The first Costco store opened on September 15th, 1983 in Seattle. It introduced shoppers to the concept of “buying in bulk” in a fantastic way. Instead of a typical grocery store, you were literally shopping in a warehouse. A lot of the same foods as the grocery store but now you had to buy a dozen of one item. The cost per unit of that item turned out to be a lot lower but it still meant having a dozen of something you might only wanted one of. That can be a benefit with some products but it can also run up the bills to a typical trip to Costco. It is hard to imagine anyone going to Costco and leaving with just one thing. If you’re a regular Costco shopper or want to see what all the fuss is about, then these shopping tips are for you:

Avoid the Membership Fee

The only way into Costco is if you’re a member. The current rate for an annual membership is $60. However, there is a “loophole” that can get you in the door. Any Costco member can buy a Costco gift card. This will let you shop and spend the amount on the card without the membership fee. The only catch is that you can only spend what is on the card. This is actually nice gift for college students.

Visa or Cash

Costco only accepts their gift cards, Visa or cash. If you have American Express or Mastercard, then you’re out of luck. This is can work to your advantage, especially if you go with cash. Take the “casino approach.” Only spend what you have in your pocket. That way you can avoid making those impulse buys which are a frequent occurrence at Costco.

Watch Out for Expiration Dates

There are many packaged food items at Costco that can fill up a pantry fast. And there are just as many fresh food items but, again, it is all bulking in bulk. That case of peaches might look like a bargain but if you can only get through half before the rest go rotten, then you’re just wasting money. The frozen items are a good bargain but consider the available space in your freezer before bulk buying. Of course, if you have a second freezer, then go wild.

Bulk Bulk

Believe it or not, you can actually buy extra bulk with certain items as Costco. That can provide for another 20% off the regular price. This is a good idea if you’re throwing a big party or cookout.

Look for the Asterisk

There are some basic items that you’ll always find at Costco. However, any item with an asterisk by the price sign designates that product as seasonal. That means it won’t be restocked. So, if you like it, buy twice.

Pay Attention to Prices

Did you know that Costco, even with their discounts, offers price protection? It only works with what they are selling and just of 30-days. If you’re a regular shopper, then hold onto those receipts and match them up.

Don’t Use a Cart

This is good advice if you are just picking up a few items. The reason is that the front of Costco always stocks gadgets and gizmos at the front of the store. These are the things you never knew you needed until you saw them. But if you can’t carry them, then you can’t buy them and you would probably be better off without.

Finally, try to go shopping with a list. If you wander the aisles, then you’re going to be too tempted to spend.