make sure you go when your tank is nearly empty to fully maximize this perk.
- Stretch Out Your Annual Renewal: You can squeeze out an extra month or two free by playing around with renewals. What I mean is, your membership renews in a month (not a specific day within that month). So take your monthly trip to Costco on the last day of the month, and then don’t renew until one month later and a few days later (skipping an entire month), effectively extending your membership to 13 months instead of 12. Try to renew at the beginning of a month, and then at the end of that year, renew on the last day of the expiration month, essentially extending your membership another month. The payoff for extending membership by two months or so per year can be seen over an extended period of time.
- Use Costco Store Coupons: Costco does not accept manufacturer coupons . However, they do offer store coupons. Be sure to get on Costco’s mailing list so that you will be sent valuable coupons.
- Get the Executive Gold Star Membership: This membership tier costs more ($110 per year). However, it offers 2% back in a rewards certificate on most purchases (up to $750 annually). Here’s what makes this worth it: if you do not earn enough cash back to make up for the difference in costs between this membership and the regular one, then you will get a refund for the difference. This only works in the first year, so you might as well try it out (note: to break even, you will need to spend approximately $250 per month or $3,000). Hint: you can use your rewards check to renew membership for the following year!
- Costco and American Express TrueEarnings Card 2% Cash Back: Stack your 2% cash back from the Executive Gold Star Membership with 2% cash back from the TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express . If you get your gas with this card, then you will earn 3% cash back on that purchase and other cash back .
- Identify Clearance Codes: It turns out that Costco has its own system to show when an item is at its closeout price. They do not want you to know that a product is on clearance due to not selling well, so instead they will end its pricing with 97¢. For much more information on pricing structures, codes, and more from Costco, check out this article .
- Take Advantage of 30-Day Price Protection: Keep your receipts, as it turns out that if a product you purchase goes down in price with thirty days, you can receive the difference.
Even in our two-person household, I know there are a few items that we could purchase in bulk  that will not expire before we use them up (or will expire, but are still safe to use). These include things like bird feed, olive oil, miracle whip, mustard, pickles, and toilet paper. I’m going to take my own advice and see if I can find someone who would like to split some industry-sized products with us.
How do you find great savings at Costco?