It is generally accepted that buying in bulk is the best way to save money and the backbone of a frugal lifestyle. I do agree with this, but not for all things. With products and foods we regularly or quickly use and consume, I almost always buy in bulk without question. But there are cases where I find that buying in bulk is not always the right solution.
A few instances where I often choose not to buy in bulk are:
- Trying a new product
I recently shopped for a multi-purpose household cleaner. (We try to use vinegar and baking soda when possible, but there are times that we feel we need a stronger cleaner.) Because we have pets, we try to be as cautious as possible when choosing cleaners, and I found one called Simple Green that I liked the looks of because it claims to be safe and biodegradable, and it comes concentrated and makes several times the amount of the bottle.
Simple Green comes in 3 sizes at our local Ace Hardware: 22 oz. spray bottle ($5.99), 1/2 gallon jug $8.99), and 1 Gallon jug ($10.99). Needless to say, the larger the jug, the lower the cost of use. With the larger sizes significantly cheaper than the smaller sizes, I was tempted to purchase the gallon sized jug. However, having never used or heard of the brand, I was hesitant to purchase such a large quantity for fear that it would turn out to be unsatisfactory for various reasons. Our local Ace Hardware charges a 15% restocking fee for all returns, which I consider a waste of money, so I don’t like to think of that as an option.
I ended up choosing the 1/2 gallon jug of Simple Green. It was a hard decision because for just $2.00 more, I could have had twice the amount of product, but I figured that if it turned out I hated the product, I would be $2.00 richer for having gone with the $8.99 instead of $10.99. Also, the 1/2 gallon was enough to mix so much cleaner that it would be a very long time before having to buy more. And that extra $2.00 sitting in the bank for another 6 months to a year (or maybe even longer) will earn me a little interest, so in the end it might not make that much difference.
- Imminent large expenditure
We sometimes opt not to purchase some things in bulk when we are expecting a large expenditure in the near future – i.e. income taxes, property tax, home and auto insurance renewal, vehicle registration and smog check, etc. which for us always come together at the same time (April and November). So in the weeks ahead of these months, we sometimes buy things we use over a longer period of time in smaller quantities. Yes, it does cost more in the long run, but sometimes we feel it a worthwhile cost in exchange for the added security of a little extra money in the bank account when larger amounts of money are going out.
- Less frequently used products
If you are purchasing something that is used very infrequently, maybe only a few times a year, you might waste your money by purchasing it in larger quantities if it expires and loses effectiveness over time. This also goes for –
- Products nearing their expiration date
Stores often have sales when products are nearing their expiration dates because they cannot sell them once the date has passed. In many cases, the items on sale are the bulk quantities and the price is so low that it is tempting to purchase it. But as mentioned above, some products lose effectiveness when they age so you may end up wasting money on products that no longer work as they should.
Again, the decision to not buy in bulk are usually for things that are not used up quickly. For everyday things like food, shampoo, laundry detergent, toilet paper, etc. we always buy in as large quantities as possible, but with things that are used over the course of a few months to a year, it can sometimes be more beneficial in the short term to purchase in smaller quantities.
P.S. We have been using Simple Green for a few weeks now and I am happy to say that I do like it. It gets the job done and smells really nice – sort of minty. Should have gotten the gallon size for just $2.00 more… darn it!