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Warehouse Beware! Buying in bulk on a budget

Shopping at big box stores and buying in bulk is a great way to save money; especially when feeding a family, hosting a party, or stocking up on necessities. Saving money is also good when you’re paying off debt. A recent independent study by consumer’s checkbook confirms that prices on food alone (at Warehouse Stores) are 30% lower than the supermarket. The concept of bulk, volume, and low prices surely isn’t a new phenomenon. So why am I telling you to beware?

ACCC's advice is to have a strategy for buying in bulk.

ACCC’s advice is to have a strategy for buying in bulk.

There is a reason why these types of stores, especially Costco, are so successful. They have tricks and strategies in place that pretty much guarantee you’ll buy more than what is on your list and spend much more than you planned. 

It starts as soon as you walk in. The front of the store is loaded with all the flashy and shiny objects that are hard to resist. The way the store traffic is directed gives the consumer no choice but to walk by flat screen TVs, jewelry, cameras and iPods. Walk quickly, put your head down, and remember you only came in for butter and toilet paper (which by the way, is Costco’s best-selling product). You don’t want to go over budget or derail your debt management progress!

Once you successfully make it through the impulse-buy-abyss you will find that there are no signs anywhere in the store to help you find your way around. Costco wants you to get lost because research has shown the more time you spend wandering the more you are likely to spend. Do yourself a favor and head to the back of the store first. Fill your cart with the larger and heavier items like toilet paper, Dog food, bottled water, or kitty litter (these are things you most likely came for anyways). The heavier and more full your cart is while you shop the less time you will spend in the store.

Along with avoiding the shiny items when you first walk in, you should also avoid the center of the store, which I like to call the “black hole”. This is where you will find the lower priced impulse buy items like clothes, books, and toys. This section is harder to avoid than the front of the store because it is full of quick cheap things. Those cheap things add up!

My favorite part of going to Costco and other warehouse stores is the abundance of free samples. Enjoy them as much as you’d like but don’t be fooled into buying everything that you try. Do you really need a box of 150 Taquitos? Buying in bulk could backfire on you.

* Want to save money on a quick (not so healthy) lunch? You can grab a slice of pizza (better than most pizza shops) for $1.99! Don’t like pizza? They have hot dogs, sandwiches, and ice cream for dirt cheap as well.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 


Madison is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. She is excited to share her tips on saving money and being financially responsible here on the Talking Cents blog!

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