So, during 2010 I saved all receipts from our Costco trips, which tallied up to an underwhelming 15 visits where we spent $1,699.64. Three of these trips were for special occasions (Foxfield, Matt's 30th birthday party, New Year's Eve entertaining) and a couple trips involved some out-of-pocket teacher expenses, but the majority of the Costco spending this year was for our daily at-home consumption.
Now, back to the question, "Is it worth it?", especially after factoring in the $50 annual membership fee.
The short answer: Yes. We buy enough items that collectively save us way more than $50 per year and therefore justify the membership fee.
The longer answer, one detailed Excel spreadsheet later:
The savings afforded on the purchase of the Izze 12 bottle variety pack during its brief stint at our local Costco is enough to validate our membership. At 99 cents per bottle, it's the cheapest deal around.
Speaking of good deals, the 3M Filtrete Ultra Allergen filters we buy at Costco average a little over $13 per filter, also making them cheaper than any deal I can find online.
Our most often purchased item? Coming in at 18 bottles, I give you wine. Apparently this should not be a surprising statistic, as Costco is the largest wine distributor in the world. I can't say we got any incredible wine deals, seeing as we almost always buy $10 bottles (or cheaper) no matter where we buy them, but it feels more legitimate buying wine in bulk at Costco.
More than anything, the Costco experiment has been a small window into how we lived our life this past year. Most notably:
- Matt eats a lot of dried fruit (15 bags). I eat a lot of kettle corn (4 enormous bags, but Costco only started carrying it mid-year).
- We also eat a lot of apples, but we only buy them at Costco when they carry organic gala apples. 2010 was the year of organic apples.
- Matt has always been a big cereal consumer, but this year I vowed to eat healthy cereal with milk every day at home before work (as opposed to digging into a Ziploc bag of dried cereal on the way to work). This move resulted in Kashi cereal being our third-most-often-purchased item behind wine and dried fruit.
- Once Costco started carrying organic chicken breast halfway through the year, our intake of chicken skyrocketed. Additionally, once we got wise to the fact that uncooked frozen shrimp at Costco is significantly cheaper than uncooked frozen shrimp at Wegmans, we bought many bulk bags of Costco shrimp. Overall, 2010 was the year of more meat in our diet, mostly because I thought Matt's semi-vegetarian ways of 2009 were not sufficient for my protein intake.
- This year we've done a better job stocking up on compact fluorescent light bulbs and making our own vinegar-based cleaning products.
- We buy toilet paper three times as often as we buy paper towels. As much as I'd like to in theory, I don't know that I can ever completely break my paper towel habit.
- We should have bought toothpaste yesterday during our final Costco trip of the year, but one Costco-sized pack of toothpaste can last a family of two almost exactly one year.
- We did not make a single major purchase at Costco this year. No electronics, no furniture, no vacuum cleaners or small appliances. This was the year of the European vacation and few additional purchases.
So, if you're debating whether a Costco (or Sam's or BJ's) membership is worth it in 2011, you could break out a spreadsheet and get to work, or you could take my word for it.