Changing your habits and way of life takes time. Implementing a new fitness routine, diet, or spending pattern doesn’t happen overnight. In an attempt to change our shopping habits, my family and I have started buying in bulk (when it makes sense) as a way of saving money.
My wife, myself, and two kids, have been slowly buying things at Costco when they are cheaper to take advantage of the 2% cash back rewards program of our executive membership.
It’s taken almost a full year, but we finally have a system that results in saving time, money, and earning enough cash back to at least pay for our membership renewal each year.
Here are our bulk buying rules that actually work.
1. Do Not Exceed Current Monthly Budget
Our current budget for food and household items totals $200 a week, or roughly $800 a month. The goal is to not exceed your current monthly budget, and hopefully save a little extra, by buying in bulk.
If my family ends up spending more than our current budget, by switching the bulk of our shopping to Costco, then we’ve failed. But don’t worry, we failed this in the beginning as we tried to change our shopping habits. Keep at it and it will stick over time.
2. The Less Or Equal Rule
We’ve done the research, and only purchase items at Costco that are equal or less in price per unit than at other places to purchase the items. Take time to research the prices around town to find out whether or not you’re getting a good deal.
The price per unit will let you know the REAL cost of something, versus just spending less on a specific item. That’s where big box stores get ya!
3. Beginning of the Month Trips
At the beginning of the month, we make a monster trip to pick up things that we expect to last the entire month. Some items will help our house run smoothly (like cleaning supplies), while other items are food related.
Here’s the list from our latest monthly trip:
- Paper Towels
- Toilet Paper
- Dishwasher Tabs
- Laundry Detergent
- Laundry Fabric Softener
- Kitchen Trash Bags
- Cat Litter
- Snacks/Frozen Foods
Our beginning-of-the-month-trip is the foundation of our bulk buying strategy. This month’s bill totaled $289, earning us $5.89 in cash back. If our monthly bill is similar each month, we will earn just over $70 in a year which already makes the executive membership worth it.
4. Smaller Weekly Trips
Each Saturday morning, on my way home from the gym, I stop by Costco and purchase our produce and protein needed for the coming week.
- Produce: The strawberries are huge, the grapes are succulent, and the packages of Spring Mix Green Salad is a great deal. A bulk store like Costco, offers produce that comes in huge packages, so you save money. But it forces you to eat more fruits and vegetables since you don’t want them to go bad.
- Meat: I also pick up any meat that we need for the meals we have planned. Most of the time the packages contain more than what we can eat quickly, so we transfer the rest into meal-sized freezer bags or plastic containers. I’d really like to move the purchase of our meat to the beginning of the month trip, but we just haven’t made that transition yet.
These weekly trips have an average budget of $75 a week. Some weeks it’s a little more, some weeks it’s a lot less because we have extra meat right in the freezer. This strategy earns us another $1.50 a week, or $6 a month in cash back, for a total of $72 a year.
Our Budget Breakdown
If you’ve been doing the math, you’ll see that our monthly trip costs about $300, and our weekly trips totals $300 for the month. So our Costco spending eats up $600 of our total $800 monthly budget allowance.
That leaves us $50 a week for complementary things that we get from a regular grocery store (like eggs, and milk). This has proven to be more than enough money to accomplish that.
- Food Satisfaction: We are finding that we have a lot more food choices around the house as we get more product for our dollar. I honestly believe this bulk buying strategy prevents us from eating out as often as well!
- Convenience: It’s extremely convenient to not have to worry about running out of paper towels in the middle of the week, or to run the dishwasher and find that you’re out of soap. My son also loves it because there’s always a supply of different things for him to eat when he gets home from school.
- Cash Back: Through our monthly and weekly trips, we are now on track to earn over $140 a year in cash back. We also buy other products at Costco that fall under other budget categories that will even add to that total.
With this bulk buying strategy, we’re finally making full use of our Costco membership. We’re saving money, and earning cash back to pay for next year’s membership. If we can keep this up, we’ll be coming back for years to come.
Do you buy in bulk? What’s your bulk buying strategy? How does it save you time and money?
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