Recession watch: Finally joining Costco

This post is part of a series about real-life signs we're in a recession.

As a city dweller, I've always found visiting Costco with my parents something of a treat. The cheap food at huge quantities, the surprisingly affordable gadgets, the mounds and mounds of remarkably affordable clothes.

I would make an afternoon of it a couple of times a year, bring my kids, wander the aisles with my folks and sample the free goodies. At check-out time, the bill would inevitably come to something in the $200 to $300 range, I'd write a check to my Dad, and we'd leave feeling like we had a kind of expensive but amusing family outing. I didn't join Costco since the idea of paying a fee to save money on purchases just didn't make sense to me. And how often would I really get there?

But finally, just a month or so ago, in my own personal sign of recession, I decided that it was time for me to join Costco myself. I know I'm not alone. Costco is one of the few retailers doing pretty well these days. Lots of Americans are worrying about the rising price of food. No matter how secure my husband and I feel in our own jobs, we see rising job insecurity all around us. Given that backdrop, I decided it really is worth it to pay $50 to join the Costco club.Plus, as my family and food bills have increased -- I noticed something about those earlier guest visits to Costco. Although it seemed I spent a lot each trip, those purchases saved me a ton of money in the weeks that followed. Stocking my freezer with tasty frozen foods kept me from ordering out so much. Many items are just a ton cheaper than my neighborhood store -- household cleaning supplies, diapers, light bulbs, toothpaste, ibuprofen -- and the large quantities are convenient to have on hand.

I took my three kids there last Sunday and spent over $300 on my usual haul of household goods, plus a few discretionary purchases that I probably would have foregone if they hadn't seemed such a good deal. I still am not sure how much my family budget will benefit if I make such trips once a month rather than twice a year. But at least it was a pretty fun time (as grocery shopping trips go) and I won't have to run out to my local drugstore to buy baby wipes (oh, by the way, the Costco wipes are the best), for quite a while.
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