Thursday, July 30, 2009

To Costco or Not To Costco?

I have been a member of Sam's Club since forever. I think probably since they opened. Not by choice, mind you, but because my parents had a membership and have always just put me on their family plan and given me a card. Over the years, I've used it sometimes but not really a ton. I LOVE the gigantic tub of cheeseballs for $5.47.

Plus, I absolutely swear by Odo-Ban: the best product I've ever found to remove the nasty urine smell from underpants and sheets.

However, last month my parents decided that they just didn't need to shop in bulk like they used to. Also, seeing as they are now living on a fixed income, they are deciding to cut corners and while they have more cable channels than all my siblings combined, they don't feel like $45 a year is a smart investment for a membership to MEGA DISCOUNT SAVINGS.

Since we've moved to Texas, I have been exposed to Costco. Well, truthfully, I have been exposed to the mystique that is Costco. I've never crossed its threshhold, but I've been told glorious stories of the delicious pizza, and all the plentiful bulk organic products, yada yada yada. But now that I would actually have to shell out the cash for my own membership to MEGA DISCOUNT SAVINGS, I can't figure out if it's really worth it or not. And, if it is worth it, should I choose Sam's or Costco? So, loyal readers, I need your help in deciding. Here are some of my thoughts and quandries:
  1. I don't buy organic stuff. Unless it's cheaper than the pesticide-filled stuff. Call me crazy, I like how I turned out even though my mom fed me pesticide-covered grapes. So, the organic leverage really wouldn't play for me.
  2. I am NOT a coupon clipper but I am certainly a generic-brand buyer. I do watch unit prices. I have long believed that Sam's was cheaper on only a very few name-brand items when buying them in bulk. Many items are the exact same unit price as the grocery store, and some are even MORE! Plus I don't need to buy a box of cereal the size of a tank.
  3. Does Sam's or Costco really offer anything that is better, that I can't find in the regular grocery store? I've tried Sam's Diapers and they sucked. Same vote for their kitchen trash bags. BUT I did use their baby formula. Baby Sally really never complained.
I suspect that some people like to shop at Costco for the glamour of it. I, too, have fallen victim to the attraction of the concrete floors, the pallets piled up to the ceiling, the sound of the forklift backing up... But really, if I am buying a giant box of 36 packages of fruit snacks for $5.75 at Costco, or I can buy 3 boxes of 12 packages of the same fruit snacks at Wal-mart for $2 each (therefore only saving myself 25 cents, which I actually have to pay 50 bucks in order to get in the door), is that really smart shopping?

What do you think?

Thank God this is the heaviest thing on my mind today. I can't take any more drama.


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lov said...

i love love love this!
i would love to shop at costco, just so i can say i'm a member
it was like in middle school when all the cool kids had a members only jacket, and i wasn't cool enough to have one, because my parents thought a light weight jacket in a place that never has cool weather is pointless
i look back on those life lessons and think....maybe i should be thankful that my parents taught me to be responsible with money,
but damn it, i really just think spending money to be part of the club that doesn't save me any money, but allows me to buy a crap load of cereal (even thought i will not ever be able to eat it before it goes stale)

i say, you should be a member, just cause you can flash that card around and say....yeah i'm cool!

Beth (A Mom's Life) said...

I recently joined Costco and have been truly disappointed. I have found that most of the things I purchase are actually cheaper elsewhere.

I recommend getting the price per unit of about 20 things you buy frequently at the grocery store and comparing that price to Costco's price. Use that as your guide...

I know that I personally will not be renewing my membership. However, I have friends that love to shop there. I think they just like the free samples they give out! The cheese danish IS divine, I must admit!

J said...

Don't know if this is a consideration, but from an ethical standpoint, Sam's/WalMart has notortiously underpaid, overworked, and mistreated their employees, while Costco has won numerous awards for how well they treat their employees. For me, it is important to put my dollars towards companies who do the right thing, so if we had a Costco nearby I would be signing up.
Location does matter, of course!
Also have heard good things about Costco's prescriptions being cheaper than anywhere else.

Jennifer said...

I have a Sams membership (we don't have a Costco) and I use it. We buy our paperplates, garbages bags (non generic), chicken breasts and some canned goods there that we use a lot of, like chicken broth, green beans, stewed tomatoes. I like it because it is convienent to have more stuff at home and to not have to go to the grocery store. I also like the produce. Our Sams usually has really fresh fruits, way better and cheaper than the grocery store. Oh, and we buy batteries at Sams. We go through a lot of batteries.

Emily said...

We considered Costco...I'm not sure how phenomenal the deals are, but what convinced me not to is the fact that they only take American Express. That just ticks me off. I get great rewards with my Mastercard...more than worth the price difference between Costco and Kroger by my calculations, so $$ speaking it just wasn't worth it.

stephanie (bad mom) said...

You may not believe this, but I don't do much "for the glamour." We belong mainly for the booze, meat & cheese discount. :D

You know I would tell you Costco if you decide to go for it because as J mentioned, Sam's is part of the Store That Must Not Be Named.

I think you can still get a 'guest pass' for one day and peruse the offerings.

McVal said...

We don't have a Costco near us, just Sams, but we love Sams. There are staples I ALWAYS get JUST there because we use so much of these things and it's cheaper there.
eggs - cheap cheap
milk - cheap
bag Romaine lettuce
sliced and shredded cheese - cheaper
peanut butter
chicken breasts
toilet paper
paper towels
dog food
capuchino mix for when I'm NOT trying to lose weight.
Oh and those cheese balls always used to be a staple at Christmastime when my brother-in-law came, but oh my - I could eat the whole thing if there's a good movie on.

Someone else suggested a day pass to just walk thru Costco and decide if you want to get a membership there. Try it out. Maybe it's better stuff!

Natalie said...

i have memberships to both. i share them with my MIL. i have other friends that find a friend and then share the membership...might be something to consider if texan dad doesn't need a card.

in most cases sams is cheaper than costco. the produce is less expensive. i don't however like the sams brand tp or paper towels and i really like the costco brand. the costco brand diapers are better than sams brand too and the wipes don't have the funny smell that the "odor free" sams wipes have. i also like that costco has it's own brand of 100% juice boxes. oh and the costco birthday cake is SO MUCH BETTER than sams. my family likes sams pizza better. but costco has lowfat frozen yogurt...YUMMMMY! oh and if you are there for brand name diapers...sams carries pampers, costco carries huggies. meat at sams is usually about $0.10 per pound less expensive than costco.

if i had to give one up i would pick costco... you can always find a friend with a membership to go with once a quarter if you don't need much...

sorry that was a really long comment!!!

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

I went into to Costco to save money when pregnant with #4 and the smell made me so ill I have not been back!
I know some people love the whole 'bulk' thing but I have found great deals at Target and I am worried I could get carried away at the bulk places!

Debbi said...

Costco IS cheaper for many things, yes. Worth 50$ a year, if you shop for a lot of stuff in bulk a lot.

I spend 200-400 bucks a month there.

And rarely have to grocery shop anywhere else. AND their produce and meat and bread make the ENTIRE trip worth it. Price AND quality.

But, like walmart, maybe Costco in America is different than it is up here in Canada?

Jen said...

I am a Costco girl through and through. First, their diapers ROCK! I used them with all 4 kids and never had an issue with leaking. Second, there formula is so worth it. It saved us a ton of money when the babies were born.
And lastly, Kirland (that's Costco's brand) stuff is awesome! I use all their stuff.
I LOVE Costco!

Mommymel said...

Please give the diapers at Sams another try. They just redesigned them and I LOVE them, swear by them. My son pooped thru every other diaper on the market and these were the only ones that stopped my stinky little terd-maker from staining every item of clothes he's ever owned. Other than that, I'm useless for advice as my hubby says I have no sense for money or comparison shopping! :)

The Nice One said...

We have done Costco. We have done Sams. We have done them both together. But we always come back to Sams. Costco is good for "stuff" like furniture and pool accessories. Sams is most excellent for the staples in our house like soy milk, detergent, and water.
Thanks for comin' by this am!

ItsKelly said...

All my friends, the cool ones, have Costco memberships. They even go there for lunch once a week! But I've been loyal to Sams, because of the cheap wine. But I've heard a rumor about Costco's wine... and now I'm torn! Let me know what you decide!

Anna See said...

that's funny, i've always wondered what sam's is like. i guess the grass is always greener. not sure if i get my $50 worth as a costco member. i try not to go too often b/c i overspend.

that said, their pizza is yummy, their cookies are great, and i love their hummus.

jori-o said...

We use Costco just because it is closer. And I'm on mt parents' membership too =)

Bridgett said...

Ok, your "glamour" paragraph? Perfect.

I don't belong to either; neither has a location in the city and I don't like to drive far away even for Mega Big Savings. We used to belong to Sams back when it was Mike's mom's card, like you. But even then, we didn't go there often.

That said, my friend up the street with 4 kids under 6, she shops Costco all the time. All sorts of bulk everything. And she is definitely jetset cool compared to me.

I also had a friend whose dad, in the autumn of his life, worked at Costco and felt like he was treated very well. And that says something for me, frankly (having been a walmart employee who was NOT treated well). I do see my purchases as being part of a greater whole, and if I were to buy a box of cereal the size of a tank, I'd rather give my money to a company that is going to pay its employees fairly and provide health insurance and so forth....

Kacie said...

YOu have three kids, so it may be worth it. Do you usually buy generic store brands? I do, and so Sams always comes out more expensive. If you like to have a higher assurance of the quality you're getting, then I'd say Costco could be worth it for you.

We did a Sams membership with a discount because my husband is a seminary student, but I really wasn't saving us money - I'd always splurge on something overly expensive while we were there!