I’m a Personal Shopper at Costco: Here Are the Top 5 Ways Customers Overspend

April 17, 2020 - Halifax, Canada - Costco Wholesale warehouse store located in the Bayers Lake retail park.
shaunl / Getty Images

Chances are that if you have a Costco membership, you’ve often left the store wondering how your bill ended up being so high in the end. You went in to pick up a few essentials, and somehow left with a vehicle full of items you didn’t plan to buy.

While a Costco membership can be a helpful budgeting tool, there are also downsides to it. For instance, we spoke with a personal shopper who pointed out why customers overspend at the popular warehouse club.

How Do Customers Overspend at Costo?

There are five ways that customers overspend at Costco, according to personal shopper Tarek El Ali.

Giving In to the Temptation To Buy in Bulk

“Those huge packages of snacks, toilet paper and cleaning supplies seem like a fantastic deal,” El Ali commented on the temptation to buy in bulk. “But here’s the catch — do you really need 48 rolls of paper towels? Sometimes, in the enthusiasm of scoring a bargain, we forget to consider if we’ll use all of it before it expires.”

Anyone who has ever stepped foot in Costco can attest to this, as the allure to purchase in bulk is strong. We convince ourselves we’re saving money since we’re getting a volume discount on a product we need around the house. The problem with this logic is that we end up spending more money on items that may just expire or take up too much space in our homes.

Make Your Money Work for You

Indulging in Samples That Lead to Purchases

It’s almost impossible to reject a free sample as you’re browsing through the store. So you tell yourself that you’re just going to try one. Then the next thing you know, your cart is filled with random food you had no intention of buying.

It turns out that this is common, and many shoppers will indulge in a free sample that leads to an unexpected purchase. There’s a reason that Costco continues to hand out samples. Even though it may feel like you stumbled upon a new delicious appetizer, there’s only so much space that you have in your fridge at home.

Impulse Buys

Costco has it figured out when placing those electronics or unique home items near the checkout section. You go in to purchase some essentials, and then you find ourself walking out with a new gadget.

Many customers are guilty of making an impulse buy since the store has such a variety of products for sale, ranging from protein bars to the latest iPods. These impulse buys can quickly add up, especially if you purchase an electronic or two. 

Buying More Than Necessary

“Sometimes that jumbo-sized container of olive oil sits in your cupboard for ages, just taking up space,” El Ali warned shoppers about leaving the store with more than they needed. It’s easy to overspend at Costco because you feel like you want to maximize your membership benefits.

Make Your Money Work for You

And again, the other issue is that you could buy more than you need and have the product expire if you don’t use it in time. Now you have to buy this product again, and you could make the same mistake again. 

Giving In to a ‘Great Deal’

If there’s one thing most of us enjoy, it’s finding a bargain. Costco is known for bulk deals, so it’s natural to think you’re getting a fantastic deal on something.

Costco is aware of this, and they know shoppers will overspend when they feel that they’re getting an excellent deal on something. This means you may go home spending more money than you planned because you’ve convinced yourself that you landed a deal when in reality, you just spent more money than you planned. 

How Can You Avoid Overspending at Costco?

While many of us have been guilty of overspending at Costco, this doesn’t mean you can’t learn from your mistakes. Here’s how you can avoid overspending at Costco. 

Remember That It’s Not a Great Deal If You Don’t Need It

“If you weren’t planning on buying it in the first place, it’s not a deal at all,” El Ali tries to remind himself and others. For example, if you weren’t planning on purchasing a new laptop or a case of sparkling water but you do anyway, all you’ve done is damage your budget.

Even though it’s tempting to try to get the most out of your membership, you’re only hurting your bank account by trying to take advantage of every sale that you see. Sometimes the best deal that you can get is by avoiding the purchase.

Make Your Money Work for You

Have a Plan

“You’re not alone in occasionally getting carried away at Costco. It’s all about staying mindful, making a list, and sticking to it.” This is what El Ali suggested, and there’s no arguing with this logic. It’s important that you walk into Costco with a plan because if you don’t have a list or a budget, it’s going to be easy to start justifying random purchases.

Avoid the Samples If You Can

We know those samples look delicious, and it can be difficult to turn down a free snack in the moment. However, you can save a decent amount of money if you avoid those samples that lead to impulse purchases. Try eating before leaving for Costco so you’re not tempted to indulge, or creating a strict shopping plan to stay on track.

There’s no denying that a Costco membership can come in handy. The trick is to have a plan and a budget for every time you enter the store so you don’t overspend.

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