Buying food and household items in bulk can be a great way to reduce your monthly spending.
How much money you can potentially save will vary depending on the item, but some experts estimate that bulk buying can cut your bills by 20 percent, and sometimes significantly more.
You may want to keep in mind, though, that buying in bulk doesn’t always save. Indeed, buying multiples or large quantities of some items can be a losing proposition if much of it ends up going unused, or if it causes you to consume more than you normally would.
Here are some smart shopping strategies to keep in mind when buying in bulk–including what you may want to stock up on, and what you may want to skip.
Why Buy in Bulk?
The average cost to feed a family of four in the United States runs between $890 to $1,062 a month (or $10,680 to $12,744 per year).
Families, as well as individuals, may be able to reduce spending on food and other household goods and improve their financial health by buying in bulk, since the cost per unit (or ounce) is generally lower.
If you have ample storage space, buying in bulk also delivers convenience, since your home will always be stocked up.
Buying in bulk can also save you time, since you won’t have to run out and purchase these items as often. Fewer trips to the store also saves on gas and reduces your carbon footprint.
Another reason why stockpiling can be a smart buying habit is that it can make it easier to handle emergencies, such as a bad storm, since you will already have a large quantity of basic toiletries and food items on hand.
Drawbacks of Buying in Bulk
Despite all the many great reasons to go for jumbo sizes, buying in bulk isn’t always a smart money rule to follow. There are few downsides to consider. These include:
• Having to pay up front, rather than spacing out the purchases.
• When you have a large quantity of something on hand, you might be tempted to overuse it.
• Buying in bulk requires storage space (plus a large enough car to transport purchases).
• Buying in bulk means less variety in the products you use.
• Items bought in bulk can sit around past their expiration or “best by” dates.
• Bulk buying for many products requires a warehouse club membership or other additional cost.
Things To Buy in Bulk
Bulk buying can be a great way to save on household items and foods that you use or consume daily or have a long shelf life. These include:
• Household supplies (e.g., toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, tissues, trash bags)
• Cleaning supplies
• Laundry detergent
• Pet food (though keep in mind that some pet food is perishable)
• Dry beans
• Toiletries (e.g., shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, moisturizer, soap)
• Canned goods
• Peanut butter
• Beverages safe to store at room temperature
• School and office supplies
In general, buying perishables, such as fruits and vegetables, in bulk may not make good economic sense. While the jumbo packages of strawberries or avocados may be cheaper per unit than your grocery store, that’s only a good deal if you actually eat them all.
Buying meat in bulk may only make sense if you have a large freezer where you can store it (keeping in mind that some meats should not be frozen for more than six months).
You may also want to avoid stocking snack foods in bulk if you think that you or other members of the household might overindulge.
Tips for Buying in Bulk
To get the most savings out of buying in bulk, you may want to keep some of the shopping strategies in mind.
Shopping With a List
It can be smart to write down a shopping list before going to buy in bulk. Otherwise, you might be tempted to buy products after sampling them at the store, or to buy something impulsively because it looks like a good deal.
Keeping a Calculator Handy
When buying in bulk, it’s wise to keep in mind that it’s not the price of the item, but rather the price per unit (or ounce) that matters. If the unit price isn’t listed, using the calculator on your phone (or bringing a separate one) when bulk shopping can help ensure you are getting a good deal.
Typically, buying generic and store-brand versions of products is going to be cheaper than buying brand-name items.
However, you may want to keep in mind that quality counts too. If a cheaper paper towel isn’t very absorbent, you may end up using more each time you use it, and erasing that savings.
Keeping an Eye on Expiration Dates
Before purchasing something in bulk, it’s a good idea to check the expiration date and then calculate how long it will likely take you to consume the product.
If you won’t go through it before the expiration date, any savings could be wiped out.
Protecting Bulk Items From Pests
Because moths, roaches, and other pests may go after food, it’s a good idea to seal food products well when they are not being used.
Keeping flour, pasta, and other bulk food items in airtight containers can help with pest control.
Going in on Bulk Purchase With Friends
If you want to get the savings from buying in bulk, but don’t have the storage or a large enough household to have it make sense, you might want to ask some friends or neighbors if they want to split the product and the costs. That way, everyone can save money.
Where to Buy in Bulk
Consumers can generally buy in bulk at any grocery store or mass market retailer, but there are certain stores that are specifically designed for it.
Popular bulk stores include Costco, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Sam’s Club, Smart & Final, and Big Lots.
Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club all require a membership fee, which can range from $45 to $60 per year.
Along with being able to buy food and household products in bulk, these stores also include perks like tire centers, pharmacies, photo development, electronics, furniture, and jewelry departments, and bakeries.
Customers may also be able to access discounts on entertainment like movie and theme park tickets, travel like hotels and rental cars. All of these extras can make a yearly membership worth it.
Buying in bulk can be a great way to save cash if the product is something you use regularly, won’t go bad before you can use it all, is cheaper per unit at a bulk store, and is not lower in quality than what you typically buy.
Now, what to do with all that money you’re going to save by buying in bulk?
If you put it into a SoFi Money® cash management account, you can start earning a competitive interest rate on that money right away.
Plus, with SoFi Money, you can earn, save, and spend–all in one account.
Not a fan of fees? You may also like the fact that SoFi Money doesn’t have any account fees, monthly fees, or many other common fees. Plus, withdrawing cash is fee-free at 55,000+ ATMs worldwide.
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