Six Secrets to Saving Even More While Shopping Costco

As a Costco shopper you’re probably quite familiar with the price cards that hang above every product on the shelves.  What you may not have noticed is that these cards have “secret” information encoded into them. By learning and using this information to your advantage, you could save big bucks – and potentially some heartache (see #2 below).

It’s not that complicated, so lets being cracking the code:

  1. Prices that end in .97 are special, limited-time deals created by local Costco store managers at their discretion – typically to get rid of slow-selling or seasonal merchandise.  These clearance prices are local to that one store only, although they could be on clearance at other stores as well. It’s possible that a .97 item can be lowered further in price the longer it sits on the shelf, so be sure to pay attention to the date code on the card (see the Bonus Tip below). Usually, once the items are gone, they are gone for good – especially if there is an asterisk on the price card. Keep on reading to see what this means.
  2. Price cards that have an asterisk ( * ) in the upper right corner denote products that are discontinued and will not return. Either the product is discontinued because it didn’t sell through or because a newer version of the product will be introduced in the future and they want to get rid of the old merchandise.  If you see the *, you’d better buy quick, because it will very likely be gone by the time you return to the same store. (Pro Tip: Ask a manager to call a nearby store to see if they still have any remaining.)  You can always change your mind and return it in the future; Costco has an awesome return policy, even on clearance and discontinued items.
  3. Prices that end in .00 or .88 are usually store returns, floor models, or the last few units remaining that the manager is trying to get rid of.  You’ll almost always find only one or two of these items for sale and they are usually tucked away at the end of an isle on a flat bed cart or strewn around one of the perimeter walls inside the store.  While you could be getting an amazing deal on these items, inspect them very carefully before purchasing as they could be damaged in some way or even missing a part. Again, we recommend grabbing the item immediately if you have even the slightest interest in buying it; another savvy shopper may snatch it up while you try to justify the purchase in your mind as you continue wandering the store. (Men, we’re talking to you! If you decide you can’t justify that 10-pound bucket of sunflower seeds for $3.00 to your wife, just put it back for the next single guy that comes along.)
  4. Prices that end in .9 (except .99) such as .49, .59, & .69  are often manufacturer special sale items that may or may not be a good deal. Honestly, it ranges from item to item. These are likely products new to the store that are being tested by the manufacturer so they offer pricing that may be lower than what you’d normally see elsewhere. As with most of these deals, YMMV at your local store.
  5. Prices that end in .99 are just boring old regular (but still low) priced products.  If you notice a seasonal item on the shelves that’s not so much in season anymore or a food product that’s marked with an * and not selling quickly, it’s likely it will end up a .97 soon. You might want to wait to purchase it.
  6. BONUS TIP!  There is a date code usually in the bottom right corner of the price card (although sometimes it on the left side) – it tells you the date the price was last updated. Did you know that a .97 price can change and go even lower? It can!  If the date is at least a few weeks old and there is still a lot of product on the shelf, there’s a good chance another round of discounts are coming soon.

See, that wasn’t very difficult. If you remember nothing else from the above, just keep an eye out for the number 97. It’s your safest bet to savings.

Oh, and don’t forget to check out our Costco Clearance Calendar to get the lowdown on when new seasonal products come and go (on clearance!) at Costco.

For (way) more detailed information on Costco pricing secrets, check out Len Rapoport’s article on Hubpages.