It seems to make sense: if you buy everything in bulk, you'll save money. Wrong. Even if the per-item price is cheaper, you could end up spending more money in the long run. How?

A Fridge that Never Empties
When your refrigerator is always full, it's hard to know what needs replenishing and what doesn't. For instance, you come home with a 10-pound bag of potatoes, an 18-pack of eggs, a five-pound sack of grapefruit and then realize you're missing the ingredients you wanted to make a salad. Or worse, items spoil because they are buried in the back of your fridge. (Learn the tricks of saving on your groceries in Coupon Shopping: Clip Your Way To Savings.)

For example, suppose that you buy a gallon of milk instead of a half gallon because there's only a 50-cent difference in price. The problem is the 50 cents is wasted when you barely drink a half gallon before the expiration date.

Buying in bulk can also lead to overspending in general. When you buy more, it costs more, even when the price of individual items is lower. When you buy in bulk because of sales, you may feel you have an excuse to use your credit and pay it off later. But then what happens when there's another sale and another reason to buy in bulk next week?

Limiting Backstock
As long as you have a system in your cabinets, pantry and fridge where you can find everything, some amount of buying extra items can be helpful. Buy one extra deodorant or buy extra chicken to freeze. But the extra items you do buy should come out of your regular weekly or monthly grocery budget. Going over your budget to stock up rarely makes sense. (Shop from the comfort of your couch and avoid the market, read Shopping Online: Convenience, Bargains, And A Few Scams.)

The Grass Isn't Always Cheaper on the Other Side
Buying in bulk seems like a savvy way to shop, and you watch your friends who say they save tons of money on groceries buy multiples of certain items or large amounts of everything. But they may have a large family or just feel like they are saving money because the unit price is cheaper. The truth is there is no substitute for shopping with a list that's flexible enough to allow you to buy items of which you do use bigger quantities, while always sticking to your weekly or monthly grocery budget.

Related Articles
  1. Economics

    What is a Complement?

    A good or service that’s used in conjunction with another good or service is a complement.
  2. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in Costco Stock (COST)

    Read about some of the biggest risks of investing in Costco stock. Gain a better understanding of its business model before buying in.
  3. Investing

    7 Creative Ways to Save for an Early Retirement

    Take note of these out of the box steps you can take towards securing yourself an earlier, more comfortable retirement.
  4. Retirement

    Ipsy Review: Is It Worth It?

    Discover the history of ipsy, how much packages cost, options available for membership, major competition and what the future looks like for the company.
  5. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in Johnson & Johnson Stock (JNJ)

    Learn the largest risks to investing in Johnson & Johnson through fundamental analysis and other potential risks. Also discover how JNJ compares to its peers.
  6. Budgeting

    Craft Coffee Review: Is It Worth It?

    Learn more about one of the first and most flexible specialty-grade coffee subscription services on the market, a perfect fit for any coffee lover.
  7. Budgeting

    Plated Review, Is It Worth It?

    Take a closer look at the ready-to-cook meal service, Plated, and learn how the company can help you take the hassle out of home cooking.
  8. Retirement

    Birch Box Review: Is It Worth It?

    Learn more about the convenience of the subscription beauty box industry, and discover why the Birchbox company in particular has become so popular.
  9. Investing

    Barbie's Body Wasn't the Problem (opinion)

    Barbie's body type wasn't what killed sales, argues Angela Travillian. Other factors were at play.
  10. Stock Analysis

    Financing iPhones: The Next Apple Move (AAPL)

    Look at how Apple's plan to finance the purchase of new unlocked iPhones will impact choices of carriers as well as profits for both Apple and the carriers.
RELATED FAQS
  1. How does a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) affect my salary?

    Some companies build salary adjustments into their compensation structures to offset the effects of inflation on their employees. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Where can you buy NetSpend reload packs?

    You can only purchase NetSpend reload packs at Giant Eagle, Albertsons, Roundy's and Pathmark supermarkets. NetSpend cards ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What does marginal utility tell us about consumer choice?

    In microeconomics, utility represents a way to relate the amount of goods consumed to the amount of happiness or satisfaction ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are some common ways product differentiation is achieved?

    There are many ways to achieve product differentiation, some more common than others. Horizontal Differentiation Horizontal ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and a VAR ...

    An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is a company that manufactures a basic product or a component product, such as a ... Read Full Answer >>
Trading Center