OK, cards on the table: I don’t really like shopping at Costco.
Being a Costco hater may be taboo in personal finance circles — and it’s certainly verboten if you run in money expert Clark Howard’s circle — but it’s the truth of my life.
I’ve long been familiar with Clark’s beloved warehouse club because he takes his entire staff on a Costco shopping spree as a Christmas present each year. It’s been an annual tradition as long as I’ve been on the team, and I’m sure it predates me by many years.
Of course, I’m never one to look a gift horse in the mouth. So, each December, I dutifully fill up my oversized Costco cart with stuff that Clark is gracious enough to spring for.
But there’s one item you’ll probably never find in my cart: A $60 Costco membership for myself.
That’s right, I can’t even see fit to use the money Clark selflessly gives up during the shopping spree to buy a membership for myself or my family!
So why isn’t Costco my scene? Read on and see if you agree or disagree with my reasoning…
Why I’m not a fan of Costco
Instead of shopping at “stores with concrete floors,” I choose to spend the bulk of my grocery dollars at super-cheap grocer Aldi. Then I fill in my shopping list as needed at a traditional high-priced grocery store when Aldi’s somewhat limited selection doesn’t offer what I need.
Some people say Costco isn’t good for individuals, that it’s only good for a family. But even I know that’s not true; one of my neighbors who is a single senior citizen and lives alone shops at Costco and swears by it.
She says she gets so much cash back with the executive membership that it pays for itself. More on that in a bit…
In the meantime, here are a few of the reasons why I choose to skip Costco and hit my local Aldi:
1. You can buy in bulk at Aldi, too
Costco is synonymous with the idea of bulk buying. But did you know it’s easy to buy in bulk at Aldi, as well?
For me, Aldi is my Costco and this is how my bulk shopping looks:
If you’re familiar with Aldi, you know they have a low-budget approach to inventory management. Basically, the employees just tear open a box and put the goods out on the shelf, often leaving the merchandise right in the box.
That kind of shelf-stocking lends itself to easily grabbing a box — say, 12 pints of blueberries or a dozen containers of coconut water — and just tossing it into your cart!
2. I don’t like to pay to shop
Costco last hiked the price of its membership in June 2017, when the price went up from $55 to $60 for a basic membership.
If you pay $120, you can get an executive membership and get 2% back on most purchases.
However, I’m just philosophically opposed to paying to shop somewhere. I’m already spending money and you want to charge me more just to get in the door? I don’t think so…
3. I prefer the treasure hunt element at Aldi
Both Costco and Aldi strive to bring new and interesting finds into their stores to keep their repeat customers excited and engaged. But I prefer Aldi’s “limited time finds” and their constantly rotating stock.
Just this weekend I found pleated window shades at Aldi for $3.99. They’re no assembly required, just peel and stick — and there’s a cord. The package says the shades will eliminate 99% of light, so I’m eager to see if I can lower my AC bill with a $4 Aldi purchase!
4. Parking is way easier at Aldi
This is a biggie for me. My life is such that shopping at off-times when Costco is quiet (read: weekdays) isn’t really possible for me.
So if I were a member, I’d find myself slugging it out for parking at one of the warehouse locations on a Saturday morning…and still having to park a mile away from the door.
No thank you!
I’ll just go to my local Aldi, which is a new tenant in a legacy strip mall. Even though it’s a small store, there’s supercenter-sized parking. That means more empty spaces than you could ever possibly need.
5. Smaller stores mean quicker shopping
I love being able to zip into Aldi and have only four or five aisles to navigate.
It sure beats roaming the labyrinth that is the Costco floor plan, hoping I don’t run into the Minotaur somewhere in the back near the toilet paper!
6. The pricing is equivalent at both stores
This last claim may be a bit controversial. But as I found when I did a price comparison last year, Aldi won in 10 of the 19 categories I looked at.
So, the perception that Costco saves you so much money wasn’t really the case when I ran the numbers vis a vis Aldi.
Of course, your results may vary based on your own shopping habits!
In the end, my decision to give Costco the cold shoulder and instead shop at Aldi is a highly personal one. Costco may work great for you in your life and save you more money than Aldi. If that’s the case, keep doing what you’re doing! But if you’re a Costco loyalist, I’d encourage you to at least give Aldi a shot.