Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Does Buying in Bulk at Warehouse Clubs Really Save Money?

Warehouse stores have a way of making just about anyone think that they’ll save a ton of money by shopping for the big industrial-sized packages. Admit it, you’ve thought it yourself. While it’s true that many items there can be found at a bit of a savings when you buy large packaging, that discount often doesn’t really mean much when you consider that you’ll have to store what you don’t use right away, what might end up thrown out wasted, and the distance you have to drive to get to that deal in the first place. Heck, even regular, non-subscription stores often sell institutional size products that may or may not be any sort of deal at all. That’s when it pays to really carefully consider the price of an item before you assume that it’s a great deal. You might be surprised by how little you can really save when it comes to buying in bulk.

For an example, let’s look at peanut butter. Everyone knows that it’s sold in a wide variety of package sizes, and you might assume that the bigger you go, the cheaper it is per ounce. That’s not so these days, though. On a recent trip to a major grocer, in fact, I found that the price difference between the institutional size and a 16-ounce size was nearly .10 cents per ounce MORE for the larger size. In fact, I often see the same brand of peanut butter on sale at my local grocery store in the small container size for considerably less than even the discount grocer price, and less than the medium size containers as well. Sort of makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Well, not really if you think about it. America’s appetite for peanut butter compared to the rest of the world can only be described as being gargantuan. In fact, many other countries in the world don’t even like peanut butter at all, if they can even get it. Since we consume so much, we will tend to buy the larger size. The manufacturers know that. Since they’re aware of our appetite, and our unwillingness to traipse to the grocery store every few days, they know we’ll pay more for the convenience of having more on hand using up less shelf space. Sneaky isn’t it?

It’s not always just about consumer preferences, though. Marketers are taking advantage of you when you buy like that. They’re taking advantage of consumers that “know” that larger = cheaper per ounce, and may not necessarily pay attention to the price per ounce listed (when it is listed) on the shelf tag. Some retailers do, in fact, provide this information , but others don’t always do so in a way that is easily discernible. 

So, what’s the fix? If you know that you aren’t necessarily going to save a ton of money on that institutional size, then you’re well armed to walk into a store and see through the gimmicks that separate you from your hard earned money. Instead of relying on the corporations who want to take your money to give you a fair price, be aware of what you’re going to buy before you get to the store, and then stick to your shopping list. Use coupons when possible, and double up by taking advantage of 2-for-1 sales when they come up. (You can use coupons on those, as well, you know!) That way, you’ll be able to save money without having to add on to your kitchen storage just to make room for a bunch of institutional sizes you may never use up anyway! 

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