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Costco is a popular warehouse club with many devoted shoppers. There are currently 863 warehouse locations around the world, including 593 just in the U.S. With membership approaching 128 million cardholders, there’s a good chance you know someone who shops at Costco.

While many people visit Costco to take advantage of the discounted prices they can find there, it’s worth taking a step back to see what other lessons can be learned by shopping at the mega store. I don’t currently have a Costco membership (as I don’t live especially close to a location), but I used to visit the store back in college. Here are a few life lessons I learned while shopping at Costco that make for great financial lessons as well.

1. A name brand doesn’t automatically make an item better

We all know someone who only purchases items from big-name companies — they likely have a prominent company logo plastered across most of their clothing, and their kitchen cupboards are loaded with products from the most recognizable brands on TV. When I first moved out on my own, I mostly followed this shopping habit, too. The bigger the brand, the better the product should be, right?

Here comes Kirkland to upend that idea. Costco’s signature brand can be found on products all over the store and can lead to major savings compared to other name-brand items. In fact, many Kirkland products are actually made by well-known brands, from Starbucks to Ocean Spray. So what’s in a name, really?

2. Buying more doesn’t equal more savings if you don’t use the item

This was one of those learn-the-hard-way lessons for me, and I still laugh about it when I remember. One of my college roommates and I were in charge of food shopping for our graduation party with our families. We knew we’d have about 20 guests at our apartment, and we didn’t have any issues with our shopping list until we got to the tortilla chips.

If you know anything about Costco, you know that products come in large packages. Somehow, my roommate and I chose to get not one, but two three-foot-tall bags of chips. (Picture Santa’s bag of toys and you’ll have an idea what we looked like walking back to our car.) They were a great price, and people love to munch on chips at a party, so we figured we’d need that second bag. Of course, we didn’t even make a dent in the first one.

Lesson learned: Just because something is priced well doesn’t mean you should buy it. Rather than saving money on chips compared to buying them at the grocery store, we wasted money on a whole bunch of food that no one ate.

3. Take advantage of any and all benefits offered

While the financial benefits of shopping discounted items at Costco are well known, many shoppers might miss out on some of the other benefits that can be found at Costco.

I didn’t know about the photo printing service at Costco until I needed large prints made up for my wedding. I also didn’t know until recently that you can buy eyeglasses or hearing aids at Costco. That can be a huge relief to your personal finances if you need these items. And I certainly didn’t think booking travel through Costco was even on the table, but it’s another major perk of being a member.

My interaction with Costco was very limited in college, and I definitely wasn’t taking advantage of all the benefits of club membership. But seeing now how much I missed out on has made me realize how important it is to research all the perks on offer, whether it’s from a rewards credit card or a store membership. If you don’t use all the benefits available to you, you’re leaving value behind.

Never stop learning

Life lessons can come from anywhere if you keep your eyes open. It may seem silly to gain financial knowledge from a bag of tortilla chips, but if learning from that experience can help grow my savings account balance in the future, who am I to turn down a (deeply discounted) financial lesson?

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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.The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Costco Wholesale. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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