by Jane Wangersky | February 4th, 2010 | Shopping Secrets

We often hear that we can save money on groceries by buying in bulk. It’s true in many cases – think of the cost difference between buying a 12-pack of soda for $5 and buying 12 individual cans for a dollar or more each – but in others, more is not necessarily cheaper.

For example, one store near us has a special this week: Three large containers of yogurt for $6. Reading this in the flyer, you assume you have to buy three to get the special price. Buy just one and you pay the regular price, right?

Why? If tomatoes are a dollar a pound, do you expect to pay 60 cents for half a pound?

Try this: Buy just one of the items in the twofer/threefer specials, and see what the cashier rings up for you.

I did. After all, I go through maybe one large container of yogurt every two weeks. (It’s a good thing it’s already fermented.) If I had two extras around, I’d find something to use them for, but I wouldn’t miss them if they weren’t there.

So this morning I bought one yogurt, one frozen dinner (five for $10), and one large brick of cream cheese (two for $6). I was charged $2, $2, and $3.

The register slip didn’t give the actual prices – it gave the regular prices and subtracted the amount I’d saved. But even I am willing to do enough math to figure it out.

This doesn’t apply all the time, everywhere. At warehouse club-type stores, for example, you may have to buy “full multiples” to get the lower price. During a caselot sale, you do get a lower price on the items by buying more of them.

But if buying more than you need doesn’t lower the price – why do it?

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