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.).

7 comments to Buying in Bulk Isn’t Always Cost-Effective

  • You’re absolutely right. Sometimes it makes no sense to buy bigger packages. I experienced something similar to your cheese story 2 weeks ago. I needed to order some address labels, and normal thinking would lead one to go right for the large package of 1,500 for the best deal. Well, as it turns out, the packs of 750 were on sale, so the 2 smaller packs cost less than the “bulk” pack. Backwards logic, I know, but that’s how a lot of places will get you, by making you think that bulk is better, but a wise consumer will always examine their options and alternatives very closely for the best deal.

    • Nicole

      It’s always hard to compare EVERYTHING you buy, especially in the grocery store, but sometimes it’s obvious. Glad you were able to find the better deal!

      • In the grocery store I go to, it’s made easier by the unit pricing being shown on the shelf tags. That way, you can even compare not only among the same size products, but also across sizes as well as different brands. Sometimes, the options are just too overwhelming, and sometimes the savings aren’t going to be very significant either so you just need to pick and choose how detailed to be.

  • I constantly check prices with Costco with Target. Too often there is absolutely no savings, just more of it.

  • Now you’ve got me craving fresh mozzarella! That’s a pretty goof price at the supermarket. Costco has big bins full of little balls of mozz. It’s great for parties…but dangerous to keep around!

    you should also check out Corrado’s in Clifton…they have all sorts of delicious cheeses and stuff.

  • Casey

    It’s a good thing I don’t usually buy stuff in bulks. My problem would be buying stuff that I don’t really need or use.

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