To Buy or Not to Buy (in Bulk) – 5 Not-So-Obvious Items You Should Bulk Buy

By: Lucy Zemljic on January 14, 2015

It’s easy to poke fun at that grocery shopper loading up 40 rolls of TP onto the checkout. Sometimes, buying in bulk can seem silly and unnecessary. But the reality is that buying certain items in bulk can legitimately save you money, and lots of it.
There’s one caveat though – you’ve got to do it right. A poorly-planned bulk purchase can end up costing you more money than if you’d stuck to the old buy-as-you-need-it method. So, besides the obvious (like the ever-essential light bulbs and toilet paper) what exactly should you buy in bulk? For this Ways to Save Wednesday, we’re taking a trip to the big-box store – check out these five items that are really worth buying in bulk.
1. Batteries
You know what’s more annoying than being stuck behind an overzealous bulk-buyer at the checkout? Being stuck at home with no working batteries for the remote, or the clock, or any of the other battery-draining gadgets we use on a daily basis.
Case in point: it pays to buy batteries in bulk, and not just to cut down on frustration in the long term. You can actually get a way better deal by buying a larger pack of good quality batteries, rather than running off to the corner store to grab them when you run out. Instead of paying $6.99 for 4 AA batteries, invest in a pack of 24 for $15.
To figure out how much you’re saving, use the bulk-buying golden rule: figure out the PPU, or price per unit. Sometimes, retailers show you the price per unit right on the price tag. But if it’s not there, a little bit of math can help you find out if you’re getting a deal.
Simply divide the total cost by the total number of units to find out how much you’re paying for one battery. Or, if math’s not your strong suit, use a price comparison app like Price Cruncher instead.
In the example above, $6.99 for 4 batteries is a PPU of $1.75 – almost two bucks per battery! Conversely, the 24 pack for $15 will cost you about 62 cents per battery. That’s a savings of $1.13 per battery, and with the bulk buy, you won’t be running out anytime soon. Plus, alkaline batteries are good for five to ten years, so go ahead – stock up and save.
2. Personal Care Products: Soap, Deodorant, Shampoo, Toothpaste, Toothbrushes, Razors
All of these personal care items are worth buying in bulk because eventually, you’re going to run out and you’re going to need more. If you spot a sale at your local supermarket or pharmacy, take the opportunity to stock up for the long haul.
Be wary of unfamiliar brands and fragrances though – when buying in bulk, it’s best to stick to well-loved items to avoid buyer’s remorse. I swear by Dove body bars, so every time they’re on sale at my go-to grocer, I’ll invest in a year’s supply.
Note. If you’re going to buy deodorant in bulk, make sure not to overdo it. Anti-perspirants come with an expiry date, since they contain aluminum salts that help stop perspiration. And while deodorants technically won’t expire, most cosmetic manufacturers recommend you chuck opened deodorant after 12 months. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy it in bulk – just make sure you don't go overboard.
3. Dry Foods: Rice, Pasta, Beans
Rice, pasta and beans are all dry goods that will last you quite some time in the pantry. Dried pasta, in a sealed container, lasts up to two years, while dried beans last about a year. This makes them perfect for buying in bulk at Costco or your local big box store.
But you don’t have to have a Costco membership to get the savings – many grocers will, every so often, mark down a particular brand of pasta or rice, so you can stock up on staples without having to invest in a warehouse club membership.
And then there’s the most obvious bulk food destination – the Bulk Barn! All three of these items are available at your local Bulk Barn store, along with a million other dry bulk food options.
4. Gift Cards
Here’s another surprise smart bulk buy – gift cards. Whether it’s for a last-minute holiday party, a nephew’s birthday, or a cousin’s graduation, these plastic wonders can be a life-saver in those I-forgot-to-buy-a-gift emergencies. But buying them one at a time, as needed, can take a toll on your wallet.
Next time, stock up on gift cards by purchasing them in bulk – you can usually get a better deal by buying more of them at once. As Global News’ Brian McKechnie explains, you can save “anywhere from $10 – $20 on every $100 you spend” in bulk gift card purchases. Some popular bulk gift card packages include movie passes, restaurants, online stores like Amazon, and digital services such as iTunes.
5. Office Supplies
If you’ve got elementary, high school, college or university students at home, you know how quickly notebooks and binders need replacing. Not to mention all those dried-up pens, used-up pencils, blackened erasers – you get the picture. And although laptops may be gaining popularity at post-secondary institutions, lots of students still prefer to take notes the good ol’ fashioned way, and they’ll always need more pens, notebooks, et al.   
And then there’s the obvious user of office supplies, the office dweller. The supplies cabinet at work may have everything you need when you’re at the office, but sometimes, work follows us home. How will you print that last-minute report for tomorrow’s meeting if you’ve run out of paper and printer ink at home? The answer’s simple – don’t run out, buy in bulk. Not only will you avoid a last-minute crisis, you’ll also save money in the process. Plus, besides the usual big box destinations (like Staples and Costco), you can also order your supplies online at sites like and save even more. Put that in your quarterly savings report.
Remember, there are a few rules to live buy when buying in bulk – always refer to the price per unit, never bulk-buy an unfamiliar item, steer clear of perishable foods, and for goodness’ sake, make sure you have somewhere to put all those bulk buys when you get home!

That’s it for today’s Ways to Save Wednesdays – happy bulk buying!