Spend wisely

Teaching Kids to Spend: Part 3 – Buying in Bulk

We’re halfway through our five part series on teaching kids to spend. (If you’ve missed any, start here with post 1.)

Today we’re talking about buying in bulk.

This activity and conversation doesn’t focus on stores where you can only buy in bulk (like Sam’s Club or Costco). Rather it’s just an experiment on larger vs. smaller sizes at the same store.

Like the previous times, we headed to Target and J chose five items to compare — Claritin (it’s allergy season, yo), Tide, Viva paper towels, Chobani yogurt and Heinz ketchup. He wrote the item, the price for the smaller size and the number of units, then the price for the larger size and the number of units.

Buying in bulk - price comparisons

We did all the calculations at home for price per unit, but just so you know, it’s price / units.

So for example, the smaller package of Claritin was $17.99 and there were 20 pills. $17.99/20 = $0.8995 or $0.90 per pill. The larger size was $23.99 and there were 30 pills. $23.99/30 = $0.7996 or $0.80 per pill.


The larger size won in all cases except Tide, where the results were a tie.

So does that mean we should always just buy the larger size? Well… not necessarily.


Coupons may be a factor. Let’s say you had two Tide coupons. Because the price is the same per unit for the larger AND smaller sizes, it may be worth it to get two of the smaller sizes so you can use both coupons.

Do you have the money to buy the larger size? If you don’t, or if it’s not in your budget for the month, don’t stretch yourself thin just to get a better price per unit. Sometimes it’s better to get a smaller size to save money upfront. Remember, spending money doesn’t save money.

Are you going to use all of that? Just because mayo is three cents cheaper per ounce doesn’t mean I’m going to use five gallons of it before it goes bad (or before I die). Don’t be tempted by a larger size with a cheaper price per ounce if you don’t actually *need* the larger size.

Think about the environmental impact of your purchases. Let’s go back to the Tide coupon example above. Buying two may save some money, yes, but what about two big plastic containers? If you’re concerned about the environment, maybe you’d opt for one larger container instead.

Consider trips to the store and hence the cost of your time. I don’t love going to the store. I know I’m always going to need toilet paper, so I’ll buy that in bulk all day long so that I don’t have to go to the store for toilet paper again soon.

Which brings me to another question — do you have the room to store it? Sure, it’s great buying five large packages of toilet paper, but do you have the space for it?

Will a larger size prevent you from using up all of what you have? Take toothpaste for example. If you know you have another full tube of toothpaste right there in the cabinet, why take the few extra seconds to squeeze the last bit out of the current tube? Just throw it away, right? Remember that doesn’t actually save you money. Buying what you need, for a good price and using it all is the best plan.

(And while we’re talking about toothpaste, a friend of mine has this awesome little gadget that always keeps the toothpaste tube squeezed to the top. Stocking stuffer anyone?)

Final Thoughts

Calculating the price per unit is really helpful when sizes aren’t the same between stores. Last time when we compared prices between stores, we saw that the sizes weren’t exactly the same. Target’s box of Glad garbage bags had 50 and the price was $10.99. That worked out to be $0.22 per bag. Giant Eagle’s box had 40 and the price was $9.29, which worked out to be $0.23 per bag. If we hadn’t calculated the price per unit, we may have thought the box at Giant Eagle was the better deal.

Want to try this activity for yourself? Download the free template.

Don’t forget to join us next time when we talk about a variety of other ideas about spending!

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