1 Mar 2010

Why Buying in Bulk is Not as Good as You Think

Ask most people for a common way to save money on groceries and household goods, and they may come back with this answer: Buy in bulk. While it can be an amazingly simple way to potentially save some bucks, it can also be a buying trap. Here are the 4 misconceptions we typically attribute to bulk buying, and the truth for each.

Myth #1: Buying a larger package usually means that the cost per unit (ounce, pound, etc) is lower.

Truth: It's one of the many reasons people rush to buy bulk, but it isn’t always so.
Just because a bottle of vitamins has 3 times the number of pills in it, it won’t automatically mean that each of them are cheaper than if you had bought the small bottle. Even when the price per unit is clearly marked on store signage or the store shelf, you may need to do some careful sleuthing to determine if it’s a good deal. Price books are a great way to make sure that you’re always familiar with what a “good” price is for any item you buy regularly, and can be made simply from a lined notebook. (Sometimes the best prices per unit happen with the smallest packages!)

Myth #2: Bulk-buying clubs don’t allow non-members to shop with a friend who is a member.

Truth: Representatives from major buying clubs have themselves proven this to be untrue, with statements that bringing a friend is allowed. In fact, most warehouse stores want you to bring a friend in at least once to sample the experience of shopping these kinds of stores. Yes, they’re hoping that the allure will lead your friend to buy their own membership (and sometimes this makes sense), but if you are content to shop in tandem with a relative or buddy, don’t feel like you’re breaking the law. After all, it’s twice the sales for the store!

Myth #3: Bulk-buying clubs can only be shopped in-store.

Truth: Most, if not all, major warehouse clubs can be shopped online (although fresh produce and groceries may not be available via online ordering). This, combined with the addition of several web-only items and the perk of free shipping for some larger items (like furniture, exercise equipment, and power tools), makes it an attractive way to buy your wares without ever leaving your home.

Myth #4: You can’t find good bulk buys outside of a warehouse club.

Truth: Remember our good friend, Target? They are just one of the many national retail outlets gearing up to offer our warehouse bulk stores some friendly competition. With special aisles dedicated to providing a bulk-buying experience to everyday shoppers, they have much to offer. Examples include 3-packs of boxed cereal, enormous boxes of diapers, and light bulbs by the 20’s! In addition to being competitively priced to bulk clubs, you can save big time by using manufacturer’s coupons (something the big box stores usually won’t let you do) and snagging items on clearance.
Still hoping to use bulk buying as a way to stretch that grocery budget? That’s OK! Be sure to keep these additional tips in mind when roaming the large concrete aisles:
  • Use it or lose it. Remember that jumbo container of hummus you had to buy the last time you went shopping at a bulk club? If you don’t, chances are good that it’s rotting in the back of your fridge — and wasting you money. Be sure that you’re committed to making every last penny of bulk savings work to your advantage, and use up perishables in a timely manner. (You may want to read up on how even dry goods can go bad if not stored correctly.)
  • Out of cart, out of belly. Ask anyone who buys yummies from a warehouse store if they are saving money, and they’ll probably tell you that the giant box of fruit snacks they bought were far cheaper per ounce than buying from a retail store. They may also admit that they were eaten just as quickly as the small box they usually buy. If you’re inclined to tear through giant cases of gourmet pecans or, in my case, those jumbo jars of refrigerator pickles, within days after purchase, look to scale back your buying (and your calorie consumption) with a package from your grocerer’s aisle, instead.
  • Bring a list. There’s something truly dangerous about a store that sells baby formula, frozen mini eggrolls, and firepits within 25 feet of one another. If you’re destined to stroll the aisles that you won’t be shopping from, bring a list, and stick to it! Keep in mind that warehouse club offerings may change from month to month, and the joint supplement you’re used to buying may not be offered the next time you shop. Bring your list, shop the clubs first, then buy whatever is not available or affordable at your local store. If you put all your eggs into the warehouse basket, you’ll end up with quite the eclectic (and expensive) cart of stuff.

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The Rat said...

I think that by buying bulk can sometimes not be advantageous. Spending cash now instead of buying goods that are needed later can take up cash flow. And cash flow is important!

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