Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bulking Up

No, this post has nothing to do with Hans and Franz from Saturday Night Live. No weight pumping is involved, though that may depend on how literally you apply the following information.

In today's tough economic times, finding bargains is crucial to reduced home-budgets. But, bargain hunting is more than just coupon cutting and daily specials. Next time you're looking for great deals, check out the bulk-sized options at wholesale retailers. Buying in bulk can be one of the most resourceful ways to stay on-budget.

For examples of this, I chose five brand name (popular) items I buy regularly at a wholesale retailer to compare pricing. Here are those price comparisons (in Canadian dollars):

Product

@ Regular Store pricing

@ Bulk pricing

Toilet Bowl cleaner

1/2 cent per ml.

1/4 cent per ml.

OTC* Pain medication

11 cents per caplet

7 cents per caplet

Dishwasher detergent

$3.60 per litre

$2.30 per litre

Aluminum Foil

$1.81 per metre

21 cents per metre

Bar soap (sensitive skin)

$1.75 per bar

$1.38 per bar

*OTC = Over-the-counter

Similar comparisons also apply to food and other household products such as small appliances, stationery, and clothing. Some savings are not as great as others. The aluminum foil, for instance, offers far greater savings than the bar soap. The key to saving through bulk-buying is to buy only the products you use frequently and in significant amounts.

Some people won't buy in bulk for various reasons: 1) the initial cost at the check-out seems too high; 2) the space needed to store bulk purchases can be an issue for some; and 3) worry about spoilage. All these are legitimate concerns.

Speaking to the first issue, I'll just say that price comparison is the key. Not all bulk purchases are created equal. You'll need to do your homework to discover whether or not your bulk choices are truly a bargain. Generally, though, you'll obtain more products for less cost in the long term. Thus, a certain amount of fore-sight is required. However, you won't have to shop for those products as often – a real "plus" for our budget, as we must travel far to do our shopping and include fuel costs as part of the overall equation.

The storage-space problem is one I can easily relate to. I'm often tempted by spectacular savings to over-stock our home to the point of its groaning "Enough!" Impulse control is essential!

It's also just as important the watch "best before" dates, rotating home-stocked items accordingly. And, though it can be hard to resist certain bargains, I've learned to buy only what can readily be stored and used up in good time. That said, you'd be surprised how many nooks and crannies can be found to store things...

If spoilage is a concern, then that particular product may not offer good economy for your family. We have access to flour by the bushel, at well under half the cost of the 20# grocery store bags, but couldn't possibly use it all before it turned rancid. Nor could we hope to store that quantity. If most of the product spoils, little or no saving is actually gained.

So, when buying in bulk, remember these tips:

  1. Check your stored items to ensure you won't buy too much (re: storage & spoilage)
  2. Ensure you will be able use all of the product before its expiry date.
  3. Use caution when buying items that spoil easily like fresh produce, dairy and other refrigerated foods (food spoils faster in an over-full refrigerator.)
  4. Household cleaners and personal hygiene products have incredible shelf-life and, if you have the space to store them, can be excellent budget savers.

Now, I want to know, have I "pumped you up" to buying in bulk?