Roughly Half of Americans Are Using This Strategy to Fight Inflation. Should You?


Consumers have been feeling the brunt of inflation since it started surging in mid-2021. The Federal Reserve has been trying to combat inflation by raising interest rates. And while that’s helped, living costs are still elevated as of early 2024.

The latest Consumer Price Index, which measures changes in the cost of consumer goods and services, found that annual inflation rose 3.1% in January compared to a year prior. It also found that grocery costs were up 1.2% on an annual basis. But since food is clearly an essential expense, elevated prices in that category are no doubt wreaking havoc on a lot of people’s personal finances.

A late 2023 survey by the Financial Health Network found that for 49% of respondents, buying items in bulk was a strategy used to fight inflation. And it’s a tactic that may work well for you — if you’re careful.

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The pros and cons of buying in bulk

You’ll typically get a lower price per ounce or unit of product when you buy in bulk compared to buying in smaller quantities. That’s the main benefit, though you can argue that a secondary benefit is that you’re less likely to run out of items you use a lot with a bulk supply.

However, there are some drawbacks to buying in bulk you need to be aware of to make this strategy work. First, you risk having items expire on you. That holds true whether they’re perishable or shelf-stable. Even things like crackers and cereal can go stale after a while, especially once you open the package.

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If you let food items go to waste by buying in bulk, you may not end up saving much money — and you could actually end up wasting a lot of money. As a general rule, only buy in bulk when it’s an item your household uses or consumes regularly. Don’t take a chance on a new product you’re not familiar with by buying the bulk version of it.

Also, sometimes, buying in bulk means shelling out a larger amount of money upfront. If you’re someone living paycheck to paycheck, that could result in credit card balances you have to carry forward and pay interest on. That interest could negate your bulk savings. So another rule to follow when buying in bulk is only do so if you can afford to pay for your purchases in full outright.

Do you need a warehouse club membership to buy in bulk?

Not necessarily. Many supermarkets and big-box stores carry items in bulk. However, you may find more of a bulk selection at a warehouse club store like Sam’s Club or Costco. And what you spend on a membership, you might more than make up for in the form of ongoing savings on groceries and household supplies.

A basic Costco membership, for example, costs $60 a year. But that might allow you to save $30 a month on groceries. So while you’re spending $60, you’re saving $360. All told, you’re benefiting to the tune of $300 a year.

Buying in bulk is a strategy that might work for you at a time when living costs — and food costs — remain elevated. But approach the process carefully so it truly saves you money like you want it to.

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