I've already asked if you could pay for a Costco membership by saving on gas alone? (answer: probably not.) But now comes this question:
Can you pay for a Costco membership by eating free samples?
Here's why I ask:
A few days ago, a friend told me that at least once a week he and his wife head off to Costco to shop. When there, they eat enough samples that they are no longer hungry and that these trips serve as a meal for them. Yep, true story -- I'm not making this up.
So let's say you would have spent $2.50 on the meal (which is a decent meal if cooked/prepared at home but very low if you were looking to eat out.) So if you saved $2.50 per week for 52 weeks, that's a savings of $130 per year. And this is per person. So if my friend and his wife each skipped a meal each week because they ate at Costco, they were saving $260 per year. At this rate, they are certainly saving enough money to justify the Costco annual membership costs.
A few other factors that influence the payout calculation:
If by "shopping" at Costco once per week they ended up buying more than they would have otherwise and/or spent more on items they would have purchased elsewhere at cheaper prices, then their savings could be eaten up quickly.
If they would have spent more than $2.50 per meal per person, then their savings would be greater.
If they had more people eat the samples (like their kids), then their savings would be greater.
Once a week is a bit extreme, but even if you employ this strategy only once a month, a husband and wife can still save $60 per year eating a Costco and pay for their entire annual membership this way.
I've talked before about how we often eat at Costco during sample time and often we're so full that we skip meals (or at least postpone them) because we're so full, but we don't use this as an intentional money-saving technique. In addition, we often each the samples because we're genuinely interested in trying something new -- something we probably wouldn't buy anyway without the sample -- that we may or may not buy after trying it. I'd guess that we end up buying one in ten items we sample, maybe a bit fewer.
So, what do you think? Is this a valid way to save money? Or do you think people would end up buying too much that would erase their savings? Or maybe using this strategy is in some way dishonest and over-the-top when it comes to saving money? I'm interested in your thoughts.