These 6 Costco Items Will Easily Cover Your $55 Membership

By Kyle James on 17 August 2015 28 comments

Is Costco really worth the $55 annual fee? If you're on the fence about joining the wholesale club, this is undoubtedly a question you've asked yourself many times. While Costco can contain spending traps for undisciplined shoppers, the store also provides many unique ways to save money. Money that can easily cover, and greatly exceed, the $55 annual membership. (It's even easier to save when you use the Costco Credit Card, which gives you cash back on Costco and Costco.com purchases.) Here are a few items that provide enough savings to justify the annual fee. (See also: 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know You Could Buy at Costco)

1. Wine

If you regularly buy wine from your local liquor or grocery store, you're probably overspending. According to Andrew Cullen, founder and editor of CostcoWineBlog.com, your local Costco sells an excellent selection of wines at very affordable prices.

"I'd say wines at Costco, from my experience in the Atlanta area, are generally priced 10%–20% below other liquor stores," says Cullen. "Compared to grocery stores, that difference would be even higher." If you're buying at least five bottles of wine per month, that savings alone will typically pay for your annual membership.

Cullen adds that the "handpicked nature of the selection" at Costco is another factor that gives them an edge when it comes to buying wine. "Regardless of the varietal or region or price range, wines from Costco typically offer a strong quality to price ratio, almost like they have to pass a screening before they are presented in the stores. That's not to say I haven't encountered a few duds here and there, but all in all, the quality of the selection is pretty good." But like anything in the warehouse, if you pass on a particular wine selection, be aware that it may be gone the next day, never to return.

2. Car Tires

If you're in need of a new set of tires for your car, the $55 membership fee can easily be recouped with a single purchase of four passenger tires. I recently priced a set of four tires for our minivan and Costco was $85 cheaper than my local tire shop and $120 less than what the dealer was asking. Savings was really noticeable when I factored in installation fees which were a reasonable $15 per tire at Costco, compared to $45 at the dealership.

Other side benefits of buying your tires from Costco includes lifetime balancing and rotations, free flat repairs, and a 60-month road hazard warranty.

3. Lunch or Dinner

Another easy and tasty way to recoup your $55 is at the very affordable Costco food court. Easily their most famous offering is the hot dog and soda meal, which is really hard to beat. For only $1.50, you get a big hot dog and a 20 oz. soda with free refills. It only gets tastier with an excellent condiment bar which features a fresh onion slicer so you can load up your dog. I have a hard time passing up this meal whenever I visit the warehouse close to the lunch hour as it's a very affordable way to grab a quick bite.

The savings aspect is probably greatest when talking about their pizza. For only $10, you get an extra large pizza that can easily feed a family of four or five, depending on how big the appetites are. But if you have kids, and are hosting a birthday party, soccer party, or the like, you can really save by ordering pizza from Costco. You'll be able to feed a lot of people a quality meal, and with the lean prices, you'll come out ahead when comparing the price to most local pizzerias.

Insider tip: When checking out from Costco, be sure to place your food court order directly from your cashier. That way you'll only have to pay once and can save time by simply picking up your food from the pick-up window and completely bypass the food court line.

4. Movie Tickets

If you go to the movies at least once a month, you should be buying your movie tickets directly from Costco. Popular theaters that regularly sell discount tickets at Costco include Cinemark, Regal, AMC, and Cinelux. For example, right now you can buy a 10-pack of tickets for AMC Theaters for $84.99. Before you ask, these tickets have NO expiration date and can be used seven days a week. With tickets hovering around $11–$13 nationally, you just saved about 30% off your next movie. For a family with kids who love seeing a flick in the theater, buying your movie tickets at Costco is a total no-brainer and can single-handedly pay for your annual Costco membership.

5. Gift Cards

Once you take notice of the gift card deals at Costco, you'll never buy one anywhere else. They sell gift cards for restaurants, theme parks, local attractions, and golf outings. Savings on average is 20%–30% off the face value of the card. For example, right now they have four $25 Smashburger gift cards for $79.99 and five $10 Jamba Juice gift cards for $34.99. If you buy discounted gift cards at Costco for places you know you'll be buying from anyways, or are looking for cheap gift ideas for teachers and coaches, you can save significant money.

6. Prescription Drugs (Especially Generics)

If you're buying prescription drugs on a monthly basis, you can easily recoup your membership fee by purchasing from Costco. According to a study by Consumer Reports, shoppers can easily save more than $55 per year by buying their generic drugs from the Costco pharmacy. The reason Costco can charge less has to do with their huge inventory and ability to buy in bulk from suppliers and pass the savings along to you. Also, while drugstores like CVS and Walgreens depend heavily on drug sales, Costco can afford to give a discount on prescription drugs and stay profitable.

By understanding the products at Costco that are a great value, you can easily justify the $55 annual membership fee. Just be sure you don't blow the money you save on the bright and shiny objects Costco stocks in the front section of the warehouse. Stuff you had no idea existed, but clearly can't live without…stuff that also happens to pad their profits. (See also: 15 Things You Should Buy at Costco)

UPDATE: As several commenters have noted, Costco does, in fact, sell alcohol and prescription medications to non-members. Note that Costco offers an additional, members-only prescription drug benefit called the Costco Member Prescription Program. It is aimed at Costco members who do not have prescription drug insurance, or whose insurance does not cover some of their medications. Thank you to the commenters and email correspondents who notified us. -- The Editors

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These 6 Costco Items Will Easily Cover Your 55 Dollar Membership

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Guest's picture
Guest

In many States you can buy alcohol and fill prescriptions at Costco without a membership.

Also most Costco food courts are located outside of the building and available to the public.

Kyle James's picture

Good point. You can even get your prescriptions filled online and have them delivered to your home at NO extra cost.

Guest's picture
Guest Jane

You do not have to have a Costco membership to use their pharmacy, I think.

Guest's picture
Joe

How about gas??? In my area, Costco is often the cheapest gas around, usually beating Sam's by 5-10 cents and other stations up to 50 cents. If you bought nothing at Costco other than gas, the membership would easily pay for itself in a few months.

Kyle James's picture

Great point. I didn't include gas because many Costco locations do not have a gas station attached.

Guest's picture
ALGS

Costco is ABSOLUTELY worth the $55/year ... (I'm actually an executive member for $110/year) You can actually visit the Costco Pharmacy and get that amazing savings without being a member. They consider access to medicine a "right to life" and don't require a membership for it. (On Costco.com and you can see all their prescription drug prices, which most companies don't advertise).

Doing the right thing is just how they do business. Love them!!

Kyle James's picture

You can also get your eyes checked by an optometrist without a membership but will need one to buy contact lenses and accessories.

Guest's picture
Guest

You do not need to be a Costco member to buy perscription drugs or booz there. Federal law allows anyone to come in with a presription or of legal drinking age and purhase these controlled items. I have been for years!

Guest's picture
Guest

Unfortunately my Costco doesn't sell wine. So.....

Guest's picture
Guest

Many states allow you to buy wine and prescription medications without a membership. So Costco will let you enter if that's all you're getting. But Costco Travel definitely is worth the membership along with tires.

Guest's picture
Buddy Johnson

$1.50 hotdogs are great! Allows you to put money aside for that triple bypass you'll need later in life from eating hotdogs...

Kyle James's picture

Moderation in all things. :-)

Guest's picture
Allessio

Where are the gift cards and movie tickets in Costco? At the service desk?

Kyle James's picture

At my local Costco they are located in the aisle nearest checkout.

Guest's picture
Guest

Check by the books section.

Guest's picture
Venkatesh R

//Insider tip: When checking out from Costco, be sure to place your food court order directly from your cashier.//
It's not true. (Atleast in Mettawa, IL Costco warehouse). Because the food court cashier accepts only cash and you can't order from Costco checkout/cashier. They are not connected. :(

Kyle James's picture

That is strange. They are connected at every Costco I have been in. I'm not sure why the food court only accepting cash would keep this from working. I just show my receipt at the food court and they give me my food.

Guest's picture
Sirrage

You guys missed a big ticket item that more than pays for the membership for a few years. Costco's Auto buying program is top rate. Their Auto program protects their members from overpaying for a car; they protected me and got me a refund when, after an investigation by Costco, it was determined that I had overpaid for the car I bought using their Auto buying referral program. If people are in the market for a car then the cost of a Costco membership to access their auto program is worth it.

Guest's picture
Guest

Keurig K-CUPS! I did the math once and just buying our k-cups from Costco is worth the $55 membership. We each drink 1 cup of coffee a day, so 730 k-cups a year. The k-cups we buy are 50 cents each at Costco (sometimes cheaper!), which is the best deal I've seen. Most other places are around 60 cents a cup, unless I happen to have coupons/it's on sale. Even then, it's rarely 50 cents a cup. Buying K-cups from Costco alone saves us $70 a year.

GAS, as others have mentioned is totally worth it too. Usually around 50 cents a gallon cheaper than most places. You just have to be patient or time it right, as the lines can get long.

One that most don't know about - CAR RENTALS! I was able to book a car rental in San Francisco from Fri - Sun in August for $45...TOTAL!

Kyle James's picture

Or buy the Kirkland ground coffee, which is REALLY tasty, and only pay pennies per cup!

Guest's picture
Guest

Agree. Car rentals this year have saved us hundreds of dollars just by booking through the Costco web site.

Guest's picture
Katherine

Progressive lenses are significantly less expensive at Costco and are worth the $55. So are mattresses. If you buy enough coffee.

Kyle James's picture

Good points, especially with mattresses because of Costco's very liberal return policy. Take it home, sleep on it, and return it if you don't like it.

Guest's picture
Jen2

It's a shame that my membership club doesn't sell wine (Maryland doesn't allow it) or have a pharmacy. I don't think our membership dues are worth it. In fact I think we spend more by shopping there and there is a lot more wasted packaging.

Guest's picture
sherri

Two ways you can use Cosco without buying a membership are

1. Go with a friend that has a membership. They pay for everything and you pay them back. I did this this week and had no problem with getting in and shopping.

2. To be able to shop alone, get a friend to buy you a Cosco gift card, then show it instead of your membership card. Just make sure that you have enough money on it to cover what you are shopping for. Not sure if you can pay the difference with cash. I haven't tried this out yet, but I had heard it from a reliable couponing blog.

Guest's picture
Kiki

I bought my replacement heat pump/AC unit through Costco -- the company I chose has one of those concession booths you pass as you leave the store. I paid $8500 for the system. Got $500 energy rebate from my power company, then a $989 rebate card from Costco (Executive membership percentage), and then since I paid the balance on my Costco AMEX, I got another $600 cash back from the card. :)

Guest's picture
Guest

Question: How good a deal is it if you only buy from their website, and don't need a lot of bulk packages of things? I'm low income and disabled. I don't have a car. So it's not feasible for me to go in person. But online shopping could work..

I'm thinking of staple foods, vitamins, household items, and the like.

Thanks! Good article! :)

Guest's picture
Guest

Where can you get a Costco membership for $25?

Guest's picture
Todd Adams

You can't.