A Decoder Guide To Scoring The Best Prices At Costco


We’ve all been to Costco at one point or another. Sometimes we go just for a hot dog and refillable root beer. Sometimes we need enough paper towels to fill up a f*cking garage. It just depends.

The warehouse store has a staggering membership of 90 million people. Not bad considering you’ll have to pay $60 to join up. That makes Costco the second largest retailer in the world and the world’s biggest seller of organic food, prime beef, and wine. They’re a behemoth.

Since most of us are probably Costco shoppers, we’ve also all noticed that Costco prices things … oddly. There are items that end in configurations of $x.09 or $x.29 cents or are priced at exactly $x.00 all the time. There’s a method to this madness. And we’re here to help you figure it all out and save you some serious cash.

A couple big caveats here:

  1. Any item sold by weight — so meats, seafood, some produce, deli meats, etc. — will not really apply to this rubric. While Costco does have sales on those items, they’re still by weight, so the prices will vary.
  2. Costco is very seasonal. They rotate toys, furniture, barbecue grills, swimming supplies, and so forth by season. If you wait until the end of the summer season to buy your swimming gear, you’ll find it marked down, often with an actual marker or pen on the sign. Or, it’ll be priced more craftily like the ways listed below. It really depends on the management of that store.

Also worth noting, green signs are not indicative of price. They’re only telling you that that product is organic. So, a green sign will fall into the same rules as listed here. Lastly, some of these discounts might be a matter of a quarter or dime (or a dollar and a quarter or a dollar and a dime). That’s not exactly groundbreaking. So you have to shop these items and watch the prices.

Below is what you have to look for to get the steep discounts.

Price Ends in .99 or .98

This one is straightforward. If a price tag is $8.99 or $499.99 or $7.98 or $1,019.98, it’s the retail price. That means Costco didn’t get a special deal from the supplier. It also means that the product is probably the same price as any other store (unless you’re buying in bulk).

It’s not on sale or marked down in any way.

Price Ends in .89, .79, .69, .59, .49, .39, .29, .19, .09

Prices that end in any iteration of $0.x9 — except for $x.99 — are manufacturer deals. That means Costco got a special deal from the distributor on those items and can offer them at a lower price than other retailers. Generally speaking, that means you’ll be saving money on these items from Costco because they buy in volume.

Price ends in .97

Prices that end in $x.97 are manager specific discounts to move stock. They aren’t discontinued or returned. These are just sale items that that store’s manager needs to move so that new, fresh stock can get on the shelf. So, think of this as your everyday sorta sale items.

Price ends in .88 or .00


These are two of the odder prices you see at Costco and rarely see at any other store. They’re an inventory dump set by the store’s manager. These items are generally returned or damaged merch. Alternatively, it’s an item they’ve bought for a one-off and want to get off the floor ASAP to make space for new products. Basically, if something is priced like this, it’s probably never coming back to your store, or a sellable return, or damaged somehow.

Translation: these are steeply discounted to move out of the store as quickly as possible. If you see something you like, act fast.

Prices with ‘*’ in Top Right Corner

This is another mark to look for on those big white price tag signs. An asterisk in the top right corner means the item has been heavily discounted because it was discontinued. So this is management, again, trying to move product out of the store as quickly as possible. It also means that this product is probably not coming back anytime soon.

Price Guarantee

There’s one more major way to save money at Costco. They offer a 30-day price guarantee. So, if the price goes down on any item you’ve purchased within 30 days, you can bring back your receipt and get the difference back. And that really is on anything. Let’s say you buy a TV for $1,249.99 on December 1st and see that exact same TV for $999.00 on December 31st. Well, you have $250.99 coming your way (minus sales taxes, of course).

That combined with Costco’s 90-day no-questions-asked return policy makes Costco one of the better retailers out there when it comes to making sure you’re taken care of.

Costco Takes A Loss On Ceratin Items

Costco is famous for their $1.50 hot dogs with bottomless fountain drinks. They’re also famed for their huge $4.99 rotisserie chickens. That’s three whole pounds of fatty, chickeny, juicy goodness. And they cost far less than the raw chicken Costco sells a few feet away. Why? Like the hot dogs and drinks, Costco sells them at a loss. That’s why they’re in the very back of the store.

Costco figures if they can get you to walk through the whole store for a chicken, you’ll end up with some wine or beer or salad — or even a TV once in a while. And they’re right. The make insane amounts of money. But, know that for $4.99 you’re getting a chicken at a loss to Costco. That’s a win for you.