I'm a bulk shopper, when it makes sense. I have a list of what I consider to be staples - items I know I am going to use regularly and for the forseeable future. I store the list in a spreadsheet on a cloud (Google Drive). For each I record a "trigger price" which I've set below - usually far below - the prevailing retail price. When I see something on the list for sale below the trigger price, I buy as much as I can get away with. Below are some of the items on the list:

Amonia
Bananas
Bar Soap
Bleach
Borax
Bread Thins
Buckshot
Cigars
Diet Coke W/ Splenda
Granola Bars
Ham
Instant Mac
Isopropyl Alchohol
Laundry Soda
Old Spice After Hours Body Spray
Old Spice After Hours Body Wash
Old Spice After Hours Deodorant
Splenda
Sugar
Hummus
Bread
Cheese
Fiber Pills
Multi Vitamins
CQ10
Coffee
Cat Litter
Cat Food
5.56
30-06
40 handgun
9mm handgun
Washing Soda
Dental Floss
Mouthwash
Nasal Strips
Lubriderm
Deodorant
cashews
pecans

I highlight the items red, yellow or green to reflect the status of my stores.

The list is far from complete, I know there's lots of stuff I'm not capturing. 

SO, my questions for the forum are:

  • Do you bulk shop?
  • What system do you use?
  • What items do you maintain an inventory of?
  • What websites or sources do you use to score low prices?

Tags: Budget, Bulk Shopping, Buying System

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"work" is different for different people.  I manage my finances to the penny and go nuts when I can't get online to check them.  But there are a lot of people who never balance their checkbooks.  It's not always ignorance or laziness.  They may be the same people who bake all their own bread and don't use a clothes dryer.  It's just that paperwork or math or whatever really gets to them.

Software developers:  Please design a unit-price app, starting with soda.  Which is cheaper?  5 2L bottles for $6 or 3 12-packs of 12 oz. cans for $10?  What if the recycling redemption value for each container is $0.05?  [First option is effectively $6.25; second option is $11.80]  Yes, I can do the math, but not quickly and not in my head.

I am so with you on the unit-price app... There are apps out there with which you can zap the barcode and the gps in your phone looks up local prices, but the barcode lookup is erratic at best, and the info is often dated

I tried just to do it for soda, just in Excel.  I'm sure I COULD, but it would take me an hour.  My example above was relatively simple.  Usually, there's some sort of "Buy 3, get 2 free" deal.  You have to pay that $0.05 even if the soda is "free," and it gets complicated fast.

Safeway and Lucky have already done the basic math for you.  It's posted on the shelf tags.  A buy 3 get 2 or a 5 for the price of 3 deal is easy in the head math.  (Says the guy who squeaked through his collegiate maths courtesy of a low "gentleman's C".)  I don't worry about the California Redemption Value nickel.  I didn't even do that back when there were bottle deposits on six packs of soda. (but oddly enough, not on beer.)

When they have those "but 3, get 2 free" deals, they don't put the per-ounce price on the tags noting the sale (the yellow Club Card price tags at Safeway).  And I can't do 40% off $0.019/ounce in my head.

As for the nickels, they add $0.004 to what you pay for each ounce in a 12 oz. can, but a tiny amount per oz. with respect to 2L bottles.  $0.004 is a significant amount at the comparisons we're talking about.

My father in law is a frugal (literal) mathematician. Shopping with him is awesome. 

He looks online to find out where the cheapest gas is and then does the math to factor in the cost of driving to and from the various stations to fill up and then makes a grand announcement on where we should fill up each week. ;)

I could hang out with that dude. That's the kind of extreme I take it to. It's to the degree that it isn't really so much about saving money, I waste money like everyone else, I just waste it in different ways. It's more out of love of the game - rather like doing crosswords.

Oh yeah. He'll sit there with a stack of flyers, check out the coupons, figure the time / distance / gas involved and then make a shopping plan for the week. He knows that we're not as intense about it as he is so he just gives us generally guidelines like never pay more than X cents per roll for TP, or never pay more than Y cents per loads for detergent, etc. He's super frugal in everyday life but super generous for Xmas, birthdays, etc. He's (I'm almost certain) a millionaire that shops like a poor person and lives like a comfortable middle class person. 

This is one of the most wonderful things i've heard in a long time. Just one tip: if you ever get hospitalized for a few days or more, inform them you eat a lot of banana's. Your body can apparently have withdrawal symptoms from the potassium deficit (to which you are physically addicted. It's not really bad, but it can mess with your doctors' head.

This happened to my mom recently. I have never laughed so hard in my life:

"Vic, I've got to confess I'm an addict. I've got help now."

"Addicted to what, mum?"
"Bananas."  

Interesting. I do cramp more easily when I've abstained from my Precious....

I've been told too much potassium can be dangerous, too. I was overheating a lot in BJJ and Judo courses so, part from iced water, some fellow students suggested I eat bananas on the sidelines or switch to coconut water because the potassium would help with temperature regulation but I recall a paramedic student telling me that too much potassium too quickly could be dangerous. Wish I could say more than that but figured I'd throw it out there for whatever it's worth. 

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