What to Buy in Bulk

By Raechel Conover, Cheapism.com

We've all been there - tempted to buy anything and everything in bulk. At the time it seems like a good idea to take advantage of lower per item costs and stock up. But some items are just not meant for the bulk storage room. The next time you're faced with this dilemma, choose wisely: Some non-food items are worth buying in bulk and others aren't.

Paper products are great to buy in bulk.

Related: Which is the better buy: Sam's or Costco?

Things to Buy in Bulk. Common household items to buy in bulk have no expiration date (or one that stretches months out). And assuming you've got shelves to spare, they won't appear on your shopping list for ages. These are the things to buy in bulk when you find a deal:

  • Paper goods, (e.g., paper towels, tissues, and toilet paper) and items like plastic wrap, aluminum foil, sandwich bags, garbage bags, laundry detergent, and storage containers are definitely worth buying in bulk. Such products are used daily and never expire, so keeping a supply on hand is hugely convenient.
  • Batteries have a long shelf life and these days nearly every household relies on these little energy cells for a variety of needs -- remote controls, toys, smoke detectors, and so on.

Related: Outlet shopping vs. retail

  • Personal care items, such as shampoo, conditioner, razor blades, contact solution, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and bar soap are all things our Facebook fans reported buying in bulk and routinely using up, especially in multiple-person households. And consider the savings. How Stuff Works reports that six brand-name toothbrushes from Sam's Club were recently selling for $13.88 compared with a two-pack at Rite Aid that was priced at $7.99. Given dentists' recommendation to change toothbrushes every three to six months, this item belongs on the list of what to buy in bulk.
  • Alcohol might sound like an odd choice, but website after website points out that buying the large bottle of liquor or buying beer in bulk (often by the case) is much cheaper at warehouse clubs like Sam's Club or Costso than grabbing a liter-size container at the liquor store or a six-pack at the grocery store.
  • Diapers need constant changing, especially for newborns. On the Pregnancy & Baby website, a poll of users found that newborns go through six to 20 diapers a day. Don't hesitate to buy diapers in bulk, but remember that children grow quickly, so stock up just as the baby jumps into a new size.Some purchases aren't wise to buy in bulk.

What Not to Buy in Bulk. Some things are just not bulk-worthy purchases. Whether they spoil, dry out, expire before you can use them, or overflow into living space, indiscriminately shelling out money in search of so-called savings doesn't make sense.

  • Wipes of any sort are not worth buying in bulk. Personal experience tells us that baby wipes in particular tend to dry out before you can use all the containers you bought on special. Sure, it's possible to rewet them, but a squirming and diaperless baby on the changing table and a sink down the hall is an awkward hassle. A similar situation often arises with cleaning wipes, so unless you have a big cleaning job on your hands, avoid buying in bulk.
  • Certain cleaning supplies are best bought in limited quantities. One of our Facebook fans reports that liquid Soft Scrub tends to get really thick after a while, which cuts its usefulness, and another notes that dishwasher tablets crumble or seemingly go stale after a while. It's probably best to avoid buying either in bulk.

Related: Walmart, Kmart and Target showdown

  • Bulk office supplies aren't always such a deal. For example, Forbes points out that copy paper is often used as a promotional item to get shoppers into stores like Staples and Office Depot and may be cheaper than buying in bulk at a warehouse store. (We've seen rock-bottom prices on copy paper at Walmart.)
  • Although many personal care products are good bulk buys, lotion doesn't seem to be one of them. Some lotions tend to get hard and clumpy after a while and other brands turn runny. Either way, they're hard to use. So unless you plan to use lots of lotion, this is another item to avoid buying in bulk.


More from Cheapism:

Our cheap family restaurant guide
Which has better deals: Amazon or Walmart?
Best tablets under $200

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