The holidays are the most wonderful time of year, but between buying gifts and hosting dinner parties, expenses can get out of hand. While Costco can help you stick to a budget when buying gifts, not every item sold by the members-only warehouse club is a bargain.
For some things, Costco deals might be the best in town this Christmas. Others, however, won’t actually save you money. From electronics to Christmas trees, find out what you need to skip and what you should buy at Costco.
10 Best Costco Deals This Christmas
Between its discount gift cards, alcohol and toys, you can knock out most of your holiday shopping at Costco. Here's what to look for at the warehouse store.
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“When it comes to finding the best prices on popular toys this year, your first stop should be at Costco,” said Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. “In Christmases past, they have consistently beat the price of the competition on popular brands like Nerf, Melissa & Doug, Fisher-Price, KidKraft, Disney, Hello Kitty and Star Wars — to name a few.”
When it comes to electronics, Costco has you covered, said James. “Costco consistently has good Christmas deals on electronics like HDTVs and laptops at 20 to 30 percent off the MSRP all the way through December,” he said. “Their deals are on top brands too, not the third-tier manufacturers you see at other big-box stores.”
Chances are, you’ll do some entertaining during the holidays. Howard Schaffer, general manager of Offers.com, recommended visiting Costco for a wide range of kitchen items. “You can score tables, chairs and tablecloths at Costco in a variety of sizes for a great price,” he said. “Costco even offers kids tables and buffet tables if you're looking for something different.”
For large crowds and potluck-style dinners, Schaffer noted the importance of having chafing dishes to keep food warm — and advised purchasing them at Costco. Also, if you’re hosting more than 10, he noted you probably won’t have enough glasses and dinnerware to go around, but Costco has you covered.
“Costco sells disposable plates, napkins, cups — including wine glasses — and silverware in bulk for cheap,” he said. “You can also stock up on other glassware or serveware if disposable setting aren't your forte," he said.
4. Gift Cards
“It's easy to cross several people off your gift list — for a discount, no less — when you buy gift cards from Costco,” said Kendal Perez, a savings expert from CouponSherpa.com. “Gift cards to restaurants typically see 20 percent discounts, while you can also purchase a 10-pack of gift cards to movie theaters for $8.50 per ticket — a bargain in many theaters across the country," she said.
“Costco is a great place to stock up on batteries for less for battery-operated toys and holiday decor,” Perez said. She noted that if you buy batteries in bulk at Costco, expect to pay less per unit than at Walmart.
6. Wrapping Paper
For quality wrapping paper, ditch your dollar store. “Costco sells four-packs of heavy-duty holiday wrapping paper for $11.99 or about $3 per roll,” Perez said. “While you can buy wrapping paper from dollar stores for just $1, these rolls only contain about 17.5 square feet of paper, compared to Costco's 45 square feet per roll, making the cost per square foot comparable," she said.
7. Gourmet Treat Baskets and Tins
“You can find large, gourmet gift baskets and treat tins for great prices at Costco,” Perez said. Look for holiday deals on tins in December with prices low enough to compete with Amazon.
8. Pumpkin Pie
“Shoppers can't beat Costco's 12-inch pumpkin pie for $6.99,” Perez said. “It's delicious and feeds a lot of guests at your holiday table.”
If you need to stock up to host a gathering, take to parties or get through family visits, take advantage of Costco's selection, recommended DealNews.com features editor Benjamin Glaser.
“Prices vary by state and location, but usually Costco offers Costco-sized discounts on alcohol,” Glaser said. “The best part is, in many states, you don't even have to be a member to buy booze at warehouse stores," he said. "Just tell the person at the door why you're there, and be prepared to pay in cash.”
10. Photo Printing
“Photos make great holiday gifts, and are way more affordable than electronics and clothes,” Glaser said. “Plus, Costco members can take advantage of discount rates at Costco's photo center. Consider selecting special images for mugs, canvas prints and photo books," he said.
10 Worst Costco Deals This Christmas
Although best known for its supersized deals, Costco has a few items you'll want to consider skipping. You might find a better deal elsewhere.
1. Baking Supplies
“During the holiday months, it's hard for Costco to compete with local supermarkets who often slash prices on baking supplies to drive traffic to their store,” Schaffer said. Navigating your local grocery store during the busy holiday season might be a challenge, but at the end of the day, the extra money in your bank account will make it well worth the effort.
2. Canned Goods
“Thanks to Thanksgiving grocery sales, canned goods like green beans and cream of mushroom soup can cost less than 50 cents per can, compared to around 70 cents per can from Costco,” Perez said. Schaffer seconded this sentiment, noting that Costco deals on canned goods can’t compete with local supermarkets, as these retailers lower prices to drive traffic to stores.
“Frozen turkeys are typically better priced from grocery stores compared to Costco,” Perez said. “I purchased a 14-pound Kroger brand turkey from King Soopers for 69 cents per pound, compared to Costco's price of 99 cents per pound for Butterball frozen turkeys.”
4. Christmas Trees
“Costco offers several styles of pre-lit Christmas trees, but similar trees at craft stores, big-box stores and home improvement stores are a better deal because of promotions,” Perez said.
At first glance, opting for Costco Christmas trees can seem like the ultimate way to save money on holiday decor, but you might not fare too well with the latter. Spend some extra time researching prices in your local area, rather than assuming Costco deals on trees are always the best.
5. Books and DVDs
Warehouse stores like Costco often place books and DVDs near the checkout lines in an attempt to lure customers into making impulse buys while waiting in long lines to pay during the holidays. But these items aren’t typically great bargains. “You can find lower prices online or for pennies at your local thrift store,” said Stephanie Nelson, The Coupon Mom, who has conducted extensive research on wholesale clubs.
6. Designer Clothing
Finding clothing from well-known designers while browsing the store can be exciting — especially if you want to surprise a label-lover on your gift list with something fabulous. Many designers produce inexpensive lines specifically for retailers like Costco, but they’re often of a lower quality, meaning they’re not made to last, reported The Motley Fool. You’re better off saving up for a high-quality item, which will be made of better materials and last longer.
Costco offers condiments in bulk sizes, but bigger isn’t always better. After all, if you're not getting through your tub of mayonnaise before it expires, you're losing money. “Unless you are entertaining, pay a lower cost overall by buying sale-priced condiments and snacks at the supermarket, with coupons that are frequently available on these items," Nelson said.
Unless you’re hosting a big holiday party or house guests with hearty appetites, buying huge quantities of snacks from Costco isn’t a good idea. Nelson advised against purchasing items such as crackers, chips and cookies in bulk because large sizes of perishable items are more likely to be wasted. You won’t save money if you have to throw expired food away or inadvertently eat more of it.
9. Paper Products
Every good party host knows the importance of having enough napkins to go around, but Costco deals on these items aren’t always the best in town. Nelson said you can pick up sale-priced paper towels, toilet paper, napkins and tissues for less at supermarkets or big-box stores like Walmart and Target — and that's before coupons.
10. Laundry Detergent
Holiday guests have laundry to do, and they're using your detergent. But don't think buying a large volume of it at Costco is saving you money. Laundry detergent doesn’t expire, but it does start to break down after six months in open bottles and nine months to one year in unopened bottles, reported Bustle. While it might seem like you’re doing endless loads of laundry, one regular-sized bottle of detergent is all you’ll need.