Last month I was contacted by a writer at NerdWallet who wanted me to help with an article he was writing about saving money at Costco. He had seen a post a friend and colleague of mine had done where I had written about my love of Costco, and another friend/colleague had written about why shopping at Costco is not a great idea.

There were a couple of things we discussed (we spoke for almost an hour!) that did not make it into the article that I want to mention here.

You’re not Saving Money by Spending More Than you Intend to

The first is that you are not saving money by shopping at Costco if you spend more than you intended to. I know that sounds obvious but think about this: they surely have a team of psychologists and marketing strategists who design every little thing to get you to part with more money than you intended. Therefore, you must arm yourself (try the tips in the article) before stepping into the Costco matrix! I’m sure there is a lot more to this but some things that scream Costco has well-thought out strategies:

• The displays of random things as soon as you walk in the door
• The electronics department as soon as you walk in the door
• The immense ceilings, sheer square footage, and pallets that all add to the warehouse/”bargain” feel of the space. The longer you are in the store, the more money you will be spending.
• The samples
• The constant rearranging so that you pretty much have to walk down every aisle to find the thing you are looking for, and in the process, you discover other things that interest you. (Again, the longer you are in the store…) I call this the treasure hunting. There absolutely is a dopamine hit when you find your “thing” on your Costco treasure hunt, and especially when you find a new “thing” that excites you.
• Relatedly, there is just something about the novelty of finding a product you buy elsewhere in a bigger package. I remember watching an episode of The Simpson’s in my 20’s when Homer bought a 25 lb bag of nutmeg because it was such a great price! It still makes me chuckle.

Shopping with Children

The second point is that if you have children, it may be best to go without them, in order to get in and out efficiently and not succumb to their desires as you make your way through the store. But, that is not always practical. So if you do take your children, give them a budget (either cash or an amount on paper) that they can spend any way that they want, subject to your rules of course. That way, they can learn about budgeting while they are shopping with you, and you are empowering them to make their own decisions — instead of your kids constantly asking if they can have this or that.

Here is the link to the article. Happy safe shopping!