CHEAPEST WAY TO SHOP: How to bag the best bargain
THANKS to an abundance of TV shows and films coming to us from the USA, many of us had heard of Costco before it even opened its doors down under.
Case in point, this clip from Modern Family:
Because Costco was something we had heard referenced in popular culture, a lot of Aussies were keen to see what the fuss was about when it finally opened here.
I remember my first trip there, and my mind was completely blown. Here's why.
I am enamoured by anything that is bumper-sized
I spent the first 20 minutes trotting about, excitedly pointing out large items, like these buckets of Nutella.
While big boxes and bags of stuff are a novelty, they can be a trap. I once bought a massive tub of Sesame Snaps at Costco and made myself eat the whole lot over the course of a month because I didn't want them to go to waste. I am now unable to be in the same room as a Sesame Snap.
There are American food items that are usually hard to come by
As Costco is an American chain, a lot of the items here come from the US of A.
Think Clamato juice, bags of pretzels, those red plastic cups that you always see college kids drinking out of in movies and bottles of Hershey's chocolate syrup.
For an extra kick, check out the sugar content on the back of some of these labels. Those Americans sure now how to have fun with fructose.
One of the best discoveries is this buttery spread made out of cookies. It's a heart attack in a jar.
The unexpected selection of items
Coffins! Hearing aids! Giant Christmas bears filled with LED lights! Cubby houses! Massage chairs! Kayaks! You know how you feel about the wonderment that is the ALDI special buys aisle? Costco is that on crack.
Fun fact: if you're willing to part with seven grand you can have this piano that plays gospel songs all by itself:
I am always won over by any store that has a cafe attached
As someone who is constantly hungry, I feel a weird sense of gratitude towards any store that offers a cafe at the end. Ikea won my heart because of this and the same goes for Costco and their decidedly unhealthy offerings. Admittedly the cafeteria fit out at the Auburn store looks like the dining area in a prison, but I'm not going to let that harsh my buzz. Because they have a $2.49 salted pretzel and that makes everything all right.
That's all vaguely entertaining, but is it actually worth the $60 membership?
It's important to keep in mind that a lot of the people shopping at Costco are there on behalf of a small business. There are people running cafes buying large trays of Danish pastries and small business owners buying ink refills for their printer and gigantic tins of instant coffee for staff lunch rooms.
The membership value is obviously there if you equire business supplies, but what if you're buying one of the annual $60 household memberships? Will you get bang for your buck?
There are a few factors to consider.
1) The distance between your house and Costco
When I lived in Melbourne, Costco was a 15 minute drive away. Now I live in Sydney it's a 45 minute drive if you get a good run, an hour + if god hates you on that particular day. The petrol cost and toll on your sanity will negate the savings if you have to travel too far to actually get there.
2) The size of your family/how much you consume
If you have a bumper size family (including a baby who goes through formula and nappies like nobody's business and a teenage son who eats a kilo of Nutri-Grain every week) then a membership could be a reasonable investment.
3) Your storage space
This is a big one. There's no doubt you will get through bulk purchases like toilet paper and laundry detergent eventually, but the question is, do you have somewhere to store it? If you have a garage and a deep freezer and a second fridge then by all means, knock yourself out at Costco. If you live in a studio flat in Potts Point you have no business being here.
4) How patient you are
If you turn up at a rubbish time (the weekend before Christmas? You're bonkers), you will have to queue and will possibly have your ankle rammed by giant trolleys on multiple occasions. It's not for the faint-hearted.
5) You do lots of entertaining
The food selection is a caterer's dream. There is a great international cheese selection, fresh sushi platters, trays of sandwiches, rotisserie chickens, enormous ready-to-cook pizzas, a big alcohol section and a bakery, complete with custom birthday cakes made to order.
A hot tip is if you are planning on going to Costco to stock up on household items, go on a day when you have people coming over for dinner so you can take advantage of the fresh food section. Because you're going to need help consuming this entire wheel of prawns.
Are the items actually that cheap?
It's easy to get carried away and simply believe that you are getting a bargain. On our most recent trip I ran around grabbing items and throwing them in the trolley in some kind of warehouse shopping fit. My partner, who is smarter than I, calmly Googled the price of each item as I threw it in with gay abandon and quietly put them back when he realised there was no difference on the price of the bottle of Veuve from Dan Murphy's.
Yes, some things will be cheaper. But it's definitely worth getting on your phone and doing a quick Google to make a comparison. Here are a few examples.
* Havaianas thongs - Costco: $9.99 | Havaianas website: $25.
* Bose Soundlink wireless bluetooth headphones - Costco: $199.99 | Bose: $279.95
* A bottle of Pikes riesling - Costco: $18.98 | Dan Murphy's: $20.90
* Wusthof 6-piece classic knife block - Costco: $299.99 | Kitchen Warehouse: $429
* Prada continental zip around wallet - Costco: $729.99 | Farfetch: $980
* Huggies Crawler Girl nappies - Costco: 31 cents each ($57.39 for a box of 184) | Woolworth's: 36 cents each ($16 for a pack of 44)
* Aptamil Gold Plus Stage 1 baby formula - Costco: $22.49 | Woolworth's: $24.80
* Lavazza coffee capsules - Costco: 44c each ($34.99 for 80) | Woolworth's: 70c each ($7 for 10)
* Batiste dry shampoo 200ml can - Costco: $5.66 (3 cans for $16.98) | Woolworth's: $7
* Apple iPhone 8 plus (256 GB) - Costco: $1,399.99 | JB HiFi: $1,479
* Hot rotisserie chicken - Costco: $5.98 | Woolworth's: $7.90
* Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal vacuum cleaner- Costco: $799.99 | Appliances Online: $840