Be Careful Before You Recklessly Buy in Bulk

By David Ning

| Photographs By VladislavStarozhilov

One of the ways to save money is to buy in bulk, as purchasing multiples of an item when it’s on sale lowers your expenses over time. It’s obvious, right? If you have a coupon, or if you have the chance to buy more than one of something at a discount now, your per-unit cost will be lower.

Yet, even though buying in bulk can save you money over time, it’s important to realize that sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. Here are some things to keep in mind as you buy in bulk:

Will you use the items?

One of the first questions you have to ask yourself is whether or not you will use everything you buy. If you use an item only occasionally, buying lots of it can prove counterproductive. Food, for instance, can go bad before you eat all of it. Buying several of the same item, just because you can, is a recipe for backfiring. After all, each item still costs money even if it’s bought on a deep discount.

My family eats pasta at least once a week. We know we’re going to use pasta, so when it’s on sale, we get large amounts of it. Currently, we probably have about five months’ worth of pasta. By the time our supply is depleted, it’s likely to be on sale again. We use the same rationale for ibuprofen and shampoo. If it’s something we know we’ll use, we don’t mind buying more of it.

Will you consume more just because you have more?

Some items we never buy in bulk even if we will consume all of it. Alcohol, for example, fits into this category. If we get a huge bottle, we will probably drink more every time we open ourselves up for drinks. In fact, all non-healthy drinks fall into this category. By our not buying a ton of sugary or alcoholic drinks, our body and our wallet benefits. Water is just fine, thank you very much.

Other household items, like toothpaste, fall into this category too. It’s amazing how much more toothpaste we waste whenever we get a big tube (with its big opening). Nowadays, we just get a small tube and change it when we need to. It’s more hygienic to keep getting new ones, anyway.

Where will you keep your stockpile?

When you buy in bulk, you should consider how you will store the items you purchase. If you live in a small apartment, it isn’t practical to stockpile large amounts of items bought in bulk. Evaluate your space, and then determine how many items you should buy at once. Don’t buy frozen food in bulk if you don’t have a large enough freezer to accommodate your purchases. Think about building shelves in a room or closet to turn it into an appropriate storage facility. Once you know where you can keep your bulk items, you will be better able to make informed and practical decisions.

Bottom line

Buying in bulk can be a way to help you protect yourself against price increases in the future. You can get something now, and use it later — instead of paying the price it has likely increased to. It can also be a good way to build up emergency food stores.

You do need to be careful, though. Don’t buy something just because you can get a good deal on multiples of it. It’s a waste of money and time if you don’t ever use the item. Additionally, you might not have the room to store lots of bulk items.

Before you decide to engage in bulk buying, carefully and honestly evaluate your needs and your ability to store the items. Clear out an area meant for storage, and then decide how much it makes sense for you to buy.

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