To Buy… or Not to Buy in Bulk

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Does Bulk Buying Save Money?

Does Bulk Buying Save Money?

Sometimes we make financial decisions on the “bigger is better” principle. Buying a new home can mean more square footage for a growing family. A higher credit score is always a good thing.  But what about shopping at supermarkets, discount department stores, or member warehouses?  Is bigger always better?

If you’re prone to pushing that oversized shopping cart up and down the concrete aisles, you owe it to yourself – and your budget – to think about bulk buying.

1.  Avoid impulse buying.

We live in an era of pared-down budgets.  Maybe you’re saving for something big, like that new home.  Spur-of-the-moment buying in bulk can really put a dent in your household resources.  Impulse buying, like impulse eating, is often driven by emotion rather than by need.  A rational approach to bulk buying is best.  If you didn’t know you needed it when you entered the store, there’s a very strong possibility that you still don’t need it.

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2.  Use it, don’t hoard it.

Think first about how you will use that bargain case of canned lima beans. Then be persuaded by the price.  Don’t haul it home and jam it into your pantry “just in case” because you might use it “someday.”  Chances are good that you won’t.

3.  Where will you store it?

If you don’t have a place to put your half-gallon jug of dishwashing liquid, it’s not as big a bargain as it seemed when you were pulling it off the shelf.  On the other hand, if you have room for that treasure trove of bargain bathroom tissue, grab that 48-roll package and bring it home.

4.  If it has an expiration date, think twice.

So you’ve found a giant vat of queso dip or a 5-pound bag of coffee beans for an unbelievably low price.  Check its “use by” date, or at least its “sell by” date.  If you end up trashing “bargains” that have spoiled, bulk buying is false economy.

5.  Bigger is not always cheaper.

The per-unit cost is the key.  It’s often cheaper to buy bathroom tissue on sale in the usual 12-roll package than to purchase a 24-roll package in my local member warehouse.  The same holds true for laundry and dishwasher detergent.   Carry a calculator with you, and compute as you go.   The results will sometimes surprise you.

6.  Remember the cost of membership.

Great bargains abound in membership warehouses.  But consider the annual fee in calculating your true savings.  If you’re paying $50 a year to walk through the door, and you trim your household expenses by $45 a year by shopping there, a warehouse is not helping you.  On the other hand, if you pay $50 a year to slash your expenses by $500, warehouse buying makes sense.  Being a smart budget planner puts you in a position to know whether membership shopping is a good idea for you.

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For more great tips on budgeting and building your financial health – including a free credit report, credit score and budget planner – visit  Also, check out these related budget-smart articles:

Photo credit: @Nate Kay on Flickr