Stores you should shop at if you like Costco

A treasure trove of low-priced bulk groceries, alcohol, home goods, electronics, furniture, and just about everything else, Costo has earned a cult following since it first opened its doors in 1983.

Devoted card-carrying members view a visit to the sprawling warehouse as more than a mere shopping trip, but a journey. Beneath the glow of fluorescent lights, bargain hunters can stumble upon everything from massive boxes of Hickory Smoked Bacon, to discount trips, to movie tickets, to massive TVs.

Though your temptation may be to sprawl on a queen-size memory foam mattress with a 24-count variety pack of danishes and never leave the walls of the cavernous emporium, one cannot live off Costco alone. The iconic wholesale club is indeed one-of-a-kind, but there are plenty of warehouse competitors, chain stores, online retailers, and discount grocery stores that are comparable, if not superior, to Costco in terms of pricing and/or selection.

If you've had your fill of massive cheesy pizza  slices and $1.50 hot dog-soda combos for now, consider branching out to these other stores you should shop at if you like Costco.

Aldi

Like the all-mighty Costco, Aldi has developed its own cult community of fanatic shoppers. Of the many perks Aldi holds above Costco, one of the most attractive is its lack of membership fee. Already notoriously steep, Costco's membership fee was increased in 2017 from $55 to $60 per year.

Aldi, on the other hand, charges no such fee. It does however, offer comparably cheap (and sometimes cheaper) produce, dry goods, frozen items, and other groceries. Because of Aldi's unique (read: hasty) stocking technique, the store makes it easy to shop in bulk — if you so choose — by simply grabbing a box full of cream of mushroom soup cans or packs of powdered mashed potatoes and tossing it into your cart.  

Other advantages Aldi has over Costco include its compact size. This, combined with fewer crowds and more parking spaces, translates to a speedier, less daunting shopping experience.

The key drawback of shopping at Aldi over Costco is that the former only carries food and booze — aside from their Special Buys section. This, of course, isn't a problem if you're only planning on grocery shopping and not trying to stock up on wearable watches.

Target

Like Aldi, Target obviously isn't a warehouse club, but it does offer some similar perks… such as its massive selection and ultra-low prices. If you're ready to suspend or even cancel your warehouse club membership, Target might just be able to fill the void in your shopping life.

When it comes to comparing prices between the two stores, Costco is a clear winner. Buying in bulk inevitably saves money in the long run, but for those of us not raising large families, economy-size packs of paper towels aren't worth the storage challenge they represent, and 10 pounds of Quaker Oats can go stale before you get a chance to polish them off. For those shoppers, Target's brand of food and supplies are priced for savings and still deliver excellent quality (much like the beloved Kirkland brand at Costco).

Target delivers other advantages over Costco aside from freeing up storage space and waste reduction. The store carries exclusive, low-price apparel from award-winning designers like 2014 Womeanswear Designer of the Year Joseph Altuzarra, 2013 CFDA Accessories Designer of the Year Phillip Lim, and 2010 Swarovski Womanswear Award-Winner Jason Wu. Costco fashion, while cheap, isn't nearly on the same class.

Virtually all the products you love at Costco can be found out Target, from back-to-school supplies to TVs to groceries. And in addition to a snack stand, most Target locations host a Starbucks, where you can refuel on their selection of espresso drinks and baked goods.

Walmart

We would be remiss if we didn't mention Walmart in our roundup of Costco-like stores. Naturally, there are some clear differences: Walmart doesn't offer the same bulk selection as its warehouse club competitor. Costco's prices are often slightly lower than Walmart, but broken down and including the membership fees, the prices at Walmart and Costco are pretty similar.

Another point for Walmart? While Costco has a paltry 514 locations in the U.S., Walmart boasts over 5,000 stores. Even if you don't live near a Costco, there's a good chance there's a Walmart within spitting distance. Recently, Walmart has rolled out attractive perks like free shipping, in-store pickup, and delivery.

In terms of inventory, the two retail giants offer the same basic products — though Walmart has a much wider selection. At Walmart, you'll be able to buy Chromebooks, bicycles, blenders, and everything in between. And after a massive shopping spree, you can chow down at whatever restaurant your local store has partnered with.

Sam's Club

As of this writing, there are three major warehouse chains in the U.S.: Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's. To give you a quick refresher, warehouse clubs differ from traditional retail chains by charging annual membership fees. In exchange for the annual fee, members enjoy prices that are closer to wholesale without the astronomical retail markups of normal stores.

If you're a diehard Costco devotee, the thought of switching to Sam's Club might induce a panic attack — but hear us out — there are a few compelling reasons why you might want to make the switch. For starters, there's the lower annual membership fee. Sam's Club membership starts at $45 — $15 less per year than Costco.

Beyond the disparity in membership fees, Sam's Club offers much the same selection and quality you'll find at Costco. Bulk groceries? Check. Electronics? Check. They also have clothing, discounted movie tickets, hour-photo services, and eye and ear exams. In terms of pricing, Sam's Club has comparable prices, give or take a few cents, with Costco. Sam's Club even has a food court with similar offerings at similarly rock-bottom prices.

BJ'S Wholesale Club

The third of America's warehouse clubs, BJ's Wholesale Club, operates in much the same way as Costco and Sam's Club. Compared to Costco, BJ's also offers a slightly cheaper membership starting at $55 annually. And BJ's offers another benefit over Costco: the warehouse club provides an online-only membership that costs a mere $10 per year.

Aside from cheaper membership fees, BJ's Wholesale sells virtually the same bulk, discount goods Costo fans love: groceries, alcohol, electronics, furniture, and so on. Pricewise, BJ's Wholesale is competitive with its fellow warehouse clubs.

Like Costco, BJ's also treats members to travel and tire services. Instead of Costco's iconic pizza-hot-dog-soda-stand, BJ's hosts Dunkin' Donuts kiosks — which can be a pro or con, depending on whether you have a hankering for pizza or egg sandwiches (in a perfect world, you wouldn't have to choose).

Shoppers report that BJ's can be more organized than Costco, making the experience of shopping within the store streamlined and less stressful. Another noteworthy perk offered by BJ's is the self-checkout option, which can result in shorter lines.

Amazon

The largest internet marketplace in the universe (as far as we know), Amazon boasts an even larger base of loyal members than Costco. And membership doesn't come cheap.  At $119 per year, an Amazon Prime membership nearly double the cost of a Costco membership. Although you can shop at Amazon without Prime, a Prime membership unlocks a host of benefits including free two-day shipping, free two-hour delivery on groceries and food (in select locations), a free monthly e-book, and a whole lot more.

A comparison of prices between the two retailers revealed that Costco does tend to offer better deals on many purchases. An in an effort to compete with the online empire, Costco rolled out free, two-day shipping on many items in 2017. That said, Amazon treats shoppers to priceless perks that Costco doesn't offer. Amazon also provides access to a virtually endless array of products and brands, far outdoing Costco in terms of inventory variety. Then, there are perks like video and music streaming, games, and free release-date delivery. If you like shopping Costco's website, you should definitely give Amazon a chance.

Boxed

Amazon isn't the only online retailer giving Costco a run for its money. The Costco for millenials, online retailer Boxed also empowers customers to purchase goods in bulk at warehouse prices. In addition to ultra-low bulk prices and online shopping, Boxed tempts customers with perks like no annual membership fees, free shipping on orders over $49, and free samples with every order.

Most Boxed items arrive within two business days. However, Boxed also offers an express delivery system for perishable items like fresh produce, dairy, and special occasion items. These products are picked up from local stores and delivered (in eco-friendly, reusable shopping bags, no less) immediately at a time of your choosing.  

Selection-wise, Boxed delivers the same bulk groceries, alcohol, home goods, and bath and body products offered at Costco. However, the site does lack the electronics, furniture, and tires and auto selection of Costco. Price-wise, the items they do share are comparable in cost.

Jet

Another online marketplace, Jet.com is often compared to the major, thrift-centric retailers available today. Jet was purchased in 2016 by Walmart, who hoped to compete with Amazon and other major players with lower prices.

Jet hawks a diverse selection of pantry items, household goods, electronics, and apparel that rivals the inventory of Costco. However, studies have found that Costco tends to win when it comes to pricing compared to both Amazon and Jet — though this may vary from product to product.

Still, shopping at Jet does come with its own advantages. Unlike Costco or Amazon, Jet doesn't charge a membership. Even without membership costs, Jet is still able to offer free two-day shipping. In addition, you can trim down the price of purchases by buying two or more of an same item, selecting the "no free return" option, or paying with a debit card. Special products, indicated by a tag, will automatically lower the total cost of your purchase when you add them to your cart.

Fareway Stores

A select, fortunate few states can shop at Fareway Stores, a brick-and-mortar grocery store established in 1938 in the Midwest. Currently, the family-owned establishment runs 122 stores across Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

As we've found, it can be difficult to outdo Costco based on cost alone. But if you like shopping at Costco for groceries, you may appreciate Fareway for its regular promotions and coupons, in addition to its sterling customer service record. Year after year, the store ranks higher in customer service surveys from Consumer Reports. While major chains get knocked for checkout speed, cleanliness, and produce and meat variety, Fareway Stores are celebrated for fast and cheerful service.

As its name suggests, Fareway values staff courtesy of above all else. The store is also renown for its excellent deli with extensive selection of fresh-cut, USDA-choice beef, natural pork, meat, and poultry. For former Costco devotees in the Midwest, Fareway promises a cost-conscious alternative with famously friendly staffers and a sizable deli.