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Buying in Bulk Could Save Shoppers 27%, on Average — Led by Paper Towels, Water and Batteries

Buying in Bulk Could Save Shoppers 27%, on Average — Led by Paper Towels, Water and Batteries

Buying in Bulk Could Save Shoppers 27%, on Average — Led by Paper Towels, Water and Batteries
Posted on December 28, 2023

With grocery prices rising, consumers may be looking to cut costs wherever they can — and that may mean buying in bulk. Good news for these shoppers: According to the latest LendingTree analysis, buying in bulk could save shoppers 27% on average across 30 common products.

In addition to going over which bulk buys could save the most money (and which ones offer the slimmest savings), stick around for tips on utilizing credit card rewards to maximize bulk savings.

Key findings

  • Across 30 common products, buying in bulk could save shoppers 27% compared to buying in lower quantities. When we last compared the prices of bulk and nonbulk products in 2021, the average savings landed at 25%, on average. This means bulk buying could save consumers 8% more than two years ago.
  • Paper towels, water and batteries are the best products to buy in bulk and give you the biggest bang for the buck. When shopping for Bounty Select-A-Size paper towels, 365 spring water and Duracell AA batteries, buying in bulk could save shoppers 63%, 58% and 54%, respectively, over the nonbulk alternative.
  • Each of the 30 products offered at least some bulk savings, but amounts vary widely and are product dependent. The product with the smallest bulk savings was Centrum Adult Multivitamins, at 3%. Three others — Red Bull energy drinks, Premier Protein vanilla shakes and Head & Shoulders 2-in-1 dandruff shampoo and conditioner — provided an average of 8% in savings for bulk shoppers.
  • Shoppers should be cognizant of product shelf life and product utilization patterns before considering an all-bulk lifestyle. Paper towels generally don’t expire, and some things can be frozen for months or years, but the same can’t be said for other products on our list, such as mayonnaise or ketchup.

Note: Not all products are measured at the same level of “bulkness.” For example, our walnuts analysis compares buying 24 ounces to 4 ounces, a difference of 6X. In the honey comparison, we looked at 24 ounces and 48 ounces, a difference of 2X. For some products, the ability to buy different quantities of bulkness will partially determine how much of a discount you can get by buying in bulk.

Bulk buying could save consumers 27%

It’s common knowledge that buying in bulk is generally more cost effective, if you have the money on hand — but just how cost effective is it? Across the 30 common products we analyzed, we found buying in bulk could save shoppers 27% compared to buying in standard quantities.

When we last compared the prices of bulk and nonbulk products in 2021, we found that shoppers could save around 25%, on average. In other words, savings from bulk buying has risen by 8%.

LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz says that’s a noticeably big price difference. “That’s great news for consumers,” he says. “That sort of savings can really have an impact on a budget — so long as you buy the right products. That 64-ounce vat of mayo may be a great deal, cost-wise, but the food has a shelf life. If you can’t use all or at least most of it by the time it goes bad, you really haven’t ended up saving any money at all.”

Paper towels provide the most bulk savings — here’s which products follow

When it comes down to which products offer the most savings, paper towels take the lead. While a 196-sheet pack of Bounty Select-a-Size paper towels costs $9.99 at Walmart, consumers can buy a 1,260-sheet pack at Sam’s Club for $23.48. Per sheet, consumers are paying 5 cents for the nonbulk pack and 2 cents for the bulk pack — meaning consumers could save 63% by buying bulk.

Consumers can also save when they buy bottled water in bulk. On Amazon, a 25.3 ounce bottle of 365 spring water costs 69 cents, while a 405.6 ounce bottle costs $4.69 — putting the per-ounce cost at 3 cents for the nonbulk option and 1 cent for the bulk option. That’s a 58% difference in savings.

Duracell AA batteries also offer significant savings. While an 8-count pack of Duracell AA batteries cost $9.18 at Walmart, a 40-count pack costs $20.99 at Costco. With the cost per battery boiling down to $1.15 for the nonbulk option and 52 cents for the bulk option, that means buying bulk could save shoppers 54%.

Buying in bulk and saving 50% or more on items is definitely a big deal, Schulz says. However, he cautions that bulk buying isn’t perfect.

Is bulk buying always worth it?

Even though you may be saving money in the long term, remember that your wallet probably will feel a greater impact in the short term.

“The overall cost of that purchase might be well more than what you would normally spend in one visit,” Schulz says. “For example, if 10 units of a product cost $10 but 20 units cost just $15, you’re saving more on each unit, but you still have to pay the extra $5 at the counter to get the discount. It’s a bit of a ‘it takes money to save money’ type of situation.’”

Multivitamins offer the slimmest bulk savings

While all the products analyzed offered some savings, those savings weren’t always significant. Leading the list of products with the slimmest savings was adult multivitamins. While a 200-tablet bottle of Centrum Adult Multivitamins costs $12.12 at Walmart, a 425-tablet bottle at Costco costs $24.99. That boils down to just under 6 cents per tablet for the nonbulk option and slightly over 6 cents per tablet for the bulk option — meaning consumers could save just 3% by buying bulk, or less than 1 cent per vitamin.

Tying for the second slimmest savings, Red Bull energy drinks, Premier Protein vanilla shakes and Head & Shoulders 2-in-1 dandruff shampoo and conditioner provided an average of 8% in savings for bulk shoppers. To break that down even further:

  • A four-can pack (33.6 ounces) of Red Bull at Walmart costs $7.24, or 22 cents per ounce
  • A 24-can pack (201.6 ounces) of Red Bulls at Costco costs $39.99, or 20 cents per ounce
  • An 8.45-ounce bottle of Head & Shoulders 2-in-1 at Walmart costs $3.67, or 43 cents per ounce
  • A 40-ounce bottle of Head & Shoulders 2-in-1 at Costco costs $15.99, or 40 cents per ounce

Buyers should be strategic with bulk purchases

Buying in bulk may offer more bang for your buck — so long as you get enough use out of the products you buy. Generally speaking, products that expire may not be worth buying in bulk unless you’re certain you can use it all in time.

Mayonnaise offers a great example here. While buying Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise in bulk could save you 29%, mayonnaise typically goes bad within three months of its best by date — and consuming 64 ounces of mayonnaise within that time isn’t feasible for most people.

Ketchup is another example, though slightly less extreme. Buying ketchup in bulk could save you 37%, but most ketchup expires within six to 12 months. Unless you’re certain that your household can consume 132 ounces of ketchup in a year, it may not be worth buying in bulk.

Bulk up on rewards: Expert tips to maximize bulk shopping savings

Bulk buying can benefit many consumers, particularly those with big households. But the benefit doesn’t end with bulk buying. In fact, Schulz says, there are a few ways your credit card can help extend those financial benefits a little further. He recommends the following:

  • Consider getting your favorite store’s card. As with airlines and hotels, if you’re loyal to a specific warehouse store, it can make sense to get that store’s credit card. “Sam’s Club, BJ’s and Costco all offer cards that offer extra rewards for purchases made at their stores, charge no annual fee beyond the club membership and even give rewards for purchases made outside of those stores,” Schulz says. “Just make sure you do your homework before applying for the card. After all, the best rewards card for you is the one that rewards you the most for the purchases you’re already making.”
  • Be aware of maximums. “It’s certainly not unusual for rewards cards to have caps on earnings, and warehouse store credit cards are no exception,” he says. “It is important to know the earning maximums for these cards before you apply. Otherwise, if you’re someone who routinely would spend above the capped amount, you could find yourself disappointed.”

Methodology

LendingTree researchers first compiled a list of 30 products to compare nonbulk and bulk costs:

  • Freezer bags
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Yogurt
  • Oats
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Peanut butter
  • Olive oil
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Honey
  • Bottled water
  • Instant coffee
  • Powder drink mix
  • Energy drinks
  • Protein shakes
  • Dishwasher pods
  • Laundry detergent
  • Toilet paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Paper towels
  • Toothpaste
  • Shampoo
  • Deodorant
  • Multivitamins
  • Pain relievers
  • Batteries
  • Pet food

Researchers analyzed the websites of Costco, Walmart, Whole Foods, Sam’s Club and Amazon to make comparisons. To ensure we were pulling prices from the same area, we used the ZIP code for LendingTree headquarters — 28203 in Charlotte, N.C. — as a starting point.

Because not all these retailers are within the 28203 ZIP code, we pulled prices from the closest location. All prices were pulled on Aug. 2, 2023.

Analysts compared the prices of the two products on a per-item or per-weight basis, calculating how much a nonbulk shopper would save by purchasing a product in bulk.

The original post is from LendingTree. You can read it here.

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