Times Your Costco Membership Was A Complete Waste

It happens to the best of us. You're invited to your neighbor's house for a potluck. Wiping the grease from your chin after chowing down on the most delicious chicken you have ever tasted you discover they purchased it from Costco. Your bestie shows off her gorgeous houseplant on Instagram and you learn she bought for cheap at Costco. Your parents brag about how much they saved buying gift cards at Costco. Everywhere you turn it seems like someone is saving big money on everything from filling up their tank to scoring a deal on a cruise vacation at Costco. But you have yet to join the ranks of Costco members loading up their carts with bulk pomegranate seeds and cases of canned tuna. There are many factors to consider before taking the plunge into the wonderful world of bulk chocolate-covered Pocky sticks and discount tires installed while you shop.

For many of us, Costco is basically Disney World for grownups. Amazing deals on electronics. A gigantic tub of Nutella that weighs 7 pounds. The enticing smells wafting towards us while we load bulk paper towels into our carts from the free food sample vendors stationed throughout the store. Freezer pops made with vodka! Even navigating the always packed parking lot is like an amusement park ride! But not every visit to Costco is a day at the park and there are definitely some circumstances where shelling out $60 for a Costco membership is a total waste of money.

You live alone

The main reason people shop at Costco is because you can save money by buying items in bulk, which doesn't make a lot of sense if you are in a one-person household. Sure, it may seem tempting to stock up on ground beef or a giant wheel of Parmesan cheese, but how much can you eat before these items go bad or collect ice particles in your freezer? Saving money upfront defeats the purpose if you can't eat that giant tub of yogurt before it expires into a slimy death potion of Greek goo. 

There's only so much one person can eat, and because Costco sells their items in bulk, chances are you'll get sick of the monotony of eating the same thing over and over. Salmon steaks may sound amazing tonight, but how will you feel four days from now? Are you really going to be happy eating the same breakfast cereal every morning for a month? Even though your bulk rice purchase won't go bad for a very long time, that still leads us to the issue of where you're going to store it. Especially considering one person doesn't usually live in an enormous house with tons of storage space.

You don't have a pantry, a freezer, or an empty closet

Unless you have an abundance of storage space in your home, buying items in bulk may mean you end up with a huge bag of dog food in your bedroom or a 25-pound bag of jasmine rice in the trunk of your car. Costco rarely sells small sizes of anything, so unless you've got a temperature controlled storage space in your backyard, a root cellar, or a fallout shelter, you can expect to fill your bathtub with rolls of paper towels. Or your coat closet with jugs of maple syrup. This may seem like an unimportant reason to some, but in this day and age of tidying up and only living with items that truly spark joy, you really have to consider how all these bulk bargains are going to take up your living space that may be better suited to actually, you know, living. If trying to find places for all these giant containers is just going to stress you out, a Costco membership won't be right for you or your Konmari lifestyle. 

Your nearest Costco is too far away

Costco gas prices are pretty legendary, but if your nearest Costco is a long distance away it may not be worth the round trip cost plus the wear and tear on your car. It's not a bargain if you end up spending all your shopping savings on filling up your tank plus the cost of your time to travel all the way to another town just for a shopping trip. If there are other destinations in the vicinity, or if you really love driving (and have a bunch of podcasts to catch up on) you could make a day of it, but unless your store savings make it truly worth it you'd probably be better off shopping somewhere closer. Besides, do you really want to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon driving four hours round trip just so you can buy a massive jar of mayonnaise?

You are on a first name basis with your restaurant delivery service

This where we all have to be honest with ourselves about how often we really prepare meals at home. If your local Thai place has your meal prepared within five minutes of you being seated, or you would rather have your avocado toast delivered than make it yourself, a Costco membership probably isn't for you. 

Everyone gets lazy at times and sometimes you'd just rather order pizza than prepare those chicken breasts you have expiring in your refrigerator's meat compartment. If you're the type of person who loves planning out their meals in advance and doing a lot of meal prep for the week, then a Costco membership may be perfect for you. But if you're like the rest of us who enjoy cooking at home on occasion but have been known to place a last minute takeaway delivery because a new bingeable series has dropped on Netflix and you can't be fussed to peel a carrot or open a (giant, bulk sized) can of soup, you may not benefit from that Costco membership. Just keep your pizza delivery place on speed dial and save that membership money for driver tips.

You don't have a car

Sure, you could Uber to your nearest Costco, but how thrilled will your driver be when you lug a 180-pound-serving bucket of mac and cheese into their car or make them wait because you forgot the item you went there to purchase in the first place? There goes your 4.85-star rating right there. You could also ask a friend for a lift, but then they'd probably make you share your vodka ice pops with them. You are better off using a grocery delivery service like Instacart that will do your shopping for you. An added bonus is you don't even need to be a Costco member when using Instacart (though non-members will pay a higher price). 

But not having a car also means you won't be able to see every item in stock and you might miss out on Costco's ever-changing inventory and in-store sales. Also, you won't get to take advantage of all the free samples, so is there even a point? Plus, do you really trust a stranger to pick out your preferred ripeness of bananas for you?

You live on the third floor, with no elevator

Having to traipse up and down stairs every single day is bad enough, now imagine doing it while carrying a heavy case of bottled water. There are many perks to living in an apartment or condo building, but before you go shelling out money for a Costco membership you need to consider how far away your parking space is from your home, and whether or not your building has an elevator. 

Brick Underground sums up the main rule of walk-up living with this, "The key to surviving a high-floor walkup apartment is leaving the house as little as possible (so good planning is key) and carrying as little as you have to up and down the stairs." Yes, you may only have to carry up those bulk Costco purchases a few times a year, but the times you do have to carry them up will be leaving you sore, sweaty, exhausted and possibly cursing out your landlord for not installing an elevator. More frequent trips to the grocery store — where you can purchase items in smaller, lighter quantities — may be better for your living situation (and your back).

You freak the freak out in giant stores

Long lines, harsh fluorescent lighting, crying babies, large crowds, and busy parking lots — Costco can seem very overwhelming at times. And believe it or not, all of these inconveniences can wreak havoc on your health. Psychology Today gives a compelling reason for skipping out on that Costco membership. The long line wait time that usually happens at Costco (and other, similar shopping shopping environments) can be "a source of boredom, impatience, and irritation, and those feelings can lead to physiological stress," according to the publication's psychology expert Linda Wasmer Andrews. "In fact, research has shown that waiting in line can trigger a rise in blood pressure and heart rate." 

That's a pretty compelling reason to stick to your friendly neighborhood market. Plus, Costco stores are ginormous and there's something very stressful about having to walk all the way to the back of a giant warehouse for a package of toilet paper or another simple necessity — it's a lot of work (and sometimes a lot of stress) with very little reward. Sometimes you just want to get in and get out. Costco is not that sort of shopping experience.

You have no impulse control

Hey, no judgement here. We've all been there. You go to the store for a gallon of milk and $200 later you leave with the milk plus a supersize package of Oreo cookies, a ridiculously huge wine glass, and a cart full of other items you may or may not actually use. 

Costco employs many sneaky little tricks to encourage impulse buys, everything from the layout of their stores, to moving items around, to offering limited times items that will just make the average consumer want to buy more. In other words, you're not leaving Costco with just a bulk supply of tampons and no rotisserie chicken! Or, as this Reddit user put it, "Was going to be near a Costco we don't normally go to so I planned on stopping for some Siggi's Yogurt and fresh Strawberries because we were out. Not our typical biweekly Costco run. Spent $350 and forgot to get the two items I went for. FFS." If this sounds like something you could see yourself doing (and you value your savings account), maybe reconsider that Costco membership.

You mainly eat fresh foods

If you enjoy deciding what to eat for dinner based on what's in season, then Costco probably won't work with your lifestyle. This Reddit user explains when asked if a membership is worth it, "Nope. Most of the stuff is too big and bulky and you end up buying exactly the sort of non-perishable junk you should minimize in your diet." 

Plenty of people enjoy buying and eating locally, and spending the day at your farmer's market is a great way to find dinner inspiration. Which is why a Costco membership is probably not the best fit for you if that's the sort of thing you're into. Sure, Costco does have a great produce department, but unless you plan on using it up right away or freezing a lot of it, you can expect your perishables to go bad before you can use them. If you're not a fan of food with a long shelf life or processed items, you'd be better off sticking to your local store where you can buy what's in season — and in quantities you can actually use up before they start to rot. 

You're only doing it for the food court

With 18-inch-long cinnamon sugar churros, delicious pizza, and the legendary Costco chicken bake, it's no wonder that one of the major attractions of Costco is the food court. But taking advantage of those super low food court prices  isn't a reason to shell out for a membership — you don't even need to be a Costco member to take advantage of those $1.50 hot dog and a soda deals. 

That's right, you can definitely enjoy those treats without a membership. The easiest way to do it is find a Costco with a food court right outside. As long as you're paying in cash, there will be no questions asked. But what if your local Costco has an inside food court? Costco's customer service talked to Cooking Light, and confirmed that even if the food court is inside you can still partake without a membership — just tell the card checker at the door that you're only there to eat! 

If you're nervous about trying to waltz in with no card, Lifehacker suggests using a gift card to get in, even if you have no balance on it. Then mosey on up to the food court and eat all the frozen yogurt you can handle. No membership, no problem. 

You already have an Amazon Prime or Sam's Club membership

If you already have another warehouse store membership (like Sam's Club or BJ's Wholesale Club) or an Amazon Prime account, it may not be worth it for you to add a Costco membership to the list of yearly membership fees, depending on what products your household uses most often. 

Marketwatch breaks down adding a Costco membership in addition to already having Amazon Prime down like this: "Ultimately, choosing one over the other will come down to a person's needs and preferences. If saving money is important, Costco may be a better bet, but with convenient shipping and the added perks Amazon Prime may fit a consumer's lifestyle better. You can order stuff from Costco online, but you'll pay for shipping," Jeanine Skowronski, a credit expert with Credit.com, explained to the publication. "On the flip side, you can't really fill up your gas tank through Amazon." 

Another consumer quoted in the article puts it like this: "I'd rather pay a little more for paper towels right to my door than have to deal with the Costco parking lot." Amen to that. And if you're already paying for one, do you really need to pay for another?

You can't be bothered with price comparing

One of the best ways to save money at Costco is to comparison shop before you even leave the house. According to a BMO Capital Markets Study (via MarketWatch) the prices on Costco's wholesale website are on average 17 percent cheaper than the prices on Amazon. The issue is, that doesn't hold true for all items all the time, and those prices aren't always the same as what you'll find in the store. Add in factors like what's on sale according to your local grocery store's weekly flyer, coupon codes and discounts offered via online retailers, and if your local market has a store savings card that provides extra discounts, and you could be paying a lot more for that bulk item at Costco. This is where mobile price comparison apps come in handy, and also why it's a good idea to check out the Costco website before your shopping trip. 

"Our job is to provide great products and services at great savings to members, but we also want to wow you," Richard Galanti, Costco's chief financial officer, told Consumer Reports. "The website makes that possible with savings on large appliances, exercise equipment, and luxury items you might not expect. The website has plenty of offerings you won't find in the store." A tip like this can help you find the best prices, but if you're the kind of person who isn't interested in doing research before you hit the stores, you may be better off sticking to a place where you're most familiar with their pricing system and what days they offer the best sales and double coupons.