How to Buy in Bulk: Your Ultimate Guide

Whether you are moving to a new home or just want to save some cash, understanding how to buy in bulk can save you a ton of money. Contrary to popular belief, buying in bulk is more than just stocking up on toilet paper. While it might be exciting to buy 20 rolls at once at a seemingly unbeatable price, you want to be sure you are actually saving money, and that your new home can handle the bulk items you buy. Moving is a great time to build up your necessities and stock up. Use this guide to figure out how to buy in bulk for your new home, ensuring that you save money as you go.

What it Means to Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk means that you buy large quantities of one product at one time. For example, you can purchase 10 boxes of batteries at once, and often for a fraction of their individual sale price.

It might seem as though the goal of buying in bulk is just to get as much as possible for as little as possible, but the truth is that when you buy in bulk your primary goal should be to minimize your cost per unit. That way you can easily compare prices between different brands and retailers.

Each unit is a portion of an item that can be measured by the pound, gram, ounce, and so on. Paper goods such as paper towels are often priced per square foot and liquids are generally priced by the ounce. Let’s take shampoo as an example. One unit is measured as one ounce of shampoo, not one bottle, so if you bought multiple bottles of shampoo in bulk, you would calculate the price per unit by the total number of ounces you bought rather than the number of bottles.

Thankfully, many price tags have unit prices written on them. If they don’t, you can do a little iPhone math to calculate the unit price. Simply find out how many units you plan to purchase, and divide the total price by the number of units. So, if you bought a 12-ounce bottle of shampoo for $10, one unit of shampoo would cost $.83. This might sound tedious, but it is the only way to be sure that you are actually saving money with your bulk items, making it the first step in understanding how to buy in bulk.

Though you will be saving money in the long run, be prepared to throw down some cash up front when you buy in bulk. You could easily spend $100 on bulk items in one go, but don’t worry — they will last you weeks or even months, giving you plenty of time to save up (and polish off those 10 tubes of toothpaste).

What You Should Buy in Bulk

As a rule, you should buy things in bulk that save you money per unit, as mentioned above. When buying in bulk, saving money is the name of the game. In keeping with this mantra, you’ll also want to reduce waste as much as possible. Because not using what you purchase is a waste of not only money but time and effort. Here are a few ways to go about avoiding waste when you buy in bulk.

Only buy what you need.

Have you ever walked into a grocery store for a single item and walked out with 20? The same thing can happen when you buy in bulk, only the costs will be much greater. For example, when you move into a new home it can be scary to see an empty fridge or pantry and there is the potential for you to buy too much too quickly. Sticking to the rule of only purchasing what you need can help you avoid situations such as this. No matter what you’re shopping for,  whether groceries, toiletries or batteries, write a list of what you need, stay strong, and stick to it.

Choose items with a long shelf life. If you want to get the most out of buying in bulk, make sure the items you buy will last for a while. Things like paper goods, dried pasta, and dried beans are great choices to buy in bulk. Perishable items like fruit and vegetables, on the other hand, can spoil quickly and if you do not plan to eat them within a week, you will want to avoid buying them in bulk. So if you’re a family of two (opposed to six) you might want to hold off on buying 6 gallons of milk.

An important point to remember that in addition to food, other items can also expire. Liquid bleach loses its effectiveness after 6 to 12 months — even if you store it as directed, the contents can potentially lose potency over time. So to keep your whites really white, make sure you only buy enough bleach that you can use within 6 months. Here are some other household items that expire in less than 12 months:

  • Sunscreen
  • Teeth-whitening strips
  • Fabric softener
  • Over the counter medications

Buy items you’re familiar with. We know how frustrating it can be to buy a product that you can’t wait to try, only to find that it does not live up to your expectations. Imagine having 10 bars of a new soap that you are allergic to, or 500 trash bags that do not fit your trash can. To save money, make sure that you are familiar with the items you buy in bulk before you purchase them.

Choose items that are on sale. Try not to let discounts lure you into buying something you don’t need, but if you see an item is already on your list and on sale — go for it! Stores selling bulk items often have sales and discounts year round. The trick when you buy in bulk is not to let these “deals” distract you from what you really need. If something you need is already 25% cheaper per unit in bulk, and it is on sale, you will undoubtedly save money on an item you are already looking to buy.

Why Moving is a Great Time to Buy in Bulk

A new home is like a fresh canvas, and moving gives you a chance to envision different storage and layout options before everything is set up. Additionally, it is much easier to see how much space you actually have before your home is filled with your personal belongings.

While you decide where your bed frame is going to go, you can designate certain spaces for any bulk items you plan to buy. If you have an extra closet, or even a large shelf available, you can plan for it to hold some of your bulk items. In setting this space aside, you can organize your belongings around your bulk items, ensuring that every item has a home.

You will also know very quickly whether or not you have the space for bulk purchases or if you should stick with smaller quantities. That said, do not opt for a larger home simply to fit your bulk buys. Know how to buy items in bulk that will fit your new home, not the other way around.

When You Shouldn’t Buy in Bulk

When you have a small household. It is easy to figure out how to buy in bulk for a family of four or more. Larger households tend to go through household items and food more quickly, so choosing to buy in bulk can save you multiple trips to the store. For households of three or less, you need to look more closely at your lifestyle, because buying in bulk could cost you more money over time if you aren’t shopping smart.

When you lack storage space. If every corner of your home is occupied, or you live in a tiny apartment, you won’t have the necessary space to store your bulk items. The same can be said if you are moving into a new home and want your linen closet to remain the designated towel spot. Rather than filling it with bulk items, you should do what is best for your household and hold off on buying in bulk.

Before you move or travel. There are plenty of things to do the month leading up to your move and, unless you are buying boxes, bulk buying should not top your moving checklist. Try to hold off and buy in bulk after your move is finalized, and then you can take everything directly to your new home. If you are looking for somewhere to start, we created a helpful grocery list for your new home — you can buy many of the items on this list in bulk.

The same goes for when you plan to travel. It might be tempting to stock up for your return, but it is best to wait until you get back from your trip to buy in bulk. Preparing for your trip will keep you busy enough without worrying about wasting food or unpacking your bulk items.

If you’re forced to use your credit card. Part of understanding how to buy in bulk is knowing how to budget. Buying in bulk can save you money in the long run, but it will generally cost you more money up front. If you are not prepared to invest in bulk items, it might be best to wait until you are in a better financial position before embarking on the big shopping trip.

The Best Things to Buy in Bulk

As you become more comfortable with the best ways to buy in bulk, you will find yourself gravitating toward the right types of bulk items. Foods and supplies that have long shelf lives, and are generally cheaper per unit, are great items to buy in bulk. Here are a few examples of the types of things you should regularly buy in bulk:

  • Butter
  • Alcohol
  • Batteries
  • School and office supplies
  • Paper products
  • Laundry detergent
  • Toothpaste
  • Trash bags
  • Gift cards
  • Lightbulbs
  • Shipping/moving boxes
  • Packing tape
  • Diapers

Things Never to Buy in Bulk

When you have extra space, it might be tempting to try and fill your pantry, fridge, and closets with as much stuff as possible. Try to resist the urge to buy certain things in bulk, however, as it could cost you more money in the long run. As mentioned above, perishable foods, brands you’ve never tried, and items that do not save you money should all be avoided. You might be surprised by some of the items on this list since, despite popular opinion, all of these items do inspire:

  • Bleach
  • Spices
  • Olive oil
  • Eggs
  • Sunscreen
  • Canned veggies
  • Condiments
  • Fresh produce

How to Buy in Bulk for Your Bathroom

The good news is that most of the things you need for your bathroom can be bought in bulk. Here is a list of some great bulk items you can buy for your bathroom:

  • Toothpaste
  • Toilet paper
  • Toothbrushes and toothbrush heads
  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Tissues
  • Lint rollers
  • Glass and tile cleaner
  • Floss
  • Nail polish remover
  • Shaving foam
  • Air freshener

Before you shop, first look at the storage space you have and see how you can maximize the space. Can you add shelves or dividers under the sink? Can you install a medicine cabinet? Is there space in your linen closet for extra supplies? If so, go ahead and pick up the items you need the most and that will fit comfortably in your bathroom. Toothpaste and toothbrushes are great buys because they will last months or years, and can easily fit in small spaces.

How to Buy in Bulk for Your Kitchen

When figuring out how to buy in bulk for your kitchen, be aware of the size of your household and how much you consume on a regular basis. If you choose food items, make sure your whole family likes them and that they have a long shelf life. These are some of the best items you can buy in bulk for your kitchen:

  • Sponges
  • Dish soap
  • Garbage bags
  • Paper towels
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Surface cleaner
  • Foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Wax paper
  • Sandwich and freezer bags
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Coffee filters
  • Parchment
  • K-cups
  • Bottled water

How to Buy in Bulk for Your Home Office

Whether you are restocking your home office or buying for a larger business space, rest assured that you will have a hard time running out of supplies when you buy them in bulk. Here are some of the best items to buy in bulk for your office:

  • Staples
  • Paper clips
  • Pushpins
  • Printer paper
  • Printer ink
  • Printer toner
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Scissors
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sticky notes
  • Legal notepads and notebooks
  • Binder clips
  • Lightbulbs

Additional Tips to Help You Buy in Bulk

Use coupons. Coupons can save you even more money when you buy in bulk. Take a few minutes to search for coupons online or in the store’s catalog, and take them with you on your next bulk shopping trip. You might even be able to save up a few coupons to get a really good deal or combine them with an in-store discount.

Share with your friends. If you are a small family or live in a tiny space, you can get some friends together to share the items you buy in bulk. Splitting a 30-roll package of toilet paper, for instance, between yourself and two of your friends will leave each of you with a more manageable quantity. By dividing the costs, only taking home what you need, and keeping what fits comfortably in your home, you can save money, avoid waste, and maximize space.

Don’t forgo quality for a cheap price. Getting a good deal is only a good deal when you get something for less than it is worth. This is especially important when you buy clothes in bulk. Do not be tempted to buy a lower quality item to save money in the short term when you will only have to replace it after a few washes. Trust us, it’s worth paying a little bit extra for a t-shirt that does not fade in the wash, or socks that make it through the entire season.

Knowing how to buy in bulk can make life a lot easier when you are either moving or just looking to save a little extra cash. Keep this guide handy when you buy in bulk, to make sure you save time, money, and space by choosing the best items and shopping smart.

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