Costco Shoppers, Beware: 5 Things You Should Never Buy In Bulk
Not everything is cheaper at the warehouse clubs.
Shopping in bulk can save you a ton of money; Costco shoppers save an average 25% on household staples, to be exact. I make bi-weekly Costco runs, and I've learned so many tips for saving money there (like how to read the store labels to find out if a product will be marked down in the future). Seriously, I can’t imagine buying toilet paper or paper towels from another store ever again. But I also know from one too many impulse buys that not all bulk products are a smart purchase, even if it will technically save you a few dollars. Sure you could buy a year’s supply of pretty much anything at Costco or Sam’s Club, but keep in mind factors like how quickly you’ll use the product before you add it to your cart. Steer clear of anything that will go bad before you can use it up (pay attention to expiration dates!), or items you’ll just end up storing for years.
Bottom line: A few extra dollars in savings generally isn’t worth having a lot of extra clutter around. And just because Costco or Sam's Club sells it, doesn't mean it's always cheaper. We’ve put together a list of bulk products to avoid so you can consider all the options before heading to the checkout line at one of these warehouse stores.
Perishable Food You Can’t Freeze
Last week, the 2.5-pound bag of spinach was on sale at my local Costco for a few cents more than I normally pay for a much smaller bag at the grocery store. It seemed like a great deal at the time, until I got home and realized I’d be eating salad three times a day for the rest of eternity (or at least until the expiration date). In the end, I only ate about half the bag and had too much leftover to freeze it all (I can only handle so many spinach smoothies). And while I technically still saved money, I felt bad contributing to the food waste epidemic. The bottom line: Don’t buy more than you know you can eat, because it’ll likely end up at the bottom of the compost bin.
Anything You Won't Use This Year
Keep in mind the size of your household before adding anything to your cart; what makes sense for other shoppers may not be a smart move for you. Someone living alone won’t go through the bulk package of tissues nearly as fast as a household with four kids—meaning they’ll end up storing the boxes for much longer. And since we know physical clutter can cause emotional stress, you’re probably better off just making a Target run when you need more, instead of storing a 24-pack for years.
Both Costco and Sam's Club have a surprisingly large flower supply, but they’re usually not cheaper than you can find other places. If you need a bouquet in a hurry and you’re already heading to the store, they do have nice arrangements. But we’ve found we can typically find a fresher, more unique selection at Trader Joe’s for a few dollars less.
Spices can be expensive, so it’s tempting to buy the bulk sizes to save a little cash. But did you know you should replace your spices every six months? (Yeah, me either.) If you put cinnamon in your coffee every day or if your household uses a lot of salt and pepper while cooking, you could potentially use up some Costco-size spices before the six month mark, but because of their short shelf life, bulk spices are generally a no-go.
Laundry soap is another household staple with a surprisingly short shelf life. All laundry products have a “use by” date—the time varies based on the type of product—but generally laundry soaps and detergents will lose their effectiveness after six to nine months. If you don’t do much laundry (or hit the dry cleaner frequently) this is one bulk product to skip.