As we’ve mentioned previously, shopping in bulk can create a cluttered stockpile of unused goods. But it doesn’t have to. There are advantages to bulk shopping.
- Items may be less expensive in bulk packaging or by purchasing multiples of the same item.
- If you work in a volatile industry and income is variable throughout the year, stocking up during periods of high income will allow you to cope with periods of low income.
- If you live far away from discount shopping areas or the weather is unpredictable and you cannot get to shopping areas easily, buying in bulk will save you the time and effort of getting to stores who offer lower prices.
To avoid a cluttered stockpile, you should take a look at what you buy and how much you need taking into account several factors such as, what particular products you use, how long it takes you to use them, how long the product will last, and your available storage space.
What products do you use?
First, look at what products you use and note if you and your family prefer certain brands. There is no point in buying store-brand ketchup in bulk if your family will only eat a particular national brand. Create a master spreadsheet of products and preferred brands. Include all your consumables on the list such as trash bags, feminine hygiene products — even vacuum cleaner bags. Tip: Never buy items in bulk if you haven’t tried them before. You might find that the product (or specific brand) does not meet your needs. If that happens, you’ll be left with a pile of clutter.
How long does it take to use each product?
It is easy to estimate how long it takes to use some items. You may already know that you need to buy a jumbo jar of peanut butter every week and a large bottle of Caesar salad dressing every month. It takes more effort to figure out how long some products such as shampoo and plastic wrap last. For something like shampoo, you can do some calculations. If you use 2mL (1/2 tsp) shampoo per day per person, a 300mL (10oz) bottle would last 150 days or about five months.
For items like plastic wrap, where it may be difficult to calculate how much you use per day, write the date on the package with a wax pencil as soon as you open it. When you finish the package, note the date and you’ll have an idea of how long it takes you to finish the roll.
How long will it last?
If you’ll be buying in bulk, you’ll need to ensure that you use all of a product before it expires. Some products have different date stamps such as “use by” or “best before.” According to the Institute of Food Technologists, these aren’t necessarily the expiry dates but indicate when the quality of the product is likely to decline quickly. Food labelling varies by country so check with your national food standards centre for details.
Also note that the “best before” date does not necessarily apply once the food product has been opened. Stilltasty.com provides information on how long products should last once opened. They also give details on ideal food storage conditions which can help you maximize the life of your bulk purchases.
Remember that personal hygiene products (soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, etc.) may only last from 6-12 months. Many cleaning products (bleach, laundry soap, etc.) only last six months but some products last for up to two years.
Available storage space
Survey your available storage space. How much room do you have in your cupboards and closets for storing bulk items? Are you able to convert some space in a basement or garage to storage? Is the space easily accessible and suitable for the products you wish to store? Many foods, including canned and dried foods, should not be stored in areas with widely varying temperatures. Paper products should be stored in areas of low humidity.
Preparing to shop
The amount of available storage space will give you an idea of how much of each item you can purchase and how often it needs to be purchased. For example, an average family of four will use about 100 rolls of toilet paper a year. If you can store six rolls under the bathroom sink, and 30 rolls in a linen closet, then you should only buy a 36-roll package each time you shop and you’ll only need to buy toilet paper approximately three times per year.
Use your stockpile
Some people use the FIFO (first-in, first-out) method so the items that are purchased first, are used first. However, some retailers will mark down prices on soon-to-expire items. When you bring home your goods, check expiry dates and rotate your stock so that items that will expire soonest are used first.
American investor Mark Cuban’s wealth building tips include buying consumables in bulk and when they are sale. So, feel free to buy that gallon of Frank’s Red Hot sauce if you know your family will use it before it expires.