Please welcome back Sarah Cooney to the blog. Her guest post, Couponing Like a New Yorker, was so fabulous that I brought her back to talk bulk buying- is it REALLY a good deal?
Growing up, I remember how exciting it was when a BJ’s opened in our town. For those of you who don’t have a BJ’s near you- it’s a members only bulk sales superstore, a la Costco. It’s the type of place where you could walk out with a box of cereal so big you could build a fort, or enough toothpaste to last a thousand winters- where you go in for a toothbrush, and walk out with a packet of 40.
I remember feeling super awesome shopping there with my mother. Something about being a member meant that this was an exclusive experience. It was laid out like a warehouse – bare bones and sterile. It all lead to the feeling of being backstage, where the normal shoppers were not allowed. In this private world, portions were huge, and prices were lower.
All of this was long before I became the couponer I am today. My parents were budget conscious, smart shoppers- as Federal employees with two small children, they weren’t exactly swimming in extra income, but they made it work. With that said, they were not couponers. Buying in bulk, though, gave the impression of savings and savviness.
Buying in bulk has long been accepted as the cheap way to go. It’s a simple principle: Larger quantities are generally sold at a slightly smaller unit price. If the company can get you to commit to purchasing a greater quantity of units, the company will agree to accept a slightly lower sales price for each unit
Bulk shopping has not dwindled as the years have gone on, and it remains a popular way to shop “on a budget”. In fact, with the rise of the internet, there are now shiny new ways to buy that 50 gallon drum of laundry detergent. As a city resident, online shopping is the preferred way to buy in bulk. Websites like www.boxed.com have sparkly ads that dominate our morning subway commutes, imploring us to see that bulk shopping is clearly the smart way to make purchases. But… is it really?
I am the (self-proclaimed) ultimate cheap shopper, but you would NEVER catch me buying from a bulk superstore or website. First and foremost, any “exclusive club” that requires you to pay a membership to grace them with your business is not worth it in my book. Ever since I started couponing, I’ve realized that there are far better savings to be had elsewhere. By combining sales and coupons, I’ve found that I can save far more money by taking that same principle of paying a lower unit price, and turning it upside down.
Instead, I propose this completely “un-bulked” guide to buying cheaply…
Instead of buying in huge quantities, buy in the SMALLEST possible quantities. By taking a product that’s already on sale in a normal grocery/drug/dollar store, and using a coupon to bring the price even lower, unit prices drop dramatically- and in most cases, they drop below the wholesale unit price. Also, a coupon applied to a smaller quantity goes much farther, distributed per unit, than it would over a large quantity. Saving 0.50 cents on a $1.00 purchase is a far higher percentage of savings than saving 0.50 cents on a $5.00 purchase.
A fantastic example of this idea is a deal that I got on Halls Cough Drops this week. It is cold and flu season after all, and you can never have too many cough drops! After some searching and clipping, I managed to find four $1 off of 2 bags of Halls Cough Drops coupons. The coupons specified that they could only be used on bags of 17 count or higher. My local Dollar Tree just so happens to carry 18 count bags of Halls Cough Drops for $1.00 each. With my four $1 off of 2 bags coupons, I was able to purchase 8 bags of 18 count cough drops (144 cough drops total) at 0.50 cents per bag, or $4.00 total.
Meanwhile, on the bulk-buying side of the equation, www.boxed.com currently has a 160 count pack of Halls Cough Drops on sale for $10.49. Also, just for comparisons sake, Rite Aid, a normal drugstore, is currently selling a 30 count pack of Halls Cough Drops for $2.69.
Here’s my favorite part: the math! Total Price / Total Units = Unit Price
-Rite Aid (Regular Drugstore, no sale/coupons used): $2.69 / 30 cough drops = 8.9 cents per cough drop
–www.boxed.com (Online Bulk Shopping): $10.49 / 160 cough drops = 6.9 cents per cough drop
-Dollar Tree (Dollar Store, with coupons): 8 bags x $1.00 = $8.00 – 4 $1.00 coupons = $4.00 $4.00 / 144 cough drops = 2.8 cents per cough drop
By using coupons to purchase multiple bags of a smaller quantity of cough drops instead of buying in bulk or paying regular market price without coupons, I managed to save 69% over the regular drug store prices, and 58% over the bulk buying website prices! I walked away with close to the same wholesale quantity of the same exact items, just packaged differently, at less than half the price of the bulk-savings stores. Yes, it took a little bit of extra leg work, but at the end of the day, 69% saved here and 58% saved there really adds up.
This is the way I shop- by anti-bulk buying. Using coupons coupled with low prices and sales on smaller packages is the true way of “cheating the system”- legally and brilliantly. By the way… does anyone want some cough drops?
Sarah Cooney is a NYC based Actor/Singer/Stilt Walker/Avid Couponer! www.sarahbcooney.