Pros and Cons of Buying in Bulk

The following is a post by staff writer Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. Her blog covers living expenses, saving for your future, and the fun stuff along the way.

Despite the fact that it is just my husband and me at home, I am a Sam’s Club Member. I couldn’t help it. I could hear the giant boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios calling my name. I do love my cereal. But don’t worry, I will not try to convert you to the bulk side. I understand that there are positives and negatives of buying in bulk.

Disadvantages

Annual Membership Fee – Most bulk buying stores like Sam’s Club and Costco have annual fees. I use my Discover Card benefits to get my annual membership to Sam’s Club for $30, but that still means that I am paying a company money to allow me to give them more. I understand the irony.

Storage Space – You do have to have somewhere to put the enough-for-an-army Charmin pack. We didn’t get our membership until we moved into our house. It’s amazing what options open up with a walk-in pantry and a garage chest freezer!

Food Spoilage – If we are not careful, our awesome deal turns into garbage simply since we didn’t feel like eating 3 pounds of bananas that week. We now have a list of the items we buy in bulk and very few of them have a fast expiration date. With just the two of us, the huge packs of fruits and vegetables are usually a bad idea.

Budgeting – Almost everything costs a bunch more up front when you buy a lot of them at once. It is very easy to get carried away. I would suggest seriously sticking to a system. My budget takes into account the Sam’s Club months versus the just-filling-in-the-blanks months. I’d highly suggest staying away from anything but the basics before you buy $10 of chocolate or $20 on yet another set of pillows…

Prices May Not Actually Be Better – Remember that buying in bulk doesn’t work if you aren’t getting a good deal. I have a list of items that are always cheaper at Sam’s Club AND I stick to that list. If something else whispers in my ear while I’m walking around, I will check prices elsewhere before making the purchase. I have gotten “taken” a few times by cinnamon rolls and whatnot, but overall, some common sense and wariness will save you money.

No Sales – I rarely see a Sam’s Club sale. If you are a sale shopper or are amazing with coupons, you can probably do better elsewhere.

Advantages

Fewer Shopping Trips – I really, really, really dislike errands. They frustrate me and make me grumpy. I can buy enough meat, bread, pizza, cereal, and frozen veggies with one run to Sam’s Club to last us 6-8 weeks. This means we only have to get the basics like milk every 2-3 weeks. I appreciate the time savings a bunch.

Name Brand for a Good Price – We do like certain name brands more than store brands. For example, my husband only will eat sandwiches with Nature’s Own Honey Wheat bread. That costs $2.75-$3.50 per loaf at Wal-Mart or Kroger, but I get 2 loaves for $1.88 each in bulk. We simply freeze the second loaf right off the bat and it works like a charm.

Stock Up On Supplies – We never run out of toilet paper or paper towels. We are accidentally prepared for whatever nature can send Houston’s way every day of the year. Between our huge supply of basics and the bi-weekly grocery trips, we always have enough on hand. We can even throw last minute potlucks like we did last week without having to run out for a big shopping trip. We simply did a pizza theme and supplied four of our nine DiGiorno’s and our guests brought the salad and dessert. It was awesome! :-)

I’m sure I am missing some pros and cons – what do you think of buying in bulk?

15 Responses to Pros and Cons of Buying in Bulk

  1. Kevin McKee says:

    I’m single and usually end up throwing stuff away from regular sized packaging because it spoils. No buying in bulk for me.

  2. Darwin's Money says:

    It makes sense for us as a family of 5 and we do realize pretty sizable discounts. But there are hassles in even shopping at the Costcos, the annual fee, etc. I think for more single people, it probably doesn’t make sense.

    • @Darwin’s Money, I agree. When I was in college, I wouldn’t have even had room to store that much toilet paper anyway, lol. It only works for us now because we have room and a chest freezer.

  3. We make a Costco run every two weeks, and like you have a list of things we always pick up there. Having a list keeps us from running out of essential items. The membership fee was a bit of a bear until we became Executive Members. When we considered how much we spent at Costco, we found the cash rebate more than offset the membership fee. Every year we get money back above the cost of membership fee. So you may want to look at your annual spending to see if upgrading to a higher membership makes sense for your family.

    • @Felicia Gopaul @ College Savings, that is something I need to look into. Thanks! We usually spend a little less than $1000 a year, so I will see if that works out to more rewards than the $30 membership fee. :-)

  4. Melissa A. says:

    For me I don’t see any advantage in joining a bulk club, however bulk stores where you can buy non packaged food in bulk are great.

  5. I would buy some things in bulk (TP) but that’s about it. I’ve cut papertowels out of my house (more or less) and everything else would probably go bad before I had a chance to eat it all.

    • Crystal says:

      @Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog, we didn’t use paper towels much until we adopted our two dogs…dogs are inherently gross sometimes and I need to be able to throw the gross away… :-)

  6. We don’t like paying membership fee, don’t have storage space, and probably will buy more stuffs in general if we go to Costco. :)

    • Crystal says:

      @retirebyforty, yeah, we went nuts our first few trips…I cannot even look at some prepackaged pastries anymore. :-)

  7. Jerry says:

    I think if you’re single it doesn’t make a lot of sense and could even lead to losing money from things spoiling. But, it is insurance for a big family’s budget to buy in bulk, if you ask me. I don’t like Sam’s Club much and would prefer going to Costco. I find the quality better and better prices on some things.

  8. You don’t actually have to a member of Costco or Sam’s club to buy in bulk. Many grocery stores carry larger packages of items at cheaper prices. One section is the imported and ethnic food isles. We always find bulk dry beans and spices at really cheap prices.