When Buying More Makes Sense

The other day I had to make a run to Home Depot to get some bulbs and batteries. When I got to the battery aisle, I was immediately struck with all the different quantity options available for purchase.

One package had 4 batteries for almost $4 – while another had 16 batteries for $11. But I was amazed to find they had put the following on the packages:

batteries priced by unit

Now, I've seen price per unit in other stores (especially grocery and Costco) – but I guess I'd never really seen them on goods like batteries. It was helpful to see the pricing details, but I stood there awhile as I contemplated my options.

When does it make sense to buy more of something?

Sometimes, it's a real no-brainer when you ought to pluck down the money upfront for something that you repeatedly purchase that happens to be at a good price.

For others – like batteries – it had me a little perplexed.

So, here's a few things that helped me arrive at an eventual purchase:

  1. How long will the product last? Buying 25 avocados because they are 50 cents instead of a regular purchase of 4 for $1, is likely not a great buy because these bad boys can turn bad pretty quickly. For a family of two (in which we might use 1-2 a week), it makes more sense to buy a lower quantity. In my scenario, batteries “go bad” too – but not as quickly as avocados.
  2. How fast will I use the product? Taking this last example of avocados, it is possible that buying 25 of 'em for 50 cents could prove worthwhile – especially if I was in a family of 12 who all loved guacamole OR, ran a burrito food truck.
  3. Do I have the means? A large bulk purchase of something could throw your regular spending and budget for a loop. It probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense if the bulk purchase is going to put you deep in the hole.
  4. Is the unit price correct? A Lifehacker post from a couple years back stated you could be spending more than you think if you purchase by unit pricing. The post even noted that unit pricing isn't regulated or required in many states. Since most of our phones have calculators on 'em, it doesn't hurt to do the quick math to avoid being fooled.
  5. Am I buying because of the better deal OR because I will use it? I know I've been guilty of walking into a store, seeing something at a great price and then buying it – even though I didn't need it. These impulsive, great buys are sometimes hard to avoid – just because they are so enticing.

What I decided to do

And when I thought about all this and my choices (essentially a 4, 8 or 16-pack of batteries), I determined to go with the the 4-pack. Why? What finally got me to go with the lower count, higher unit price was #1 and #2. Batteries aren't going to last forever AND we rarely—if ever—use AAA batteries.

What things do you ask yourself when determining whether or not to “bulk up”?

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