Author Topic: Costco for Small Apartments?  (Read 11563 times)

jfer_rose

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Costco for Small Apartments?
« on: July 03, 2013, 05:31:59 AM »
Reading about all the people here who use Costco to great advantage has me thinking. I've never really seen it as an option for myself in part because I don't own a car (and until recently, they were way out in the burbs), and because I live in a small 466 square foot apartment and have very limited storage space. Now a Costco has opened within biking distance of my home. Does anyone here who has limited storage space use Costco successfully? Also, I'm a natural foods/farmers market type shopper, will there be enough for me to buy to make it worth the membership investment?

simonsez

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2013, 06:12:28 AM »
Yep.  Also in DC, also with limited space (677 sq ft for 2).  The space issue does factor in while shopping at Costco.  For example, sometimes you can't justify (or at least, can't persuade the wife) the huge jug of cooking oil even though it would save you money over the course of its use but we both agreed we didn't want a jug of oil just sitting on the living room floor.  We also hike a fair bit in and around NoVA on the I-95 corridor (Prince William Nat'l Forest, Mason Neck, Leesylvania, etc.) and go to the Costco in Woodbridge for the gasoline as well.  Gasoline is typically about 40 cents cheaper than where we live in Alexandria.  Filled up for $3.34 (plus the 3% back the Costco Amex, so more like $3.24/gal) on Sunday after an all-day hike at PW Nat'l Forest, a great day! 

I can't attest to your natural food preference.  You may or may not find it to your standards.  Why don't you go with someone to visit and do some serious price-checking and QA before taking the plunge?  Keep in mind they do have other things besides food like clothing and a pharmacy to name some categories.

It's kinda fun to do (price-checking, book perusing, appliance browsing, walking a leisurely mile or 2) and my wife seriously looks forward to running from aisle to aisle to try all the samples while I am similarly humored/entertained by the sheer sizes of the packages/containers in there and the sheer thought of processing the logistics for a place like that.  Never gets old to me but I will be the first to admit shopping at Costco isn't really life-altering or that much of a financial shortcut given our consumption and cost of membership.  When we have kids, the utility of the place will surely go up but for now it's really more of a break-even enterprise with some fun and cheap gas sprinkled in (and the place to go when we want to splurge on buying pistachios). YMMV, especially with less space than we have, if you are a single person household, lack of a car (a great thing for you though overall as spending $0 is better than spending even a discounted amount, just if you do have a car and use it and are frequently in an area where cheaper gasoline is being sold, why wouldn't you purchase it there?) and your food preferences.  Definitely scope it out beforehand.

fiveoclockshadow

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2013, 07:03:48 AM »
It depends, of course, on what you buy but even so it often works out as an advantage.

People who make their own food, and especially have a large family, can of course realize large savings quickly.

If it is a long drive to a Costco then you want to minimize trips naturally and storage space is an issue for some things.

However, you can optimize storage vs. savings in many ways.  Obviously don't buy paper-towels and toilet paper in bulk if you have storage issues.  However, high cost to bulk ratio items like nuts, oil, razor blades and so forth can still realize a lot of savings and not take up much space.  Also pay attention to their coupons in the mail - these aren't available on line, you need the physical coupon that comes in the mail.  And they aren't cheesy coupons, often $5 to $10 off things that are already cheap at Costco.

There is one "risk" to Costco.  Many durable goods are stocked fleetingly and early in the appropriate season.  Often they are of good quality and at great prices.  Because you never know what is actually in the store with regards to such things they risk becoming expensive (even if still of good value) impulse buys.  The only practical way to handle this is to be disciplined about not "discovering" things you need and when you do honestly decide you need something try to defer purchasing elsewhere and plan to look for it at Costco early in the appropriate season.

Rickk

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2013, 07:11:42 AM »
For you - I would guess that it won't be a good value - but you should go with a friend to do a price comparison.

We don't actually buy enough from Costco to make the membership worthwhile, but the gas is generally at least 10 cents cheaper so I fill up my car every week there - the 3% back on gas pays for the membership and a little more.  Otherwise we only buy a couple of staples there every week and enjoy the free samples on Saturday morning when we do our shopping.

We also have not given up all convenience foods yet (kids making their own pot pies and such) and their bread is cheap, so it is still worth our time to go into the store each week to get 3-4 items, but we don't use anything in the large packages (where a lot of the savings are).

footenote

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2013, 07:28:50 AM »
Lots of good advice here. In addition to the high-cost-to-bulk items like nuts that fiveoclockshadow mentioned, experiment with making your own convenience foods:

- Red bell peppers are far cheaper in a six-pack at Costco than by-the-pound at the grocery. Roast all six, core and peel, and either film them with olive oil or quick-pickle. Either method preserves the peppers for a couple of weeks - far longer than they would last fresh. (Both methods are far easier and faster than traditional canning, by the way.)

- Spices are also cheaper in bulk at Costco. I make taco seasoning in large batches - very convenient to have on-hand.

Focus on whatever you currently use frequently. The savings will be substantial.

(Btw, just to reinforce the "check the prices" recommendation, in our area the prices on tissues, toilet paper and paper towels are no better at Costco.)

smalllife

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2013, 08:31:43 AM »
Definitely go and price check with a friend who has a membership.   I've found that most of the items that Costco carries are items that I have no interest in (consumables, plastic wrapped items, etc.) and perishables too much for me to go through.  I will say that some staples - flour, sugar, rice, cans of soup, oats, vinegar, baking soda - are cheaper and easier to do in bulk.  The extra drive just about wipes out the gas savings for me, but that of course varies.  Even one impulse buy wipes out the savings so you have to be careful.  I tag along with a family member and pay for gas or lunch in return, picking up only pantry items.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2013, 08:34:20 AM »
We found that CostCo wasn't cost effective compared to shopping for deals, price-matching and using coupons elsewhere. A lot of the stuff they sell in bulk can be had as cheaply elsewhere, sans membership, and you don't need to buy massive quantities of it. YMMV.

+1

I tried a Costco membership and honestly went through there with my typical price list. I found that items there cost more or the same as how much I pay in a grocery store or drugstore using coupons. So, the $50/year wasn't justified and I would prefer not to have all the purchasing temptations that come with a trip to Costco.

totoro

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2013, 08:37:10 AM »
Can you do anything to increase storage in the apartment like raising your bed and using the space under it?  Lots of sites for small space storage on the net.

Spork

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2013, 08:47:44 AM »
We found that the savings on coffee alone paid for our Costco membership every year.  Everything else was "savings."   Our store roasted it in the store and it was top notch.  (We've since moved away and really miss Costco.)

Zamboni

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2013, 09:06:39 AM »
Quote
we both agreed we didn't want a jug of oil just sitting on the living room floor.

You also have to keep in mind that things like cooking oil, while fairly non-perishable, will eventually go rancid.

dragoncar

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2013, 09:36:40 AM »
Consider going splitsies on the membership and splitsies on the purchases.  I don't shop there because I live alone in a small place.  But sometimes I'll split a giant hunk of cheese, bag of nuts, etc with my parents

hybrid

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2013, 10:08:42 AM »
It's definitely going to be a lot easier for you if you can find someone to go in with.  I have plenty of space, but the sheer bulk of some of the food items they sell make it better if I can go in with a buddy.  Other good reasons for Costco include their excellent AMEX which provides good rewards back, their generally cheaper gas, and the fact that unlike Walmart, Costco employees are paid quite well for the services they provide.  All things being equal, I like shopping at Costco because they put much of their money back into their employees rather than ad campaigns and fancy stores. Costco is a total win-win for me.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2013/04/17/walmart-pays-workers-poorly-and-sinks-while-costco-pays-workers-well-and-sails-proof-that-you-get-what-you-pay-for/ 

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2013, 11:14:37 AM »
It's definitely going to be a lot easier for you if you can find someone to go in with.  I have plenty of space, but the sheer bulk of some of the food items they sell make it better if I can go in with a buddy.  Other good reasons for Costco include their excellent AMEX which provides good rewards back, their generally cheaper gas, and the fact that unlike Walmart, Costco employees are paid quite well for the services they provide.  All things being equal, I like shopping at Costco because they put much of their money back into their employees rather than ad campaigns and fancy stores. Costco is a total win-win for me.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2013/04/17/walmart-pays-workers-poorly-and-sinks-while-costco-pays-workers-well-and-sails-proof-that-you-get-what-you-pay-for/

Unless you're female: http://www.impactfund.org/index.php?cat_id=14

nataelj

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2013, 12:49:21 PM »
I am in the same area and actually did a similar analysis about a year ago. I read an article that discussed how Costco was often as much as 30% cheaper in its products and that was a big enough difference to make me consider.

I did two things which I'd recommend:

1. Check your budget for the category of items you would buy there. I was largely buying for groceries so I went on Mint.com and filtered my last year's purchases for groceries. This gave me my annual grocery costs.
2. Go see what prices actually are there. I went to my local (Pentagon City) Costco and asked if I could just look without a membership and noted the selection and prices of things I was likely to buy. I found that certain things weren't much savings but a number of main items for me were indeed as much as 30% savings.

With that info you can take the amount you would save and multiply it by the amount you spend in that category on Mint.com or your budget. If that number is larger than the membership cost (~$55 I think) then it's a net savings for you. Example below:

Quote
Example: If you would save an average of 10% and you spend $2000 per year on those things, the savings will come out to $200 which is nearly four times the membership cost! If you only spent $500 annually in that category though then you can only break even.

This can get more complicated if you start buying more types of things (e.g. tires, clothes, etc.), but if most of your spending will be focused in one category like mine (groceries) then it's pretty straightforward. For me it came out to be definitely worth the membership cost even for my small apartment, which surprised me.

Also, I think Costco food is good (and wine is cheaper) so if I buy more there then I'm more likely to eat at home getting an added cost savings by reducing my restaurant bill.


Of course the transportation piece is a separate issue, but I find a resupply trip every few weeks leaves me with a few armloads of stuff and that's doable. Be warned though, the Pentagon City Costco is the busiest in the country so the lines are always a pain. Another motivation to bring big bags to stock up and reduce trips.

footenote

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2013, 02:27:09 PM »
It's definitely going to be a lot easier for you if you can find someone to go in with.  I have plenty of space, but the sheer bulk of some of the food items they sell make it better if I can go in with a buddy.  Other good reasons for Costco include their excellent AMEX which provides good rewards back, their generally cheaper gas, and the fact that unlike Walmart, Costco employees are paid quite well for the services they provide.  All things being equal, I like shopping at Costco because they put much of their money back into their employees rather than ad campaigns and fancy stores. Costco is a total win-win for me.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2013/04/17/walmart-pays-workers-poorly-and-sinks-while-costco-pays-workers-well-and-sails-proof-that-you-get-what-you-pay-for/
+1 Forgot to mention our rewards rebate pays for our membership + more annually. Also agree on their investment in employees.

dragoncar

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #15 on: July 03, 2013, 04:37:50 PM »
On the cost front: I've actually had a "negative" grocery bill shopping outside Costco.

Walmart Canada's coupon policy allows you to apply the full value of coupons even if the item is priced under the coupon value. Yes, I have walked out of Walmart with staples like toothpaste, toothbrushes, paper towels, and laundry detergent, with them handing me $7 back.

Try that at Costco. They neither price match nor do they accept coupons. Not happening.

They take Costco coupons! 

Gerard

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #16 on: July 04, 2013, 05:11:56 AM »
I think it depends on how you live. Obviously you don't want to do the suburban thing and buy 120 rolls of toilet paper or a 20-kilo box of frozen appetizers.

I have a (Canadian) costco membership right now and it's semi-worth it for the small-ish things I buy there: parmesan, almonds, olive oil, butter, bacon, some clothes. I'll probably stock up just before the membership expires, then re-join months later. Sharing a membership (or mooching along with a friend who's a member) is also a good idea.

That said, the store's a pain to get to, unpleasant to shop in, and I could probably use that travelling and shopping time more efficiently elsewhere.

Frugally-raised

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #17 on: July 04, 2013, 01:46:11 PM »
It's a tough call, and you probably need to do the research for your specific buying habits.

Me, I stopped when I was living in an apartment. Storage was a big problem. I got clever with storage solutions, but at some point I was no longer happy living in a warehouse.

Also, I was just one person. Giant-size portions of food don't save money because I cannot eat enough of it before it goes bad/stale.

Finally, I don't buy much processed foods (for health reasons and a specific medical condition). Most of the discounts were on processed foods and toiletries that I don't buy. And for the processed foods I do buy (canned tomatoes or beans, for example), Costco didn't carry a version I could eat (low-sodium, in my case).

(Oh, and I should say that I didn't like the shopping experience. Noisy store, long waits at the checkout line (no matter when I went) and the line to get past the receipt-checker, etc.)

But now that I have a house, I'm considering checking it out again, if I can find a friend who is willing to split the membership with me. (I split a share of veggies from a local CSA, and that's worked out well.)

KimPossible

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #18 on: July 04, 2013, 03:32:32 PM »
We save enough money buying gas, cream, butter, bacon, and lunch meat (I really like their Kirkland brand sliced turkey) to pay for our membership. 

I also buy vanilla, sliced almonds and other nuts, dried blueberries, frozen fruit, frozen corn (non-GMO!), frozen green beans, olive oil, cinnamon, canned diced organic tomatoes, and Brussels sprouts.  They're good for OTC medications (allergy and pain relievers).  That's about all we buy there, aside from an occasional random clothing purchase (kids' swimsuits, socks, underwear).

We're very lucky to have Costco in our (relatively) small town.  I can usually be in and out in 5-10 minutes, usually for under $20.  I use it like a grocery store.

Zikoris

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #19 on: July 04, 2013, 05:06:04 PM »
I've always had small apartments, and right now live in a 591 sqf place with my boyfriend. We use Costco a lot.

Storage-wise, the most important thing is to not have a kitchen crammed full of weird little containers of things you don't recognize or use regularly. Even a small kitchen tends to have a tremendous amount of space when it's clean and organized, and only has what you need and use regularly. It's not just food, but gadgets as well - you just don't have room for a gazillion kitchen gadgets you use once a year. Get rid of them.

We regularly but cases of soy milk, sacks of flour, sugar, and other baking supplies, and other large items without serious storage issues.

jfer_rose

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #20 on: July 05, 2013, 05:56:38 AM »
Thanks everyone. This is giving me a lot to think about. My next step is to find out if any of my friends have memberships so I can check it out. Or at the very least, to do what nataelj did and see if one of the local stores will let me look around.

Can you do anything to increase storage in the apartment like raising your bed and using the space under it?  Lots of sites for small space storage on the net.

totoro-- you just hit on my favorite hobby. Small-space design. I could go on and on about small space design. I've got lots of ideas for making my place better, just not willing to pay for all of them. I'll be improving storage space in the kitchen soon. But I don't have any under-bed storage-- I put in a great murphy bed about 8 years ago which means when I'm not asleep any stuff under the bed would be in the middle of the living room floor ;)

TLV

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #21 on: July 05, 2013, 08:06:16 AM »
To the best of my knowledge, Costco does not sell apartments of any size. Craigslist is probably your best bet. ;)

(Did anyone else read the post title and have visions of Costco selling tiny/tumbleweed houses?)

dragoncar

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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #22 on: July 05, 2013, 10:51:09 AM »
To the best of my knowledge, Costco does not sell apartments of any size. Craigslist is probably your best bet. ;)

(Did anyone else read the post title and have visions of Costco selling tiny/tumbleweed houses?)

I prefer this small apartment from Costco:  http://m.costco.com/Wilmington-12%27-x-8%27-Wood-Storage-Shed.product.100033715.html   


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Re: Costco for Small Apartments?
« Reply #23 on: July 08, 2013, 11:27:14 PM »
Yeah, like others have already said, I would recommend checking it out before you commit. I didn't and was disappointed in the selection.  To me it seems best for people who eat a lot of processed food.  In the ones near me, the produce is horrible.  Prices for organic meat are OK though.  If you do get a membership, check out the executive one. It's $110, instead of I think $55 for the regular one, which sounds crazy stupid I know!- but there's a percentage of your purchases that is refunded to you at the end of the year, and if it's less than $55 they give you the difference.

* As for storing things in creative places, just remember to be careful about critter! Setting out a mouse or roach buffet under your bed might not be ideal, but for things like toilet paper or canned goods, no worries.