We're constantly told by big box stores like Costco and Walmart that buying in bulk will save us money, but is that really true or just clever marketing-speak? Well, Bargainmoose Canada has always wondered that too, so we took it upon ourselves to investigate and we found that yes, buying in bulk can save you money, but it's not a forgone conclusion that it will. To make sure you don't misstep on your quest to keep as many dollars as you can in your pocket, we've laid out this checklist of dos and don'ts to maximize your savings when buying in bulk.
Take advantage of sales and coupons – If it's possible to stack coupons, (use multiple copies of the same coupon on one item or use different coupons that both apply to the same item) do so on bulk items the moment they go on sale. This way, you're able to reduce the price your paying per item as far as it will go. Make sure you present your coupons before you pay. Also, make sure that the sales don't have a limit and that the coupons can be combined with other offers.
Figure out the price per unit – The only way you'll know for sure if you're truly saving money is if the price per unit is favourable and you should only buy in bulk when the price per unit is low. A unit is an actual measurable amount or quantity of whatever you're buying. All you need to do to figure out this crucial piece of information is to divide the cost of the item by the quantity. A reporter for CBN.com found that for the right price per unit you could save up to 31% by buying bulk at American big box store Sam's Club. Think about it, saving 20 cents on a bowl of cereal or a can of soup may not sound like much, but, as CBN points out, it can amount to a savings of $208 a year for a family of four who eats cereal everyday.
Make sure you have the storage – There's no point buying in bulk if you don't have the storage to keep the many items you buy or if it will cost you more to store the item than you'll save by buying it in bulk. If you do have the storage though, make sure you rotate the stock and check the dates on perishable items so that you'll be able to eat them before they go bad. Remember, even canned goods have dates on them. If you're storing things in the freezer, make sure you date them, so the older food gets eaten first and always separate the perishable items from the non-perishable ones. If you find an item you simply can't pass up thanks to the price, but you don't have enough room to store it, why not split it up between friends so that you can use it faster and you're also able to share the wealth. For more tips on organizing your stockpile, see this Bargainmoose article from a few years back.
Don't buy an item in bulk that you've never used or had before - What if you buy lots of garbage bags in bulk, but every bag rips? What if a particular soap irritates your skin and what if that new foodstuff you thought sounded so good, tasted like dirt? Now, imagine buying those craptacular items in bulk and inadvertently sentencing yourself to having to use them for the next few months or worse, the next few years. This is why you should never buy items in bulk that you've never tried before and made sure they are what you really want. Anything else is just a waste of money.
Don't bulk binge – When people start exploring the wonders of bulk buying, they usually can't help, but go hog wild and buy everything they need in bulk in one trip. This is a good way to spend yourself to the poor house. Instead, Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar recommends raising your grocery supply budget by 25% and using that extra 25% to by some bulk items when they go on sale. Eventually, your stockpile will mean you don't need that 25% increase anymore and when you do buy more, you'll simply be refilling your supply or taking advantage of the best discounts available, which means the grocery budget will be even better than before you started because you'll be buying fewer items way less often.
Don't let your bulk stores get too scarce – Even a stockpile of bulk items can run out and suddenly, you may find yourself taking an emergency shopping trip and dropping lots of money to refill your stores when it's not advantageous economically to do so. Instead of having to scramble at the last minute, when you see you're running low on a particular item, start looking for sales, deals and discounts for that item. Some items go faster than others, so a good rule of thumb is making sure your good for the next month on every item you have. If you have too much of something, you can always donate it to friends or the local food bank.
More bang for your bulk!
Follow these simple dos and don'ts and you'll never get ripped off or overspend when buying bulk items. There's a fine line between marketing and money saving so be smart and strategic about your bulk purchases.
Photo credit: Jonathan Dueck