In the wake of the rising popularity of membership-only warehouse stores, buying things in bulk has become the norm for many households in the United States. Shoppers believe if they buy certain goods in bulk (toiletries, paper goods, and shelf-stable food) that they're saving significant amounts of money in the long run. But does purchasing household goods in bulk actually have a positive effect on your grocery budget? It can, but only if you buy wisely.
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It's tempting to buy enough cleaning supplies to last until your kids head off to college, but some items don't last much longer than a year. Bleach, for example, becomes less effective over six months, but it can be used until it's about nine months old before it needs to be tossed. The same can be said for things like laundry soap, makeup, shampoo, and soap. Before you pull out your credit card, look at the use by dates. Just because it's shelf-stable doesn't mean it lasts forever.
Pay Attention to the Price per Unit
The purpose of bulk buying is to ensure that the total cost per unit is as low as possible. Before you start loading your cart up, you need to be able to calculate what the price per unit is. The unit is the amount of the item being bought. A jar of mayonnaise isn't considered a unit; instead, how many fluid ounces there are in the jar is the unit. To figure out the price per unit (if it isn't labeled on the store's price sticker), calculate how many units are going to be purchased, find the total cost of the purchase, and divide it by the number of units.
Experts say the money saving comes in when the cost per unit is 50 percent below what you normally pay. A typical bulk buy will be cheaper, but it doesn't mean it's worth it to buy five jars of mayonnaise at once.
Don't Test Drive a New Product in Bulk
A large purchase isn't the time to try a new brand of shampoo, diapers, or snack item for kids. It's possible the diapers leak, the snacks are met with disgust, or the shampoo wreaks havoc on your hair. If you're going to try a new product, buy one and make sure everyone likes it first. There is plenty of time to save money down the road when it's gone through a proper test, and you're wasting a lot of money if you don't use it.
Limit Perishable Items
It can be tempting to buy ten pounds of ground beef in one buy, but unless you're going to go home and immediately portion and freeze it, it's going to go to waste. It's easier to process large amounts of meat at once, but it's more difficult to do that with things like potatoes, tomatoes, or apples. Even if you're getting a killer deal on ten pounds of apples, you're not saving a dime if most of it goes to waste. Only buy bulk perishables if you have an immediate plan for them (canning, baking, etc).
Split Bulk Buys with Friends or Family
Sometimes, there is a bulk purchase too good to pass up, especially if you're on a really tight budget. But who needs 25 pounds of freshly ground flour? In these cases, you can still save money, but avoid the massive amount of goods by splitting it with a few other people. If you live in an area without family, sometimes social media is a good place to find extra people to join you in the purchase.
In order to save money in bulk purchases, you only need to plan ahead and be able to do basic math. Buying a massive amount of one item on impulse only leads to an excess of product and an empty wallet. Make sure you’ll use the item and get it from the right place. You can get checks from the bank, but may be able to order checks online for cheap. Do your research first, and bulk buying really can pay off!