How to Bulk Buy Effectively

Everyone knows bulk buying can save money – both in a domestic setting and in an office. Buying in large quantities doesn’t only get you volume discounts, it also saves time – you only have to order new packs of paper every quarter, rather than every month, for example. However, as with most things, it’s never quite as simple as that. You might buy a year’s supply of hot chocolate sachets for the drinks dispenser and save 50%, only to end up throwing a quarter of them out because they’ve passed their use-by date. In this instance, buying in six months’ worth would have been better.

There’s an art to buying in bulk and if, like most business owners, you’re looking for ways to tighten your belt without feeling the pinch too badly, you could learn something from these tips.

Step one – make a list                  

List all the office supplies that your business needs and highlight the ones that you get through quickest – paper, Post-It notes, envelopes and ink cartridges, for starters.

Step two – monitor the usage of the items

Watch how quickly the supplies on your list are used up over the period of one month. This gives you a good idea of quarterly, six-monthly and annual usage rates. The hot chocolate sachets, we’ve already worked out, are best bought every six months, but items with longer shelf lives, like ink cartridges, can be bought annually.

Step three – shop around

Check out the prices of your listed items across a few office supply merchants – an inkjet cartridge website should give you a comprehensive listing – and see which one offers the best value. You should also look at warehouse clubs, like Costco. Of course you’ll pay a membership fee for these clubs, but if you subtract the price of the fee from your average order price, you can work out if it’s worth it or not.

Step four – see if bulk buying is actually cheaper

Look at the unit price of each office supply item – if you buy them individually, are they actually cheaper than the bulk unit? Almost always the answer will be yes, but occasionally you’ll see hardly any difference. When you come across this, it’s always worth contacting the vendor and asking if they can do a discount for bulk buys or for repeat orders.

Step five – work out your buying schedule

Buy smaller amounts of items that have the shorter shelf lives and make sure you are aware of the expiration dates when you receive the goods. Click here for more information on expiration dates.

Step six – Try to lower the price even further

If you can get a corporate discount, great. If not, and your business is small, get together with two or three other small enterprises and buy two or three times the amount any of you will use. This means you’ll really benefit from volume discounts.

Step seven – buy smart

If it’s stationery you’re after, buy your yearly stock in August or September. Most retailers have huge discounts going as it’s the start of the academic year.

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