We’ve had a couple of big changes in our house lately, due to a recent reworking of our budget. First, we – I say we, but really it was all Sir Monkeypants’ doing – finally cut the television cord. We eliminated our satellite service from Bell and now that means we are free from both Rogers and Bell, and let me tell you, that feels sooooooo gooooood.
Side story: The other day a girl came to the door from Rogers, trying to sell some of their services, and she was kind of oddly aggressive. She asked if I was with Bell and I gleefully said NO, and then she asked if I was with Rogers, and I did a little happy dance and said NO, and then she very pushily and angrily demanded to know all the details of our internet service, and I was like, SEE YA WOULDN’T WANT TO BE YA, and shut the door. I probably could have been more polite but man, I was just so incredibly happy. Bye bye! Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!
In case you worry that we’ve gone all 19th century around here, fear not, we still watch tons of TV. Our new system includes:
- Netflix, heavens how I adore Netflix;
- an antenna in our attic, which allows us to pick up HD signals from Global, CBC, CTV, OMNI, and CITY, and between all of those we get basically every major cable show;
- a Tablo PVR that provides us with TV listings and recording ability;
- an Apple TV that makes all this stuff run;
- the YesTV app loaded on our Apple TV that allows me to watch Jeopardy, but only live, which means I now have a weekday alarm set on my digital watch to warn me that JEOPARDY IS ON, pathetically;
- YouTube app on our Apple TV for live streaming certain events (this is how we watched the American Presidential Debates) and watching gamers play Minecraft, which is apparently VERY IMPORTANT, MOM.
So you can see, we still have lots of content available to us, and we’re keeping up with current TV as well as deep diving into old TV (currently on season 4 of Friends!). The up front investment for all this technology will pay for itself after about a year of not having Bell Satellite. Isn’t that crazy? Not to mention the fabulous bonus of being able to tell both Bell and Rogers to stuff it. STUFF IT.
(I should also mention that our internet comes via TekSavvy, who also provides our phone service, and our cell phones are through Telus.)
Our second major change is that I finally, after years and years of dithering about it, joined Costco. I have problems shopping at a place where I have to be a member, and also, it’s not super conveniently located to my house, so I knew I’d never go there on a weekly basis. But I finally decided to join after a test run shopping trip there last spring with my friend RheostaticsFan, when I learned that Vanilla Extract sells for like, 1/4 the price of the Superstore. I needed more vanilla last week and the price at the Superstore made my head spin, and I was all like, WE ARE JOINING COSTCO.
We decided on the basic membership (MUCH to the disappointment of the girl who signed us up) and we are looking at this as a one year experiment. This may seem really anal to you but I went to the Costco the day after we joined and wrote down prices of stuff that I actually thought I might buy there – stuff that we use already, that would keep if I bought it in massive bulk format.
Then I went to the Superstore, which actually has really good prices in my opinion, and also has the benefit of being three minutes from my house. Plus, we save 4% on everything at the Superstore thanks to our cash-back credit card, which gives us a bonus on grocery stores. So with that in mind, I went through the same list and wrote down the prices of the same stuff. Then I came home and put it all in a spreadsheet to see what was of benefit to buy at the Costco, and what wasn’t.
I learned from this exercise that in general, it’s better to buy in bulk – but that Costco’s prices aren’t necessarily better. For example, I usually buy a 5 kg bag of flour every few weeks. Costco sells a 10 kg bag and per kg, it’s a better price. But the Superstore also sells a 10 kg bag, for the same price as Costco. So, I could save money just by buying the 10 kg bag instead, at either location – but the problem is, my kitchen has no space for a 10 kg bag of flour, so I don’t know how I can make that work.
Same with dish soap – I could save money by buying the 5 L bottle at Costco, or the same 5 L bottle at the Superstore, which is actually 10 cents cheaper. But again, what am I going to do with a 5 L bottle of dish soap? How will I pour from it? What will I pour it into? Where will I store it? It’s a whole new mess of problems – and joining the Costco didn’t actually save me any money, because if I were willing to buy these massive sizes, I could actually do it at the Superstore for free.
Another thing I learned is that things that are on sale at the Superstore are usually a better price than Costco, per unit. Three of the things I tested out – Coke, Lays Chips, and Dove soap – happened to be on sale this week at the Superstore, and per unit, were actually LESS than at the Costco. So if you watch for sales in the flyer, and/or price match, and then buy up a bunch of that stuff while it’s on sale, you can probably do just as well, if not better, than at the Costco.
So, is anything worth it? A few things. The savings at Costco on vanilla extract and baking powder alone are enough to pay for our annual membership (I do a lot of baking). Also worth it:
Advil and Tylenol
Benedryl (we go through a LOT of Benedryl here)
Kitchen Compost bags
iTunes gift cards (we use these to pay for Netflix, and you can save $10 on $100 of gift cards, giving us a small discount there)
And that’s basically it for us. You can probably save tons more if your family goes through stuff quickly – for example, I could by ketchup there, in a two-pack of two enormous bottles, but that’s enough to last us at least a whole year, for a net savings over the Superstore of 90 cents. So is it worth it for me to find a place to store an enormous backup bottle for a 90 cent savings? Maybe, but maybe not.
I also think there’s significant savings to be had on meat, bread, and cheese, if you have room to buy that stuff and break it up into smaller pieces and freeze it. We don’t eat a lot of that stuff around here due to allergies so I didn’t look too closely.
I’m keeping a running tally of everything bought at Costco, and the savings on that item over the Superstore, so we can determine if we want to go back at the end of the year. I’m sure the membership will pay for itself but the question is – how much savings would I have to see to make it worth it to me to a) have to run to yet another grocery store on a regular basis (I already go to three different ones every Sunday morning), b) have to face the horror that is the Costco parking lot (seriously, why is it so busy on a Monday afternoon?), c) have to find a place in this already overstuffed house to store all the massive quantities of stuff we buy there.
I guess we’ll see at the end of the year.
What do you buy at Costco? What would you recommend?