How to Buy in Bulk: Ultimate Guide
There’s no doubt that the world around us has changed in significant ways over the last few years. From quarantines to supply chain issues to the rising cost of goods and environmental concerns, we’ve learned the value of being prepared for the unexpected. Thankfully, buying bulk offers shoppers an opportunity to have essential items on hand, while saving money and time.
But becoming the ultimate buying-in-bulk master isn’t as simple as buying the most toilet paper rolls in one package you can purchase and calling it a day. Instead, you want to be sure you are saving money and buying products that can withstand some time. Also, you’ll want to ensure that your home has enough storage space to handle the bulk items you buy.
Ready to become a bulk buying expert? This ultimate guide will teach you about the benefits of buying in bulk, the type of items that make the most sense, and which ones you might want to avoid.
What buying in bulk means
Buying in bulk means buying large quantities of one item at once for a reduced overall cost per item. For example, you buy ten boxes of batteries together for a fraction of their individual sale price. Or you purchase oversized boxes of cereal for a lower cost per ounce than a smaller size box of cereal.
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 ensure you’re saving money.
Each unit is a portion of an item that can be measured by the pound, gram, ounce, etc. Paper goods such as paper towels are often priced per square foot, while 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 purchased 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 smartphone 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. For example: 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 saving money with your bulk items, making this the first step in understanding how to buy in bulk effectively.
Though you will save money in the long run, be prepared to spend more cash upfront when buying bulk. You could easily spend hundreds on bulk items in one shopping expedition. But don’t worry — they will last you weeks or even months, giving you plenty of time to save up (and polish off those ten tubes of toothpaste).
Benefits of buying in bulk
Several benefits of buying in bulk may appeal to different people, depending on their priorities.
The most obvious benefit of buying in bulk is saving money over time. When you purchase large amounts of items for an overall lower price per unit, you save money overall. The upfront cost of buying in bulk can seem steep, but you won’t make a purchase until further in the future.
In recent years, gas prices have climbed, which has many people considering ways to become more efficient with how they use their gas. Buying in bulk means you’ll be making fewer shopping trips, which will ultimately save you gas and money.
Time is our most precious commodity, so it matters how we spend it. Less time driving to the store and shopping means gaining more time to do things that are important to you.
Reduce your carbon footprint
With environmental concerns on the rise, reducing your carbon footprint might be vital to you. Buying in bulk often means you’re consuming less packaging. If you have items delivered, fewer deliveries mean less time for delivery trucks to be on the road, which has a positive impact on the environment.
Tips for buying in bulk
As a rule, you should buy items in bulk that save you money per unit and that you will use before the products expire. Obviously, throwing away expired products creates more trash, is a waste of money, and defeats the purpose of buying in bulk in the first place. Here are four ways to avoid waste when you buy in bulk.
#1 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, so there is the potential for you to buy too much too quickly. Sticking to only purchasing what you need and will use can help you avoid these situations. No matter what you’re shopping for, whether groceries, toiletries, or batteries, write a list of what you need and stick to it.
#2 Choose items with a long shelf life
If you want to get the most out of buying in bulk, ensure the items you buy will last for a while. Things like paper goods, shelf-stable pasta, and dried beans are great to buy in bulk. On the other hand, perishable items like fruit and vegetables can spoil quickly. If you do not plan to eat foods before they go bad, you will want to avoid buying them in bulk.
An important point to remember is that other items can also expire in addition to food. For example, liquid bleach loses its effectiveness after six to 12 months, even if you store it as directed. So to keep your whites really white, make sure you only buy enough bleach that you can use within six months. Other household items that expire in less more quickly than most people realize include:
- Teeth-whitening strips
- Fabric softener
- Over-the-counter medications
- Olive oil
- Canned veggies
#3 Buy items you’re familiar with
It can be frustrating to buy a product that you can’t wait to try in bulk, only to find that it does not live up to your expectations. Imagine having ten bars of a new soap that causes you to have an allergic reaction or 500 trash bags that do not fit your trash can. To save money, make sure you are familiar with the items you buy in bulk before purchasing them.
#4 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! But be sure to do the per unit calculation to ensure you’re truly getting a good deal. Sometimes sales aren’t really much of a sale at all.
Stores selling bulk items often have sales and discounts year-round. If something you need is already 25% cheaper per unit in bulk and it is on sale, you will definitely be saving a nice chunk of change.
Why after your move 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. It is also easier to see how many new space opportunities you have before your home is filled with your personal belongings.
If you have an extra closet, or even a large shelf available, you can plan for it to hold some of your bulk items. Setting this space aside allows you to organize your belongings around your bulk items, ensuring that everything has a home.
When you shouldn’t buy in bulk
If 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 buying in bulk can save multiple trips to the store. For households of three or less, you may 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.
If you lack storage space
If every corner of your home is occupied, or you live in a tiny apartment, you might not have the necessary space to store your bulk items. That said, recent years have seen an influx of new items in the market designed to look nice and have smart storage features.
Also, you should make sure you have enough space for the things you use regularly. For instance, you may not want to convert your linen closet into a bulk storage space unless you have somewhere else to store your towels. You should always keep the needs of your household at the forefront when considering buying in bulk.
If you’re thinking about moving or getting ready to 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. Moving the stuff you already own is a big enough endeavor. There’s no use in adding more items to your move.
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 items on our 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 upfront. 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. Credit card interest can add up quickly and completely negate any bulk items savings you originally achieved.
The best items 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 things people most often buy in bulk:
- School and office supplies
- Paper products
- Laundry detergent
- Trash bags
- Gift cards
- Shipping/moving boxes
- Packing tape
Buying in bulk for your bathroom
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 stock our bathroom with:
- Toilet paper
- Toothbrushes and toothbrush heads
- Lint rollers
- Glass and tile cleaner
- Nail polish remover
- Shaving foam
- Air freshener
Before shopping, look at the storage space you have and decide if you need to maximize the space for bulk items. 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 most that will fit comfortably in your bathroom.
Buying in bulk for your kitchen
When figuring out how to buy bulk for your kitchen, be aware of your household size and how much you regularly consume . 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 things you can buy in bulk for your kitchen:
- Dish soap
- Garbage bags
- Paper towels
- Dishwasher detergent
- Surface cleaner
- Plastic wrap
- Wax paper
- Sandwich and freezer bags
- Antibacterial wipes
- Coffee filters
- Bottled water
Buying in bulk for your 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:
- Paper clips
- Printer paper
- Printer ink
- Printer toner
- Hand sanitizer
- Sticky notes
- Legal notepads and notebooks
- Binder clips
Things to avoid buying in bulk
When you have extra space, trying to fill your pantry, fridge, and closets with as much stuff as possible might be tempting. Try to resist the urge to buy certain things in bulk since it could cost you more money in the long run. Perishable foods, brands you’ve never tried, and items that do not save you money should all be avoided.
Additional tips to help you buy in bulk
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. Look for both store coupons and manufacturer coupons. Some stores allow you to stack their in-store coupons with manufacturer coupons which means you get an even deeper discount.
Share with others
If you are a small family or live in a tiny space, you can get friends and family together to share the items you buy in bulk. For instance, splitting a 30-roll package of toilet paper between yourself and others 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 good when you get something for less than the typical full price per unit and when the item is a quality product. Try not to be tempted to buy a lower-quality item to save money in the short term – you’ll only spend more in the long run.
Knowing how to buy in bulk can make life a lot easier when you are interested in saving time, gas, money, reducing your carbon footprint, or all of the above! Keep this guide handy when you buy in bulk to ensure you save time, money, and space by choosing the best items and shopping wisely.