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Is a Costco Membership Worth It if You Only Go Once a Year?

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When I first joined Costco, I wasn’t sure how often I’d use my membership. Back then, it was just me and my husband. And while we did our fair share of cooking at home, we didn’t always need to buy our groceries in bulk.

Now that I have kids, keeping a Costco membership is an easy call for me. I generally shop at Costco once a week for groceries and household supplies, like toiletries and paper towels (we go through a lot of those in my house). And so the fee I pay for a membership is more than worth the money because I save more than what I pay for access to the store.

But what if you’re not like me, and you only plan to visit Costco once a year? Is a membership worth paying for? In some cases, it actually might be.

Will you make your money back?

A basic Costco membership costs $60 a year, while an executive membership costs $120. With the Executive membership, you get 2% cash back on your Costco purchases. This means that once you’ve spent more than $3,000 in a single year, the $60 upgrade fee becomes worth it.

If you’re only looking to go to Costco once a year, then you should probably stick to the basic membership. But whether it’ll be worth it to you (or not) will depend on how much savings you expect to reap.

Basically, for your membership to be worth it, you’ll need to save yourself more than $60 on your Costco purchases. But if you plan to load up a truck or minivan with numerous Costco products on your yearly visit, then that might very well happen.

Let’s say you’re able to save yourself:

  • $7 on bulk paper towels
  • $21 on bulk cleaning supplies
  • $6 on bulk paper plates
  • $15 on a bulk purchase of meat
  • $30 on a new coat

That’s $79 in savings, which means you’re coming out $19 ahead after paying $60 for a Costco membership.

Furthermore, it may be that during your one trip a year, you plan to buy a big-ticket item. If you’re able to save $100 on a laptop or $200 on a new washing machine, then your $60 membership fee is well worth paying.

Consider online purchases, too

You may only end up making it over to Costco once a year because you live far away from your closest warehouse club store. But if that’s the case, don’t forget about

You may find that you end up placing your fair share of online orders. And while you technically don’t need a paid membership to be able to order goods from, non-members face a 5% surcharge on the items they purchase.

Generally speaking, the more often you visit Costco, the more value you might get out of an annual membership. In some cases, it doesn’t make sense to pay for a membership if you only plan to go to the store once a year. But if your annual visit results in a lot of savings, then it’s easy enough to justify the $60 cost.

Remember, too, that Costco allows you to cancel a membership at any time and get a full refund. So if you join and find that your one trip doesn’t result in ample savings, you can always cancel before the one-year mark and get your money back.

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We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers.
The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.Maurie Backman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Costco Wholesale. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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