In recent weeks, the issue of “pink slime” or officially called “lean finely textured beef” which has been treated with Ammonia, has been a huge topic of conversation. I was personally appalled that this was being sold to the Federal School Lunch program but I became even more surprised to learn that this pink slime is in many grocery store ground beef mixtures. The Daily wrote a great article about this that I highly recommend you take a second to read.
I also want to mention that although Safeway is listed as a store that uses pink slime, they have recently pledged to stop the practice.
If you straighten your hair regularly then you have likely heard of Chi Flat Irons. They are one of the top of the line straighteners out there and I love them! However, they can typically cost upwards of $100. Two Christmases ago my MIL bought me a Chi but we then saw the exact same one at Costco for cheaper ($75) so we returned the original right away and purchased a new one at Costco near the end of January of last year.
I had been using it ever since until I started packing for my trip last week. I went to straighten my hair and the Chi would not work when plugged in. It was as if the wires at come loose and I had to hold the cord a certain way to get any power to it. I was pretty bummed since a new Chi was hardly in the budget for us but when I got back from my trip I decided to try and return it to Costco. I realized that I had owned it for just over a year so they may not take it back but I also know that their return policy rocks so I though I would give it a shot anyway and see what happens. Plus, I felt that $75 is an awful lot of money to spend on something to have it stop working after just over a year of use.
When I went to customer service they pulled up my MIL’s account and found the date it was purchased and the price she paid. The representative asked me what was wrong with it and I explained how it was no longer working. And just like that she handed me $75 in cash. Wahoo!
I then went home and started looking for Chis on Amazon. I found one that was super cute and pink for just $53 plus about $6 in shipping. I had a $50 Amazon gift card that I had earned from Swagbucks so I paid just $9 out of pocket for this new beauty! And guess what? I still had the $75 in cash (so $66 left) from returning my other one to Costco. Coincidentally, our printer has been dying a slow death for the last couple of months and as it was about to breath its last breath yesterday (maybe it had printed too many coupons in its day?) we decided to spend my remaining cash on a new one. Costco has a $110 printer on sale for $65 so my husband ran over last night to collect our new toy. Yay for us!
So for $8 (because I had $1 left) I got a printer and a brand new Chi! I realize that the $50 Amazon gift card went into play with this deal but since I had done almost no work to get it (this is why I love Swagbucks!), I count it as a complete bonus!
Moral of the story? It never hurts to ask if a store will take an item back if you don’t feel that you got your full value out of it!
A while back we had a great conversation about Costco, here, and I asked for your input on what best buys you stock up on at the warehouse. There were all sorts of great tips, so I wanted to summarize it into a post in case you’re not a comment browser!
Here’s some of what you think Costco sells for great prices:
- jewelry (great quality and awesome prices)
- clothes (name brands at discount prices!)
- produce (if you can handle the quantity you can’t beat the price)
- baby wipes
- shredded/brick cheese
- bulk batteries
- the pharmacy! you can use it even if you’re not a member
- the pharmacy! they have a prescription plan you can use if you don’t have insurance
- soy milk
- frozen fruit
- sandwich meats
- printer paper
- canned goods
- canned soda
And there you have it. Some of the items you (and I!) agree are cheaper to buy in bulk. Even with a sale at the grocery store it can sometimes be hard to beat Costco/Sam’s pricing on certain items.
One more reader tip about Costco? This one was news to me:
If you have ever been to the Discount Rural Center in Eagle River they carry the “damaged” or returned items that Costco carries. We got our Oreck vac from there for $182 when it STILL sells at Costco for $349. :-0 Nothing was wrong with it either, it was still in the box only issue was the box was smashed on one side.
Some items cost the same or less at Costco because I don’t think they know exactly how much those items retail for when they think they are “discounting” them but still sometimes you can find a good deal.
To wrap it up, 2 notes on Sam’s:
One reader wrote and told us that at Sam’s they have a satisfaction guarantee for their meat and produce. If you aren’t satisfied they will not only return your money back but they’ll DOUBLE it. You have to mention the policy though, to get it!
Lastly, we hear that Sam’s has great prices for diapers ONLINE only and shipping is free. Or so it was when I ordered. I got a box of 288 huggies for $34.00 which is cheaper than the huggies at sams club or costco. ONLINE ONLY! Shipped for free and got to me 2 days later. (Kara’s note: free shipping, even in Alaska? I love it! And remembering to order the diapers BEFORE you’re down to just 10? Now that would be priceless…)
We had a great question from a reader recently about Costco shopping. She was wondering if we shop at Costco, and what we buy there (how do you know what’s a good deal?).
Here’s the 2 cents I gave her:
What do I always buy at Costco? Butter. Flour. Sugar. Shredded and block cheese. Eggs (although they are often a bit cheaper at the grocery store with a sale it’s not by much). Produce (we have a big household so we can get through it before it spoils). Ground hamburger. Ground sausage/pork/turkey. Other meats? Can normally get cheaper on sale at the store.
So there’s my 2 cents. I’m looking for yours! I know we have many super frugal readers who are also warehouse shoppers. What are the best buys that you always know you’re going to get the lowest price on by buying at Costco or Sam’s?
Reader Stephanie sent us a great deal on how to shop at Costco without getting a membership- she even called to confirm that this works, thanks Stephanie!
Save A Few Bucks details how to do this exactly but you basically can buy a Costco Cash Card which is just like a gift card. Someone with a memebership needs to buy it for you in the warehouse or online and load it with money. Then anyone can go in and use it on anything online or at the warehouse. I really like this since my husband has a memebership through his parents’ business and I can’t ever go to Costco without him. Check out the article and let us know what you think!
Jocelyn wrote us with this great tip:
Not sure if you’ve posted this already, but I was at the Dimond Costco today (Saturday) and saw the 2-pack Banana Boat sunscreen for Babies or Kids are marked down to $3.97! I had to do a double take, but I bought one and that’s the price. Best part? The expiry date is 01/12! Thought you might want to let your faithful know about this great deal! Dimond had quite a few in the pharmacy area (50+) and they are closed Monday.
That sounds like a great deal to me so now we know where to go for some cheap sunscreen for next year!
As we’ve discussed before, you can’t use normal manufactuers coupons at warehouse stores (Costco, Sam’s). BUT, if you are not already a member, maybe you didn’t know that Costco sends out special Costco coupon books every couple of months! These books normally have a selection of products ranging from diapers/wipes to frozen foods/chips/snack food.
So, for example, I make a point of stocking up on diapers and wipes whenever the coupon is out. I know it won’t be back for another few “turns” so I buy up the limit the coupon specifies.
Another good thing? The coupons are all for multiple dollars off. It’s no “50 cents off” type deals. Of course – everything at Costco costs more, because you’re buying in bulk! So it’s a good thing the coupons are for a larger amount off! You get the coupons books automatically sent to the address your card is registered with. Costco also sometimes has special 1 to 2 week coupon promos running, and the coupons for those are handed to you when you go into the warehouse. I haven’t seen any of those sales this past year, but maybe they’ll be back again. Here’s to hoping!
What about Sam’s, you ask? Sam’s has recently introduced an eValues club which is supposed to provide you with coupon offers to download to your Sam’s card based on your buying history. So, in theory, the coupons should be targeted towards things you are more likely to use. I can’t speak to this as 1) the program is new, and 2) you have to be a Sam’s Plus member to participate. Basic membership is $40 and to upgrade to Plus is another $60! If anyone out there is using eValues leave a comment and tell us more.
We received a reader question about coupon savings involving Costco and Sam’s Club. Thanks for asking!
Costco & Sam’s, because they are warehouse stores, do not accept coupons. Generally the foods they sell are in quantities that the coupons do not apply to, on top of which they are available at a discount price to start with. The warehouses charge membership fees to give you a cheaper price available for users willing to buy in bulk.
Costco members do receive periodic special Costco coupon offers in the mail. The deals generally run for a 6 week period. You’ll get the book in the mail if you’re a Costco member, or you can check out the newest book on their website.
Is a warehouse store a good idea for you? Depends on the size of your family and the amount of room you have to store food! It depends on if the savings realized will more than make up for the annual membership fees.
I shop at Costco, and find that produce is always cheaper than at F.M. or Carrs – unless, of course, something is on a great sale price at the regular store. Like cherries at Carrs this week! Or cauliflower at F.M. last week. Etc… But if your family won’t go through the volume amounts of produce before they go bad, you’re not saving money by buying your produce in bulk. Per item your produce is cheaper, but your total bill would still be higher!
As for other items and what to buy at Costco or Sam’s? That’s material for another post. Stay tuned!
Thanks for bringing up this topic, Bethany!