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I joined Costco almost six years ago. At the time, it didn’t take much convincing — just three things (all $10 or less!) sold me on a Costco membership. I grabbed a pen, signed on the dotted line, and cemented (in plastic) my relationship status as a Gold Star member. I’ve truly loved my shopping experiences there — finding my favorite breakfast staples in bulk and stocking up on seasonal must-haves, frozen shortcuts, and even the occasional non-grocery essential. Plus, the staff at Costco is excellent in terms of kindness, helpfulness, and service.
So you may be wondering why on earth I would cancel my membership. I will tell you — it was not an overnight decision or one I made lightly. It took me two years to break things off with my beloved warehouse. Last year, I seriously considered ending the relationship, but reversed course and actually upgraded to a Gold Star Executive Membership (essentially getting my membership to pay for itself).
It wasn’t until I tallied up my spending at other stores that I learned I was paying the same amount per ounce at these other non-bulk retailers. I was also buying smaller quantities each trip — and overall — when I shopped somewhere besides Costco. In total, I’ve saved almost $500 in the course of a year by canceling my membership and switching up my shopping strategy.
Why I Didn’t Renew My Costco Membership
In late 2022, I saw my yearly Costco rewards check was just $30 (despite upgrading to an executive membership and earning 2% of my money back for buying groceries at Costco) — a lot less than what I originally expected it to be. I also realized just how much my purchasing habits had changed since 2020: I started sticking to my set grocery list — frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables, oats, yogurt, sometimes a condiment or two, household goods like toilet paper and paper towels, and that’s it — due to current budget constraints. (There’s just not much money left for things I’d find on a Costco “treasure hunt.”)
I thought maybe I could find similar deals on these items at other stores in my area, and it turns out my hunch was right. Granted, I’m not your typical Costco member: I’m single and don’t use many of the perks that come with a Costco membership for families. I also don’t buy meat, fish, or poultry (I’m a 15-year vegetarian), so I’m not able to take advantage of the savings in those departments.
After tracking my costs, I learned I was spending less on groceries and household essentials each month by shopping at stores other than Costco. So it made sense for me to not pay the fee to renew my membership and let it expire instead.
How I Changed My Grocery Shopping Strategy
I’m lucky enough to live within a mile of a Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Aldi, and two local grocery stores I love. I joined Sam’s two years ago (the membership is cheaper than Costco’s, by the way) and now buy many of my grocery staples there, like toilet paper, paper towels, produce, and yogurt. The remaining items I get at Target or a local grocer (if there’s a good sale). Whatever else I can’t find, I pick up at Walmart.
I have saved so much money in the course of a year by doing this. I shop mostly store-brand items, and less quantity overall. I only buy what my freezer and fridge can hold at a time, and I’m able to keep better tabs of what I already have on hand.
Does this mean I won’t rejoin Costco in the future? Absolutely not. In fact, I most likely will if the economy improves and my income goes up or my family situation changes. But right now, especially with talk of Costco raising membership fees, I don’t see that happening in the near future.
How has your grocery shopping changed over the past year? Tell us about it in the comments below.