Why and How to Buy in Bulk

Buying essential household items in large quantities can save money and time, with lower per-unit costs and fewer trips to the store.
Tiffany Curtis
By Tiffany Curtis 
Updated
Edited by Kathy Hinson

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It’s always a good time to look for ways to save on household essentials — especially on products that you love or use often. And buying in bulk can potentially help you save more money in the long run.

What are the benefits of buying in bulk?

Buying a large quantity of an item at once brings several potential benefits:

  • Reduced packaging waste.

  • Saving more on household items that you frequently use. Bulk sizes can have a higher initial cost, but the per-unit cost can be less expensive over time. 

  • Fewer shopping trips — which may reduce your chances of impulse buying.

  • Having large quantities of household essentials on hand to be better prepared for emergencies.

Before purchasing, check the per-unit cost to make sure the larger size really is a better deal. Shelf price labels, especially in grocery stores, may offer a per-unit price breakdown. You can also find several price-comparison apps to use on your smartphone. And check whether store or generic brands may beat brand-name items.

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Should everyone buy in bulk?

Buying in bulk can be great for large families, but it can also be useful for smaller households.

“Find a friend, family member or neighbor who you can split bulk purchases with,” Andrea Woroch said in an email. Woroch is a nationally recognized consumer savings expert. “This way, you benefit from the lower price per unit cost without burdening yourself with oversized packages and limited storage.”

If you live alone, you should stick to purchasing space-saving essential items, Woroch said.

“For instance, a bulk bottle of shampoo won't take up that much more room in your shower compared to a smaller size,” she said, and “neither would the larger container of daily vitamins.” A single bulk-sized item will be easier to store than, say, a 12-pack of paper towels.

Products you should buy in bulk

Focus on staple items that won’t expire quickly. Here are some products that Woroch recommends buying in larger quantities:

  • Paper towels: “You don't have to worry about paper towels, toilet paper or paper plates going bad,” she said. 

  • Batteries: You’ll spend less over time by stocking up on batteries before you run out of them. “You can't exactly predict when the battery in your remote or child's favorite toy will run out, and that's when people end up spending more because they run out to the closest convenience store and pay the highest price for a couple of batteries to replace their gadget with quickly,” she said.

  • Gift cards: Wholesale clubs like Sam’s Club and Costco offer discount gift cards for a variety of restaurants, movie theaters and more. “Some stores will also give you bonus gift cards with the purchase of multiple gift cards, especially around the holidays,” Woroch said. And most gift cards don’t expire for at least five years, thanks to consumer protection laws.

  • Vitamins: Big bottles can cut costs. “Vitamins are something you should take on a daily basis so buying these in bulk is a smart move, especially since it will get you the cheapest price per unit,” she said.

  • Diapers: Because they’re an item that parents will use for their babies and toddlers every day (and often), it’s worth it to buy them in bulk.

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Products not to buy in bulk

Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should buy everything in bulk. Avoid buying too much fresh food, to limit food waste. “Only buy what you need for the week, or better yet, a few days," Woroch said. Consider using digital coupons and store loyalty programs to help you save on groceries.

You should also avoid buying large amounts of snacks that can go stale quickly, or bulk sizes of items that you won’t use every day, like over-the-counter medication.

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Where to buy in bulk

Joining a warehouse club like Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s Wholesale Club is a great option if you want to buy in bulk often. You’ll also get membership perks like rewards, travel deals and savings on other services.

But if you don’t want to pay for a membership, you can still find bulk deals or larger packages of products in stores and online at retailers like Target, Walmart and Amazon.

And be sure to sign up for loyalty rewards or use a coupon app that lets you earn cash back rewards when you shop, to help further stretch your money.