TORONTO – Buying in bulk can be a huge waste of money and time if you don’t know what you should be stocking up on before entering your favourite big box store or warehouse club. Go in prepared, however, and it can be a beneficial, money-saving endeavor. Our picks for the five best items worth buying in bulk are below.
Rules of buying in bulk
While the items below are general products a majority of people use on a regular basis, the first thing you need to ask yourself before buying a huge amount of anything is, “Do I need this?” That should be followed by, “Will I use this?” If you need it and will use it, ask yourself one final question: “Do I have room to store this?” Only proceed in a bulk purchase if you answer “yes” to all three questions.
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Unless you are cooking a huge meal or splitting your purchase with a friend or family member, you should generally avoid buying produce or anything that can’t be frozen for a long period of time in bulk. Sticking to canned goods and staple items is best.
1. Paper towels & toilet paper
Buying products like toilet paper and paper towels in bulk makes sense as these are items most people need and use on a daily basis. But how do you know if the 30 double rolls for $12.99 is a better deal than the 20 regular rolls for $6.99? That comes down to basic math (every bulk buyer’s friend).
Editor’s note: The equation below was reversed in an earlier version of this article. This has since been corrected. We apologize for the confusion.
To figure out the better deal you need to calculate the cost per unit (or sheet in this case). Using the aforementioned example, if the 20 regular rolls are 100 sheets per roll (a total of 2,000 sheets) taking the total price ($6.99) and dividing that by the total sheets shows the cost per sheet is $0.0035. Say the 30 double rolls are 200 sheets per roll (6,000 sheets in total). Dividing the total price ($12.99) by the total number of sheets shows the cost per sheet is about $0.0022. The better deal is the 30 double rolls for $12.99.
TIP: Most stores break down the cost per unit for customers in the lower left of the price tags displayed in the aisle but it’s a good idea to have a calculator (or smartphone) with you when shopping in bulk.
If you’ve ever had to buy batteries at a gas station or drugstore you’ll know how expensive they can be. Good, name brand batteries will last a long time and buying them in bulk can generate huge savings. The difference between buying a 4-pack of AAs for $9.99 and 48 for $14.99 is $2.19 per battery – a significant savings (which adds up, especially if you have kids).
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Alkaline and lithium batteries are the most common you’ll find in bulk. Alkaline can last up to 10 years on the shelf, while lithium can last up to 15. Always check the expiration date on the batch you’re buying and store them somewhere not too hot or cold. While it’s good to have a variety of batteries on hand in case of an emergency, you might only want to stockpile the ones you use most often.
TIP: If you have a lot of devices that require batteries all at once, consider buying a batch of good quality rechargeable batteries as they will end up saving you the most money in the long run.
3. Gift cards
Most people don’t realize that you can save money by buying gift cards in bulk. If you regularly shop at a specific store or give them to people for Christmas and birthdays, bulk buying them can save you anywhere from $10 – $20 on every $100 you spend. Popular bulk packages include restaurant and fast food cards, cards for online stores, such as Amazon, and cards for digital services like iTunes. You’ll get the most out of your dollar by buying movie passes or movie night out packages in bulk.
TIP: Bulk gift cards are usually sold in packs of four or more, with a value or $20 to $25 per card. Keep an eye out around holidays for the best deals.
4. Meat & cheese
While more time consuming than the other items, purchasing cheese and meat in bulk can save you a great deal of money if you are able to properly store the items. Proper storage means having a FoodSaver device to make smaller, usable portions out of the larger packs and enough space in your fridge and freezer to keep it all fresh long enough to be able to use before it spoils.
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TIP: You get the best deal when buying cheese and meat in bulk if you split the purchase with friends or family members. If no one close to you is game, check Facebook for a bulk share group in your area.
5. Personal products
Toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, vitamins and razors are all bulk-friendly items that tend to become cheaper per unit as the package gets bigger. These are also items that can be purchased online in bulk for an even better discount. If you have the storage space you can purchase enough of these products at once to last you an entire year (or longer).
TIP: As babies grow and change so quickly, buying the same size diapers in bulk at an early age is not recommended.
SOUND OFF: What items do you find are the best to buy in bulk? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.