Without proper planning, shopping at Costco with kids in tow can bring a parent to his or her knees. Costco and other big-box retailers can be your friend with quality items in bulk at good prices, but without proper information, it can also be your checking account’s worst enemy.
Hopefully, these six things I’ve learned over the years of committing many mistakes will be of some help.
A shopping list for Costco is a must
When I go with my kids to a regular grocery store, they sometimes will talk me into getting them a treat, like a box of Pop Tarts. On these occasions, the kids are happy: they get a junk food breakfast the next day, I get well-behaved children for the rest of the shopping trip. Total cost: $3 or so. Well worth it, in my book. But shopping at Costco with kids — oh, boy. Can those things can add up quickly. If your children talk you into Pop Tarts here, not only are you out about $45, you’re also stuck with 192 Pop Tarts. And, if your kids are like mine, they won’t eat half of the flavors. My fear is that on some Costco run, in a moment of weakness, my kids will talk me into purchasing something random like a king-size waterbed.
Know the samples schedule
It is important to know the tasting samples usually aren’t set up until the store has been open for an hour. Use this knowledge to your advantage. If you want to make a “quick” Costco run with the little ones, go right when they open. If you want to feed your kids lunch with no mess, no fuss and no cost, go right at 11 a.m. before the other moochers get there.
Reward your kids at the end …
Speaking of food, if you are planning to bribe your kids with treats to eat for good behavior, make sure you offer them the stuff for sale in the food court area after you check out. It is unbelievably cheap. The other day I told my kids I would buy them pizza for lunch if they behaved. Three slices of pizza (each slice larger than the plate it came on) cost me a grand total of $6. Better and cheaper than 192 Pop Tarts.
… or the beginning
The food court will sell you a smoothie or cup of ice cream and divide it up into however many kids you have, so for my family, our three kids each get their own cup of ice cream to eat as we walk around the store, for $1.50. Total.
Get a cart every time
Even if you’re just making a quick trip in for, say, a bottle of vitamins, get a cart. There’s a decent chance that in addition to your vitamins, you’ll impulse buy a $500 stand-up paddleboard or some other strange item you didn’t know you needed until that very moment.
Know which day of the week is best
Avoid shopping at Costco with kids on weekends. The place is an absolute zoo. This includes Fridays as well. Don’t go on Thursdays either because that’s the day everyone trying to beat the weekend crowd goes. Mondays are just as bad because that’s when shoppers are buying groceries for the week. Come to think of it, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are both pretty busy days as well. The truth is, I’ve yet to find a day of the week where Costco isn’t a complete madhouse.
Hopefully, these tips help make your next time shopping Costco with kids at least moderately bearable. Now I’m off to go fill up my king-size waterbed.