All the time you hear people talking about how great buying in bulk is and how it saves them so much money. Don’t get me wrong, I love buying some things in bulk too – i.e. toilet paper and paper plates. However, buying in bulk is not the best solution for every purchase. This week, I am going to share what items are the best to buy in bulk and how to plan for your next big purchase. I also want to take you through the pros and cons of buying in bulk. Got your giant cart ready? Let’s go!
Some families I coach financially have told me that no matter what they go into Sam’s www.samsclub.com or Costco http://www.costco.com/ for, they can’t leave without dropping over $100 each time. I understand how this happens, but it isn’t smart, unless you were already planning on it. For instance, if you’re feeding a big group or throwing a party, then buying in bulk makes sense. But for everyday meals, it might not. We never buy fresh fruits or vegetables because we simply can’t eat that many apples, salad mixes or bananas before they go bad. The same goes for big canisters of spices, which can quickly lose flavor after a few months on the shelf.
Space for Stuff
Storage is another important consideration you should make before you sign up for a membership. If you don’t have somewhere to put those 40 rolls of toilet paper, it may be more of a problem than a benefit. We invested in a small deep freezer so we can break down big quantities of food into usable portions. When we need dinner, I just grab one bag to thaw at a time. This is especially helpful for meat like chicken, burgers, hot dogs and so forth.
If you need pantry space, dry goods like pasta, rice or beans can be divided up into servings as well (save mason jars or empty sauce jars for this purpose). The same goes for canned soups and veggies – store what you don’t need right away in a closet or back room.
Of course, bulk stores don’t just sell food – they’re great resources for supplies, too. Paper plates, light bulbs, laundry, dish detergent and toothpaste are all good things to stock up on. If you have a baby, diapers may be high on your list of bulk buys. However, it’s worth the money to look online first. Services such as Amazon Mom give you an additional 20 percent off and front-door delivery (because hey, who wants to haul a cranky baby to the store?).
Weigh It Out
Before you sign up anywhere, weigh the cost of your membership versus your needs. Costco and Sam’s Club are the big bulk players, but online retailers like Boxed and Amazon are getting in on the bulk game, too. Check the membership fees and don’t forget about your mileage driving to and from the store when you’re adding up the prices.
If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, it may not make sense to shop at a warehouse because buying in bulk makes it a little more difficult to anticipate your needs and budget accordingly. If you’re willing to put in some time to figure out the costs, bulk may be just the right idea.
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.