Is Costco really worth it?

Find out if a Costco membership is really worth it. Discover how to get a membership and what it costs.

Photo of Costco Warehouse


I love Costco. I actually look forward to going. The massive pack sizes, the random electronics sales, the huge meat portions and the quality of the Kirkland range. It also feels like i'm in an exclusive club, and that I am winning at shopping by buying my essentials in bulk.

Truth be told, I never really thought too much about whether or not I was actually saving money. I just assumed that buying that 4 pack of ketchup was cheaper than individually at another supermarket. I decided now was the time to dig in and discover if my Costco habit is really worth it.

What is Costco?

For the uninitiated, Costco is a wholesale warehouse for basically any possible product you could think of. It is membership only, and you need to fit certain criteria to join. You need to work (or be retired from) pre-approved professions as well as being over 18.

Simpsons Gif - Homer being asked for ID

Professions include:

  • Banking / Finance
  • Local Government
  • Fire / Rescue Service
  • Post Office
  • Airlines
  • Education
  • Police Force
  • Civil Service / Armed Forces
  • Medical / Health Service
  • Insurance

Alternatively certain qualifications will get you a pass:

  • Qualified / Certified / Chartered Accountant
  • Chartered Architect
  • Doctors (MD) / Dentist / Optician / Pharmacist
  • Chartered Surveyor
  • Solicitor / Barrister / Magistrate / Advocate
  • Chartered Engineer / Civil etc
"It also feels like I am in an exclusive club, and that I am somehow winning at shopping by buying my essentials in bulk."

If you think you can just walk in and say you are a policeman, think again. They will ask for proof valid within the last 3 months. It also costs money to be allowed in the doors, in the form of an annual membership. There are different memberships you can have with different prices attached:

  • Online only:  For those who only want to shop on Costco's website - £15
  • Trade: For trade buyers i.e. retailers or shop owners - £26.40
  • Individual: Everyday people who want to have access - £33.60
  • Executive: Everyday people but with perks like 2% cash-back on purchases £74.40

It feels American in it's approach, and very often you find products that you wouldn't find anywhere else. It isn't just food (though that is a big part of the appeal). It branches into multiple categories, including but not limited to:

  • Food
  • Home supplies
  • Toys
  • Decorations
  • Homeware
  • Electronics
  • Healthcare
  • Jewellery
  • Petrol
  • Optometry
  • Tire fitting
  • Travel

Can you shop at Costco without a membership?

Unfortunately you can't. One of the reasons they are able to offer discounts on products like fuel is due to the fact they get such strong annual revenue from their membership plans. To get a taste of the Costco life, you gotta be a paid up member OR have a member who is kind enough to let you be their plus one.

"It feels American in it's approach, and very often you find products that you wouldn't find anywhere else."

Is my membership worth it?

Let's dig into my personal experience, as I am sure it will be relevant for others who are wondering if Costco is worth it. The first thing we need to consider is the upfront cost that will put us in the negative before any savings we may calculate across any given year.

My membership: £33.60 per year

So at the start of the year, shopping at Costco has me -£33.60. Something you don't get when going to Tesco or Sainsburys.

Let's break down the other variables in my annualised membership:

How often do I go?

I go to Costco warehouse roughly once a month to stock up on the bulk savings and to fill up the petrol in my car. Occasionally I would go an extra time if I have a purpose e.g. I specifically needed a new home computer monitor, and found the one I wanted at Costco, so popped in to get it.

What do I buy?

Let's break down what I bought in the last year, and how much it cost me vs the current spend in a high street supermarket or other high street store.

Everyday Essentials

Toilet Roll

Let's look a a selection of the things I buy most often at Costco:

Toilet Roll: I buy toilet roll from here roughly 6 times per year. I buy 45 roll packs at a time and they cost me £23.89. A quick search shows the same pack on Amazon for £32.45 giving me a saving per purchase of £8.56. Total annual saving on toilet roll of £51.36. This is sort of misleading as I have chosen to buy the premium product and compare it to the same premium product elsewhere. You could of course by a much cheaper brand in a supermarket at a much lower cost per roll.

Current annual standing: +£17.76

Kitchen Roll: Again I buy 6 times per year, purchasing 20 packs of kitchen roll at a time. This costs me £24.49 at Costco. Quick search for the same brand and quantity at Amazon is £29.58. I save £5.09 per purchase or £30.54 over the course of a year.

Current annual standing: +£48.30

Eye drops: I suffer from chronic dry eyes (too much computer time I guess) and use eye drops daily. I probably use one 10ml bottle per month. Cost per bottle at Costco is £4.17. Cheapest I could find it elsewhere was £4.69. £6.24 saved over the year.

Current annual standing: +£54.54

Huel: I would drink Huel bottles maybe 3 times a week for a quick and reasonable nutritious lunch. Normally these cost £3.50. If I buy 12 at a time from Costco I get them for £2.90 per bottle. This saves me £93.60 over the course of a year.

Current annual standing: +£148.14

Petrol: I fill up at Costco maybe once per month. The cost of the fuel is always roughly 10% cheaper than the other big fuel brands. Filling up is roughly £60 on average so I am saving £6 every time I fill up the car. Total of £72 over the year.

Current annual standing: +£220.14

Bin bags: I tend to buy them 100 at a time here. I use roughly 6 per week across two bins. The cost per bag at Costco is 11p. Looking at Sainsburys they are charging 7p per bag for a similar size. I am losing £12.48 buying these.

Current annual standing: +£207.66

Dave Chappell holding a load of cash

One off purchases

I had a few one off purchases during the year that I was happy to make due to the perceived big savings.

Air Fryer: I finally folded and bought an air fryer after everyone had been raving about them for years. They had a deal where I picked one up for £49. That is crazy cheap compared to other brands such as Ninja from high street shops where they generally retail over £100. Saving £50.

Computer Monitor: My monitor broke and I needed to replace it for work. Bought a Samsung monitor for £210. Felt good about it until they reduced it by a further £60 a week later. I could that as a loss of £60.

Kettle & toaster: The cheap kettle and toaster we had bought previously was on its last legs and I was determined to find a quality product that would last. I got a Dualit kettle and toaster for around £110. This is a saving of around £90 if bought elsewhere.  

Rough annual savings: +£287.66


Aside from the fact I just like shopping in Costco, I am clearly making a saving vs shopping elsewhere for certain items. This isn't all encompassing and doesn't include stupid impulse buys but it isn't a net negative.

Should you be a member?

There is no right answer here. Under the right circumstances, with the right spending habits it is undoubtably worth it but for others it can be another card in the wallet that never gets used but costs you annually.

To help you decide, here are a list of things to consider.

  1. How often will you go?: If your closest Costco is a 45 minute drive away, are you really going to be going that often to make the most of the membership? Have a think about how often you will be able to get there and if it is accessible.
  2. Compare you favourite products: Make a list of the things you buy often, and check out the cost on the Costco website vs your usual spend. Worth noting the online prices do not always match in store and vice versa, but it gives a good indicator.
  3. Do you drive?: Fuel is always cheaper at Costco - this alone could be a good enough reason for becoming a member depending on your monthly fuel consumption.
  4. Could you split it?: You are allowed two people on one membership card. Perhaps you could share the cost of a membership with a friend and make it cheaper to join.
  5. Do you have space?: Buying in bulk sounds good but you need the space to store it. Have you got an outhouse or garage to put the stuff in? Enough space in the house? if not, you won't be able to make the most of bulk buying.
If you like looking after the pennies and are curious to see if you have any hidden spending habits, try Rule's habit finder. We will find your worst habits and show you the cost over the last year.