Buying in Bulk Doesn’t Always Equal Savings

23 02 2009

Savings – varies.  43% for me.
Lifestyle Adjustment – little to none

So, how many times have you walked into Sam’s Club or Costco and bought something in bulk for the savings?  These major warehouse retailers, once specializing in serving small businesses, now use the savings of buying in bulk to market themselves to everyday consumers.

So you pay your $40 per year for a Sam’s Club (we don’t have Costco in Oklahoma) membership card and you are granted a pass to huge savings, right?  Well not always…

I was a big fan of buying my laundry detergent at Sam’s Club.  They carry a 32.5lb bucket of Wind Fresh powdered detergent for $13.84 that is good for 200 loads.  Since I’m not too concerned with the fragrance of my detergent and had no skin concerns or problems with using powdered detergent then I thought it was a great buy.  I would find a friend or family member that had a Sam’s Club card and meet them at Sam’s and buy my detergent.


32.5lb Wind Fresh Powered Detergent

$13.84 at Sam's Club - 200 loads.


Due to the inability to meet with a friend to go to Sam’s Club and my immediate need for detergent I thought I would run to my local Dollar Tree and see what they had for detergent.


In Dollar Tree I found a bottle of L.A.’s Totally Awesome liquid detergent for $1.00 good for 21 loads.  At this point I started to do some math.


$1.00 at Dollar Tree Stores.

$1.00 at Dollar Tree Stores - 21 loads.


Wind Fresh powder 
$13.84 / 200 loads = ~$0.069 per load

L.A.’s Totally Awesome liquid
$1.00 / 21 loads = ~$0.048 per load

That is a difference of $0.021 per load!  Now that may not seem like much, but let’s carry that math out a bit further…

  • The cost per load of Wind Fresh is 43% higher than that of L.A.’s Totally Awesome.
  • For 200 loads the Wind Fresh costs $13.84 where L.A.’s Totally Awesome costs $9.52 –  a difference of $4.34!

In addition to saving money on the detergent there is the benefit of not having to buy a membership card (or mooch off your friends and family).  Also, some would argue, a liquid detergent is a better product.  One negative is not having the handy bucket to use after the detergent is gone, but buckets like that are available at Wal-Mart for much less than $4.34.

So next time you are considering buying in bulk for savings pull out your calculator and run the numbers.  You may be surprised at what you see.


Sometimes savings come in small packages.

Sometimes savings come in small packages.