Bulk-buy­ing can save you thou­sands


When Dur­ban mom Ncumisa Ndelu runs out of roll-on, body lo­tion, wash­ing pow­der or toi­let cleaner, she sim­ply heads to her store­room.

Ndelu hasn’t bought clean­ing ma­te­ri­als and toi­letries in over a year, hav­ing gath­ered a stock­pile of non­per­ish­able gro­ceries since she started bulk-buy­ing goods on spe­cial to save money three years ago.

Ndelu, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist, runs a Face­book group, 1 Fam­ily 1 Stock­pile, with more than 4 000 South Africans who are stock­pil­ing gro­ceries in ev­ery avail­able stor­age space in their homes.

Stock­pil­ing — a far cry from the days of hoard­ing gro­ceries and es­sen­tial items dur­ing times of war or nat­u­ral dis­as­ter — has be­come pop­u­lar world­wide as tough eco­nomic times prompt savvy shop­pers to buy goods in bulk when they are on spe­cial.

“I just en­joyed sav­ing money and hav­ing a large stock of dif­fer­ent items so I wouldn’t have to buy them ev­ery month,” said Ndelu.

“My low­est gro­cery bill for a month was R1 500, and that was veg­eta­bles and some meat. On my lat­est till slip I was told I had saved R624 and it is mo­ments like that which give me a real kick,” she said.

Ndelu has stopped buy­ing on a “need” ba­sis when it comes to non­food items.

“You end up pay­ing what­ever re­tail­ers want you to pay. Stock­pil­ing is about sav­ing, and over time I have learnt to walk away from items be­cause I can af­ford to wait for the sale price.

“I also do not leave the house be­fore scout­ing dif­fer­ent web­sites and shop­ping apps look­ing for the best deals, be­cause I feel ter­ri­ble when I dis­cover that I’ve paid more else­where,” she said.

Jo­han­nes­burg English teacher Natal­ija Cameron, who runs the Fru­gal In SA blog, is also a stock­piler.

Stan­dard of liv­ing

“I stock­pile, but only within my monthly bud­get. Gro­cery items I tend to stock­pile in­clude sta­ples like rice, pap and pasta as well as meat, canned food, tea, cof­fee, long-life milk, oil and pet food,” she said.

Cameron’s stock­pile also in­cludes toi­letries, wash­ing pow­der, fab­ric soft­ener and house­hold clean­ing sup­plies.

“As I go about my month-end shop­ping, I see more and more peo­ple stock­pil­ing on items that are on spe­cial, for ex­am­ple, with five or six or even more of the same item in their trol­leys.

“Hav­ing a rea­son­ably well-stocked, even though small, stock­pile of items we reg­u­larly use def­i­nitely saves us money each month. For ex­am­ple, if I’ve stocked up on wash­ing pow­der at R20 each per kilo­gram I plan to use for the next six months, I’ve then ‘saved’ at least R5 to R10 per kilo­gram of wash­ing pow­der over that pe­riod.”

Sav­ing is as South African as Nel­son Man­dela, said Wits Busi­ness School mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sor Steve Burgess.

He said that dur­ing the strug­gle years, South Africans fre­quently shopped and saved col­lec­tively, partly as a strat­egy to over­come the se­vere eco­nomic con­straints of daily life.

“This is one rea­son South African firms pi­o­neered self-ser­vice cash ’n carry whole­sal­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally. Cash ’n carry whole­salers helped get prod­ucts to small re­tail­ers in the most fi­nan­cially con­strained cir­cum­stances, and pro­vided op­por­tu­ni­ties for fam­i­lies to buy food and toi­letries in bulk,” he said.

He said sav­ings clubs of one kind or an­other through bulk pur­chase were a com­mon phenomenon around the world.

“Bulk buy­ing is a sav­ings strat­egy em­ployed by peo­ple in all walks of life around the world.

“For ex­am­ple, many wealthy con­sumers world­wide be­long to bulk-buy­ing schemes such as wine clubs to ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent wines and save.”

The world was “in the midst of a sig­nif­i­cant tran­si­tion that is af­fect­ing the na­ture of work and economies. It makes sense to think more care­fully than you might have in the past when spend­ing money,” he said.

“Tak­ing ad­van­tage of spe­cials . . . can lead to sav­ings that stack up over time to be­come much big­ger than one might think.

“And you can do it with­out re­ally in­con­ve­nienc­ing your­self or low­er­ing your stan­dard of liv­ing.”

Pic­ture: Jackie Clausen

Ncumisa Ndelu holds up proof of the sav­ings she makes by tar­get­ing goods that are on spe­cial.

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