We have a ritual in the Cheap clan. Whenever a member is “nearing the end”, we all gather around the matriarch or patriarch. They’ll look each of us deeply in the eye to convey the gravity of the situation, then when their hour approaches, hold the gaze of a younger member of the clan (who may not have the message fully sunken in yet) and gasp “buy in bulk!” as their final words.
Its good advice. We’ve mentioned the chocolate article Guiness416 pointed us to a couple of times, and basically their business is based on this (buy in bulk, then get a massive markup when you sell smaller amounts). The success of stores like Costco have been built on the idea that if you’re willing to buy a lot of something, the store will give you a good price. A while back at “The Real Canadian Wholesale club” I came across a MASSIVE can of chili (we’re talking army feeding size) for under $10 (which is quite a deal when you consider they sell a single meal of chili in a can for $2.50).
A few of the downsides of buying in bulk have received a lot of press: Don’t buy stuff that will go bad before you use it, don’t buy stuff you don’t have room to store (“Ooh, that’s a good price on twelve pounds of nutmeg” – Marge Simpson) and don’t buy stuff you don’t need, just because its a good price.
The one element of buying in bulk that always gets me a bit hot under the collar is when stores try to trick you. They’ll have a larger amount of something for a HIGHER price per unit, instead of a lower price. People assume they’re getting a deal buying more, and end up paying more for the larger size. Sobey’s has 3 lbs of baby carrots for $3.99 and 2 lbs. for $1.49. If you buy two 2 lb bags you get an extra pound of carrots for a buck less, but I’m sure some people see the larger bag and just grab it. Recently at Wal-Mart I picked up a box of Rice Crispy treats (a box of 16 for $5) and on my way out saw a box of 14 for $4 (grr).
The simple way of avoiding this is to look at the price / unit of something (weight if they have it, or by item for something like Rice Crispy treats). If your math skills aren’t so great doing things like this in your head, practice! (and until you get good, carry a pocket calculator).
The real zinger is its often picking the right product that saves you big money instead of trying to get a discount by volume (don’t tell my relatives). After I purchased the Rice Crispy treats, I came across “Crispy Rice” treats (off brand knock-offs) for 5 for $1 at Dollarama *sigh*. Similarly, if you made your own chili it’d cost way less than $10, and if you bought regular carrots instead of baby carrots, they’d be way cheaper too.