Most people know that shopping at Costco is a good way to save money on household goods, groceries, and other consumer products.
Costco and other warehouse stores like Sam’s Club shift a lot of merchandise, and can keep their prices very low, even if you have to buy in bulk on some items.
But the basic membership at Costco is $55 a year, which, despite the savings, can be a lot to find in one go.
Fortunately, there are ways you can tap into at least some Costco savings without having to stump up for the membership.
1. Use a Costco Cash Card
The biggest way you can enjoy membership benefits is with a Costco Cash Card.
If you have one of these, you can shop as much as you want in Costco.
It says so on Costco’s website:
Nonmembers may use the cash cards to shop at any Costco location… and online at Costco.com.
So the trick is to get a Costco Cash Card.
If you know a member, they can buy you one online or in the store and you can simply give them the money for it.
But you can also find Costco Cash Cards on eBay and on other sites such as Raise, which sells discounted gift cards.
Don’t worry about how much money is on the card; any amount will get you into the store and if you spend more than is on the card you simply make it up with cash, a debit card, or an American Express credit card when you check out.
2. Shop With a Friend
If you have a friend who is a member, you simply have to arrange to go to Costco with them.
The member has to pay up front for the order, but the cashier will ring up two separate receipts if requested.
You’ll need to reimburse your friend with cash or a check after you leave the store.
3. Shop for Your Company
You may well find that your company has a business membership at Costco.
Unless they use it as you intend to, most people don’t want to be one of the two people whose name is on the account, as they would have to do the office-supply run, picking up coffee and paper towels.
Just volunteer to be one of the two people, and you’ll be able to use the membership for your personal purchases.
4. Buy Booze
In some states, businesses are not allowed to prohibit alcohol sales to a club or membership.
The law in about 12 states says that you can buy alcohol regardless of membership.
Check if this applies to your state, and if so you can explain to the doorman that you are buying non-member goods when you buy the alcohol for your parties!
Also, according to an employee who posted this on Reddit, most sales employees don’t know this rule, so they may have to call their manager to confirm. So be patient!
5. Use the Hearing and Optical Services
On some health services, Costco allows non-members to participate.
For instance, you can have eye exams or be screened for your hearing.
Still, if you need to buy contact lenses, spectacles, or a hearing aid, you will have to find a member friend to help, or use a Costco Cash Card.
6. Use the Pharmacy
Costco doesn’t restrict non-members from using the pharmacy for prescription drugs.
In fact, Consumer Reports magazine found that Costco was the cheapest for generic medications.
You can also get immunizations, such as the flu vaccine.
7. Shop at Costco.com
As a non-member, you are still allowed to buy some stuff on the website, Costco.com.
For instance, you can get $100 worth of gift cards for various stores for $79.99. This is a deal, although as a non-member you will probably be levied a surcharge of about 5% when you check out.
8. Use Instacart
If you intend to use a grocery delivery service, such as Instacart, then you don’t need a membership to get your supplies from Costco.
But if you’re thinking of this as an alternative to going out and shopping at your local grocery store, you will need to figure in any delivery charges that Instacart makes.
9. Use the Food Court
Costco allows you to use the food court without membership – but you have to get there!
If the food court is inside, then they will ask your membership.
But if it’s outside, as it is in many warm weather locations, then anyone can buy food there.
And the food is very reasonably priced, with the signature hot dog and soda costing $1.50, and a whole pizza around $10.
10. Save on Membership
If you think you want to become a member, but the $55 price puts you off, then keep your eyes open for a deal.
From time to time, Costco will run a special and you can find out about it on Groupon or Living Social. For instance, currently Living Social is offering a $20 Costco Cash Card plus $35 in coupons, effectively making the membership cost zero.
To hear about such offers, sign up for alerts from Groupon and Living Social.
Costco gives you lots of ways to save money, and as pointed out above you don’t always have to be a member to benefit.
But with the deals on offer, many people find that membership pays for itself from the savings.