I have been a member of Costco, (then Price Club) since 1992. When I first joined, you had to show proof of belonging to a qualifying organization. In my case, I worked in a school district so I was allowed to become a Costco member. My then boyfriend had to be added to my account as an extra card holder since he worked for a small company that was not on the Price Club list. It cost $35 a year to be a member and my renewal this year was $50. In 18 years the dues have gone up $15 and I have NO complaints about that. I do believe that I do save the cost of the membership with my shopping at Costco over the year.
When I lived in Northern Virginia and the Costco opened at Pentagon City, it was like MAGIC. It sold beer and wine, had a great selection of items and and best of all, was close to my home, actually on my way to and from home. I would stop there at least 3x a week.
When I moved back to New England, Costco became a destination shop. The closest one to home is 20 miles away. I would have to plan my shopping trips. For someone who dislikes the grocery store experience, Costco has been a sanity saver. I have my list of items I can buy in bulk. Depending on the time of day, I can be in and out of Costco in less than 30 minutes. I do my best to avoid the store on the weekends-way too many people and screaming children.
My visit to Costco yesterday was a bit pricey $132 in the warehouse-this included my yearly renewal and a new pair of sneakers that I wanted, but did not need right now, $55 in the optical department for new lenses (needed) and $32 at the gas pump. I saved about 30% on the cost of my contacts (I've checked out 1800 contacts and other vendors), the gas is always 10c-15c per gallon cheaper than most local gas stations, and I'm well stocked up on garbage bags.
Even though I have limited storage space, I still shop at Costco for my paper goods (tissues, TP, paper towels), rice, cereal,juices, soda water, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, contacts, gas, et al. I know if I read all the circulars I could probably find the better deals at the chain stores, but honestly, I don't do that sort of shopping. I would lose my freaking mind if I had to spend my time going from Wal Mart to K-Mart to Target to Costco to Stop and Shop to Shaws all in the name of saving a few dollars on the basics. I find shopping to be a neccessary evil most of the time and if I can get my purchases at a reasonable price and fast, I do.
What I don't buy at Costco are most of the frozen pre-prepared foods. While having a huge box of frozen pizzas may be tempting for those days that I don't feel like cooking, the listed fat grams on most boxes alone are enough to make me run to a cardiologist. I prefer non frozen chicken breast over frozen chicken breast pieces. I make my own burgers from ground beef, I don't use pre-made patties and as much as I like peas, having a 5 pound bag of frozen peas in the freezer would pretty much take up all my freezer space. I can see if people have families that these items can be a time saver and even a money saver. I'd rather pop a frozen pizza in the oven for $5 than get the same size in take out for $10.
What can make Costco a waste a money is if you don't shop wisely. If you have a small family, or like me are single, sometimes these bulk items can go to waste. I happen to love salads and will eat a whole bag of salad mix in a few days. Even if I miss a day or two and the tail end gets a bit mushy, the cost of the salad from Costco is still less than half for half the amount at the grocery store. BUT if you are not a salad eater, only use the product for one meal and then let the rest of it rot, you are better off buying a bag of lettuce at the grocery store. Not everyone needs a 3 lb jar of mayo, you will probably be better off getting your mayo from your local grocery store.
Plus you can't beat the $1.50 for the hot dog and soda as a great quick lunch or snack...:)