Buying in bulk can help you save a lot of money. But you can waste money, too, if you don’t plan your purchases and buy what your family will use. Here are seven tips for maximizing your savings and avoiding pitfalls when it comes to buying large quantities of product.
1. Plan your list and your storage. Always shop with a list of what you plan to buy. As you add items to that list, make sure you’ll have a place to put everything when you get home. You don’t want your new purchase to go to waste just because you didn’t have a place to store it.
Clear out space in your pantry or a closet to house dry goods. Consider using inexpensive, sealable plastic containers that can hold large amounts of cereal and grain while also keeping bugs away. In addition, have plastic sandwich bags and storage bags on hand to divide large supplies into more manageable amounts. Check to make sure you have ample shelf space in your refrigerator or freezer if you buy perishable food in bulk.
2. Focus on nonperishables first. If you’re new to buying in bulk, it’s easy to spend extra money on large amounts of food items that seem like a good deal because they’re “on sale,” but you won’t end up using. Avoid this on your first few trips by focusing on items that generally don’t spoil or expire quickly, such as paper towels, toilet paper and dry goods.
After you’ve had a few successful money-saving shopping trips, you’ll get a good idea of how much product your family uses in a given period of time. Then, you can expand your shopping list to include food that needs to be refrigerated or frozen.
3. Shop based on per-unit pricing. If you’re considering an item in bulk, figure out how much you’re paying for each individual unit. Then, you can know whether it’s a good deal. Just because a product is sold in large quantities, doesn’t mean it is an automatically better price than the version that’s sold in fewer quantities at your neighborhood grocery store.
For example, assume you’re considering an eight-count package of paper towels for $10. That’s $1.25 per roll. But if you can buy the exact same brand and quantity in a four-count package for $4, then the smaller package, at $1 per roll, is the better deal.
4. Know what you won’t buy. If you go to a warehouse club or the sale aisle of the grocery store, you’re likely to see huge markdowns on products you didn’t plan on buying. Surprise sales are nice, but you want to make sure the purchase will benefit your family. Before leaving home, make a note of items that you don’t need and would probably go to waste if you brought them home. Hopefully, you won’t be as tempted to make an unneeded purchase.
5. Share with a friend. Find a buddy who can share the cost of bulk items with you. When you get home, split the product up with each person taking his share. You both get the benefits of a lower per-unit cost, without having the need to store all the extra items in one place. You may even be able to take turns shopping, which could help you save even more time and money on fuel.
6. Use coupons for extra savings. After you make your shopping list, check to see if there are coupons for the products you plan to buy. The Sunday paper has hundreds of dollars in coupon savings each week. If you don’t like to clip them from the newspaper, you can look for printable coupons online.
You’re usually able to search for the specific product you want, and then print out a coupon immediately. Note that some warehouse clubs may not accept store coupons, but many offer their own. Make sure you know your store’s policy before you visit.
7. Count fuel and time savings. Buying in bulk saves you more than just the per-unit price of an item. It means fewer trips to the store, fewer items on your shopping list from week to week, and less time being spent in shopping aisles. Make sure you’re adding up the benefits of fuel savings and times savings to understand how much money bulk shopping is saving your family.