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Family Money

Sometimes it may make sense to buy something at Costco, but many times it could be more of a waste of money. After years of shopping Costco, I have learned how to navigate the aisles and to know what is a good deal and when I should walk away.

Before you put it in your cart, do the math. Ask yourself, is it more cost effective to buy in bulk, or will I just end up throwing excess product away before its expiration date? Remember, condiments, sunscreen or HBA products lose potency over time. Another item that loses efficacy is laundry detergent; most only have a shelf life of 6 months to a year. An even cheaper option is to make your own!

What may seem like a good deal may not be. Just because Costco has it is on the shelf doesn't make it cheaper. Would buying that item elsewhere on sale stacked with a coupon be cheaper? Paper goods, cereal, books, CDs, DVDs and diapers may be found cheaper at Target, Wal-Mart and on Amazon with a bit of sleuthing and patience.

Keep in mind, Costco does send out a monthly coupon book. This is when I stock up on non-perishable essentials for my family and buy the fun snacks for my kids. I have found the coupons for diapers, dishwasher tabs, aluminum foil, plastic bags and snack items to be great deals.

Take advantage of membership perks. Buy Costco's Kirkland brand and save money over name brands. I like their paper towels, baby wipes, contact solution, apple sauce squeeze pouches and maple syrup.

Also, don't forget to fill up your gas tank. I use my Costco membership card for gas, and it's usually 10-20 cents lower than the Valero or Exxon right around the corner. BJ's has also brought gas to its Fredericksburg membership. They recently opened a gas station on Route 3 West.

As I stand there in the aisle contemplating whether or not my family will use all 96 ounces of pancake mix, I know we will because there is a yummy banana bread recipe on the back — and besides, it's a great way to use up all those extra bananas!

Nikki Ducas is a Fredericksburg mom teaching her two young sons financial responsibility.

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