What Time Should You Be Shopping At Costco?

Ah yes, time for the monthly trip to Costco. Since the opening of its first warehouse in 1983, Costco has been one of the world's preferred supermarkets, growing a cult-like membership customer base. With its convenient discounted bulk items, high minimum wage rates for employees in the United States (via CNN), the endlessly delicious three-pound rotisserie chicken for only $5, and more, the hype for Costco has been at an all-time high.

Because of Costco's large, warehouse-style layout, it takes time to shop there. According to Cheapism, the average Costco warehouse is 146,000 square feet, hosting an estimated 4,000 different products on its shelves. If you've ever walked into a Costco, then you know how overwhelming it can be — it's too easy to spend hours wandering the aisles.

So what's the trick — is it best to wake up early and avoid the mid-day rush? Or maybe go on your lunch break and hope that most of your local shoppers are still stuck in the office? Maybe late at night? There actually is a best time of the day to shop at the wholesale depot.

Visit Costco an hour before close

If you're looking to get your shopping done without the chaos of the Costco crowds, going an hour before they close will be your best bet (via Finance Buzz). During this time, you'll be avoiding the early morning rush and the post-work, "What am I going to make for dinner?" crowd. If you're going an hour before close, avoid going on the weekends, as they're often busier than going in the middle of the week. 

You'll want to check your local Costco to see their hours, but most locations in the United States close at 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. If you have a long shopping list, just be sure to be efficient as you will be up against closing time. So while you'll be able to peacefully make your way through the store during the later evening hour, you won't be able to savor the classic Costco experience as you keep your eyes on the clock.

Or, shop 24/7 from home

If you want to do some bulk shopping from the comfort of your home while lounging in your Costco pajama set, look no further than Costco Online. When shopping on Costco's website, you'll notice slight variations from shopping in the store. The most obvious difference is that you don't need a Costco membership to shop online, but you will pay an extra 5% fee on your total. Non-members will also have to look out for hidden members-only pricing for hot ticket items like electronics and appliances (via Rather-Be-Shopping). 

You should also expect to budget plenty of time for scrolling: Bloomberg notes that the online warehouse has over double the amount of products, around 10,000 versus 4,000 in stores. One caveat is that sometimes the online prices can be higher when shipping and handling fees are factored into the final price. Shoppers who are curious to see items not in the store can click through the site's online-only section, as well as its Treasure Hunt that houses the newest deals. 

Once you have your virtual cart loaded up with items, it's time to check out, however, it's a bit more complicated than in-store. Member or not, you'll need to create an account at Costco.com with your email address and password. Once you've added everything to your order, you can check out and pay, similar to most online retailers. Shoppers can choose to pick up their items in stores or have them delivered right to their door. 

Costco delivers groceries, too

Grocery shopping at Costco is a very unique experience. There are not many places where shoppers can purchase a 3-pound pretzel tub or a humongous box of Oreos. Just like many other large retailers, Costco offers same-day and two-day delivery based on your location. According to Costco's website, same-day delivery is available for perishable items and is delivered to your door via Instacart. There is a $35 order minimum, which should be easy to meet considering the average shopping trip totals $114, per Yahoo!. The one catch is that the prices per item are slightly higher than if you were to purchase directly in-store. 

If you just need to load up on non-perishables, like laundry detergent or toilet paper, shoppers can choose Costco's 2-day delivery service. You'll need to spend at least $75 to avoid any delivery fees, but that's a small price to pay for convenience. Unlike the same-day delivery, which does vary based on your location, the two-day service is available nationwide, except in Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico.