Let’s talk about Costco and peer pressure for a minute. Think they’re unrelated?
Peer pressure is real – even after you grow up and out of that cliquey junior high “I-need-friends” stage of life.
Even grown women can put a little pressure on ya from time to time.
I’ve been feeling that pressure lately to do something I wasn’t sure of.
To change my normal routine and add another stop on grocery shopping day.
You know that day – when your cupboard is bare, you need to make dinner and the kids might revolt if you try to slide them another pb&j across the table.
They’re still going to know it’s peanut butter and jelly, even if you cut it into triangles this time.
It’s when your husband calls to offer to pick up some pizza “or something” on the way home from work.
Wait – it’s amazing when that happens. I’m always quick to say “absolutely” and let him know how much of my hero he is :).
What was I talking about?
Oh yes – peer pressure.
It was coming from my mom friends. My mom friends who have 1/3 or less of the kids that I have.
- 1 It was about groceries and saving money.
- 2 But they were disappointed. Because, the truth is, I had never been there.
- 3 And what we found out was interesting.
- 4 Target: $158.55
- 5 Costco: $159.38
- 6 Walmart: $164.56
- 7 Target: $158.55 – 5% (Red Card usage) = $150.62
- 8 Costco: $159.38 + $1.05 (membership fee per week at time of publishing) = $160.43
- 9 Walmart: $164.56
It was about groceries and saving money.
Yes, recently one of those warehouse stores opened in my area. You know the kind, the characteristics are impossible to miss:
- ginormous shopping carts where you can strap in 2 or 3 kids
- “bouncers” at the door who frisk you for your membership card coming in and then again for your receipt on the way out
- bigger than life bags of shredded cheese that would last an average sized family three months – did you know you can freeze cheese? True story.
- cases upon cases upon cases of toilet paper and diapers (kind of a theme there)
You guessed it – COSTCO had arrived.
My friends were convinced that I must have been first in line on opening day to sign up for a family membership and stuff my face with all the great samples they had available.
But they were disappointed. Because, the truth is, I had never been there.
Yeah, they were shocked to hear that. Certainly, any decent mother with a gaggle of kids like mine had to recognize the great heap of savings she could obtain by shopping for groceries at Costco.
Didn’t I care about my family? Wasn’t I thankful for my husband’s hard earned income? Didn’t I want to be a champion of my checkbook and save enough money to take the whole crew to Disney for Christmas? Hadn’t I heard about the hotdogs?
Ok – that might be going too far. But it worked. I just couldn’t take it. The judgemental sighs and shocked expressions.
So I caved.
Yup, totally gave in to the pressure.
I’m not as strong as I used to be – or maybe I’m only as strong as I used to be . . .
I grabbed a notebook and divided it into columns for three of the most popular stores in our area: Target, Walmart, and the heralded Costco. Next, I made a list of 32 items that we buy pretty consistently each week. Things like frozen chicken tenders, fruit, peanut butter, and everything in between. I also included household goods like laundry soap and diapers just to keep it real.
Because what’s the point otherwise?
We decided to make it a date afternoon. So my pizza bringing-hero-husband and I headed out to Costco to discover the greatness together.
Because who doesn’t love sharing new adventures with their hubby?
And what we found out was interesting.
Here’s the breakdown:
The total cost of the 32 items on our list – keep in mind that if Costco had a 3lb bag of shredded cheese, we made sure to price out 3lbs of shredded cheese at the other stores as well, doing our best to compare apples to apples (or cheese to cheese in this case).
Surprised? We weren’t really as we had done a similar reconnaissance of Sam’s Club a few years ago (before Costco descended) and had similar results. The true cost can only be found when you factor in that we save 5% each time we shop at Target with our Red Card.
You also have to factor in the membership cost at Costco. The cheapest yearly membership fee is $55 – which adds slightly more than $1 each week to the actual “cost”.
Factoring in these two things, your results are as follows:
Target: $158.55 – 5% (Red Card usage) = $150.62
Costco: $159.38 + $1.05 (membership fee per week at time of publishing) = $160.43
Now – this is just a tally of the money that we would spend at each location. And, looking at the numbers, Costco is not the winner anyway. But sometimes it’s more than just the money. This doesn’t deal at all with the ease, comfort or satisfaction at shopping somewhere.
For me, there’s just something I don’t enjoy about having to show ID to get into a store in the first place.
When we went to Costco that day we had to practically beg to be let in. We were fully aware that we wouldn’t be able to make any purchases, as we’re not members, but we were told by staff at the door that it was not allowed for people to come in and check out the place and what it had to offer. This sounded ridiculous that they would expect you to pay for a membership before even being able to decide if Costco was right for your family. We asked for a manager who told us that we absolutely could come in and check things out.
I also don’t like having to show my receipt when I’m leaving a store every time. I’ve waited in line to pay for my things and now I have to wait in line to show you proof that I’ve paid for my things? I’m not sure that being treated as if I’ve stolen something is a way to get me to want to come back. I understand loss prevention and all of that stuff, but I still don’t like it.
In our area, the lines at Walmart are infamous.
They’re the stuff people talk about at picnics. It’s common knowledge that you DO NOT buy ice cream from Walmart because it will be soup before you get to your car. Just don’t. Even if Walmart was cheaper, I’d still have to factor in my wait time and my overall mental health ;). That’s worth something to me.
I understand that some people only shop at Costco for a few choice items.
We learned that, yes, there are a few items that are more affordable at Costco than at the other two stores. BUT, I’m not willing to make another stop, spending more time, more gas and more effort just to save a few cents on a few items. If you add the membership fee on top of all of the rest, are you really saving that much? For me, it’s just not worth it.
Costco – it’s not you, it’s us.
If Costco is working for your family, that’s great! In the end, we decided (an easy decision) that Costco is not the right place for our family to shop. We can save more money, more time and more effort by sticking to Target for our weekly grocery shopping. And saving time and effort has got to be worth something as well. Who’s time and effort isn’t valuable?
I haven’t told my friends yet. I’m still busy growing a thicker skin. But hopefully, when I do tell them, they’ll take a little spreadsheet out and do some investigating for themselves. Hopefully, they’ll be inspired to do the detective work to find out if Costco is really the best thing for their family.