Buying in Bulk Isn’t Always Cost-Effective

Many stores and those big clubs were you have to pay membership would have you believe otherwise, but bigger isn’t always better. I discovered this the other day, at two different stores: Target and ShopRite, our grocery store.

Example 1

In Target, I needed to pick up a multipack of AA batteries. The best deal I saw was 16 batteries for $14.50 — not ideal, but it seemed reasonable. Then, when I was at the checkout, I saw a 12 pack for just $9.50. I’m not the best at doing math in my head, but even I could see that the 12 pack was a better deal.

Here’s the breakdown:
16 batteries at $14.50 = 90.5 cents per battery

12 batteries at $9.50 = 79 cents per battery

While I was getting 4 fewer batteries, my spending power was increased. Maybe I should have gotten two of the 12 packs, but I don’t need that many batteries.

Example 2

As any good North Jersey resident of Italian ancestry will tell you, it’s a pleasure to have some fresh mozzarella in the house — it goes especially well in a little antipasta with roasted peppers and olives, or on a grilled chicken sandwich. When I got to the cheese section at the grocery store, my eyes were immediately drawn to a sale price on my favorite brand: $8 for 16 ounces. Then, I scanned to the right, and saw the smaller 8-ounce size was only $2.50. Hmm.

Here’s the breakdown:
16 ounces at $8 = 50 cents per ounce

16 ounces (in 2 packs of 8 oz) for a total of $5 = 31 cents per ounce

So I got a total of 16 ounces by purchasing two 8-ounce packages for $5. That’s a much better deal than paying $7.99 for the 16-ounce version.

It pays to compare costs not only across brands, but within the same brand, for the best deals. If the store offers a unit price next to the retail price, it’s even easier — the one with the lower unit price will get you more product for your money. Just make sure the two unit prices you’re comparing measure the product by the same weight (ounces, pounds, etc.).