As a general rule of thumb, you should try to avoid going grocery shopping when you're hungry. With such a massive selection, you might end up going over budget or buying things you simply don't need - or spending too much at the legendary food court.
Check your coupon book
All Costco members get sent a coupon book every month, and it's a great resource for the smart shopper. You don't actually need to bring these coupons in anymore as discounts are automatically applied, but it's good to know what's on sale before you head in.
Save on gas
Costco gasoline is certified Top Tier and known to be quite affordable. Members have access to Costco gas stations, which provide cheaper gas relative to most other gas stations. If you ever forget your membership card, you can just give your name to the attendant.
Rent cars through Costco
Among the many perks available to Costco members is discounts on car rentals. Through Costco, you can book a rental car from nearby Enterprise, Alamo, Avis and Budget locations at a discount and get great savings for your next road trip.
Book travel through Costco
Consider booking your dream vacation through Costco. Costco Travel offers members some great vacation packages that include hotels, flights, excursions, car rentals, cruises and more. Executive members also receive extra perks and discounts.
Consider an executive membership
Costco's executive membership has many benefits, particularly extra perks and savings when it comes to the store's many services. Executive members get a 2% discount on most Costco purchases, even travel. If you spend $3,000 a year (or $250 a month) at Costco, the $60 you'd earn in rewards make up the difference between a regular and executive membership. And spending $6,000 a year (or $500 a month) earns you $1,200 in rewards, which pays for the cost of the membership itself.
Get a refund at any time if you cancel your membership
You can cancel your membership at any time if you are ever unsatisfied with it for any reason, and Costco will refund your year's membership fee in full.
Share a membership
Both regular and executive memberships come with two cards. This is generally meant to be for another household member, but if you have trouble affording a membership by yourself, you can split the fee with a friend and each have a card handy.
Get in with a Costco Cash card
If you can't justify the yearly membership fee, you can ask friends or family who do have a Costco membership to get you a Costco Cash card. Costco Cash cards are basically Costco's version of gift cards, and showing one will allow you entry. The best part is that even if your total comes out to more than what's on the Costco Cash card, you can just pay the difference.
Take advantage of free technical support for electronics
All electronics purchased at Costco come with free technical support, seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. EST at the help number 1-866-861-0450, with the exception of holidays. All you have to do is make sure your have your membership number, purchase date, item number, serial number and model information on hand.
Shop on weekdays
Grocery stores, especially big box ones, are often overcrowded on the weekends. Go shopping on weekdays, preferably a Monday or Tuesday afternoon, and you won't have to deal with finding parking, long lines and scrambling for the best deals.
Look for prices that end in .97
At Costco, most regular-priced items end with .99. If you see one ending in .97, however, the item has been marked down. This means the item previously didn't sell well and now must be cleared out - hence the special pricing. The markdown might not be a lot, though, so it doesn't hurt to ask the manager about original prices if they're not listed.
Also look for prices ending in .88 or .00
If you see an item with a price tag that ends in .88 or .00, this is a manager markdown. Manager markdowns are often done to items that were returned but are still sellable, but they can also be for goods that were previously on display or are simply the last few of their kind in the inventory. These tend to be the best deals in the store.
Check for asterisks
Check to see if there's an asterisk on the upper-right corner of the sign that lists an item's price and description. An asterisk means the item is seasonal and will not be restocked or reordered until the next year.
Also check for plus signs
If you see a plus sign in the upper right corner of item's description tag, the item is being discontinued. These aren't always marked down, but they won't be around for much longer.
Go to the end of the aisle
Grocery stores don't want you to know this, but shelves are generally stocked very strategically. Shopping at Costco can be a bit like finding your way through a maze, but one way to track down good savings is to go to the end of the aisles (closer to the walls) where you'll often find the best deals.
Take advantage of instant rebates
Rebates on consumer products are most commonly done through mailing in your receipt to the manufacturer. At Costco, however, you can get your rebate instantly at the cash register. Consult your monthly coupon book to see which items have instant rebates. Signs in the store can also sometimes indicate which products have an instant rebate.
Use the price adjustment policy
Costco allows you to take advantage of a sale price even if you already bought it at full price. If an item you purchased goes on sale up to 30 days after your purchase, you can bring your item back and be refunded the difference between the full price and the sale price.
Keep all your receipts
Costco has a very generous return policy. With the exception of computers, cameras and certain other electronics, Costco has a satisfaction guarantee for all of its products. If you aren't satisfied with your purchase for any reason, you can return it - even used - at any time, even years later. Keeping your receipts on hand will make this easier, but even if you don't have a receipt and employees can't find your purchase in the system, they may simply offer to refund you at the lowest price the item had been sold for.
Buy Kirkland Signature products
Costco puts a lot of effort into making sure that the store brand, Kirkland Signature, offers high-quality products. The brand of olive oil is known to be both affordable and up to international and U.S. quality standards, while the vodka and bourbon are rumored to be made by Grey Goose and George Dickel, respectively. Certain items such as Kirkland's bacon, maple syrup, and mac and cheese are also Costco cult favorites you that you should definitely add to your cart.
More from The Daily Meal:
Foods You Should Always Buy at Costco
How to Grocery Shop in 30 Minutes or Less
12 Ways You're Being Rude at the Grocery Store
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Grocery Items You Should Stop Buying and Just Make Instead