The conventional wisdom is that bulk buying – purchasing goods packaged in larger quantities – is a great way to save money. However, this is not always the case. After all, unless you live in some Groundhog Day-like scenario that takes place on Thanksgiving, are you really going to use that five-pound package of sage before you die? If not, is that really an appropriate heirloom to leave your grandkids? Here is what you need to know for smart bulk buying.

  1. Pay Attention to the Price Per Unit

It’s not a bad idea to bring a calculator with you when bulk buying. Most phones these days have one. Though I am a fancy Executive Member at Costco, I still mainly shop with the proletariat at WinCo. And, I’ve noticed that a lot of items there are cheaper per unit when you buy smaller quantities than larger tubs. This is easy to recognize because they list the price per unit on their shelves. But if you shop at a market where they don’t, take the price of the product and divide it by a consistent unit listed on the package (e.g. ounces, pounds, squares, etc.) The item with the lower price per unit is the better deal.

  1. Are You Really Going to Use All That?

Only buy items that you are certain you will use before they spoil. I have a couple rules of thumb. First, I only buy products in bulk that I’ve used and enjoyed before. And, I only buy perishable items in bulk if I can conceivably use, freeze, or can them before they go bad. You don’t really save money and you piss off those starving kids in Africa if you let strawberries go bad. Freeze them for smoothies!

  1. Will Bulk Buying Cause You to Use More of an Expensive Product?

This is hard to measure. Let’s say you buy a pound of saffron, a fairly expensive spice. Now that you have so much of it, you start using it much more often than you would otherwise. Therefore, you end up spending a lot more money on saffron than you would if it were scarcer in your pantry.

  1. Do You Have Room for It?

So, you found a good deal on 80 rolls of toilet paper. First of all, I hope you are feeling okay. That’s a lot of toilet jockeying. Secondly, I hope you don’t live in a tiny studio apartment. Otherwise, where are you going to put all of that toilet paper? You could give rolls away as gifts (who doesn’t need toilet paper?) Or, you could rent out a storage facility for your toilet paper, but then, you are cutting into your savings. Make sure you have enough room/freezer space for your bulk items.

  1. Consider Shopping with Friends and Family

When I first began buying bulk meat from Zaycon, I would split my orders with friends. After all, I’m not going to eat 36 pounds of bacon! These days, I have a nice large freezer and a nice large gut that can fit all that bacon. But, you might consider bringing family or friends with you on Costco runs and splitting larger packages with them.

Do you have any bulk buying tips? How about fun horror stories? Please share them below!