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November 25, 2021

Is it smarter to buy in bulk, or only as needed?

For years, consumers have been stocking up at big box stores, confident that bulk shopping offered the best value for their money. But a seemingly never-ending recession is altering the way many people think about shopping.

P1-AY327_JIT_p1_NS_20101122185618 More and more consumers are saying no to bulk buying, picking up only what they need now and for the immediate future instead, according to the Wall Street Journal

Manufacturers and retailers report that people are buying less, shopping more often, and are more interested in having cash, rather than goods, on hand.

The new shopping behaviour is having a big effect on club stores, in particular. Costco, for instance, has reported increased shopping-trip frequency and decreased transaction sizes in what some observers dub "pantry deloading."

Over the past two years, the number of items kept in American cupboards has fallen about 20 per cent, according to a recent SymphonyIRI survey. Consumers are also cutting back on the range of goods they stock.

The average household had 369 unique items in its medicine cabinets, pantries and cosmetics bags this year, compared with 404 in 2006, the survey found.

There are clearly several items that lend themselves to bulk purchasing. But there are also several misconceptions we typically make when trying to rationalize our bulk buying.

If you're really keen though, you could actually go one step further and form your own food group to do your bulk buying, suggests Mint.com.

While not as formal as a food co-op, a food group can be a good way of saving money and getting together with your local community, particularly if not everybody you know drives a mini van.
Once the food is purchased, the group will have to decide where it will be stored, when it will be split up and how it will be delivered. But the savings can be significant, participants report.

Which is the way to go? Loading up at Costco, banding together to scour grocery stores or simply buying what’s needed when you need it?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...