Buyer Beware

by Marybeth Henry

Do you assume that when you buy something in bulk or in a larger size, you get a better deal? Think twice! It is worth taking your calculator with you to check out per-unit costs when you are not sure. Here are some examples where bigger is not always better:

Tomato Sauce - The 8-ounce can is 49 cents; the 15-ounce can is $1. First, it's 2 cents more expensive to buy the 15 oz can than to buy 2 of the 8 oz cans. But you also lose an extra ounce there, so it's even more expensive than it appears.

Diapers - The super-large size at BJs is $29.99. Same diapers, smaller size at Wal-Mart is $21.99. Do the math, the per unit cost is exactly the same. If you know your child is going to be in the same size diaper for a long period of time, the super-large size might make the most sense, because it cuts down the number of times you need to run to the store. But if you're worried your child may move up a size soon, don't buy the super-large size and end up with "leftovers" your hands. Buy the smaller size and use only as many as you need.

Salad Dressing - Some 8-ounce bottles sell for 99 cents each and the 16-ounce bottles for $2.49. As you can see, buying the larger size is not always the better option. If you want to buy the larger size because it cuts down on the number of trips to the store, but it's a more expensive per-unit cost, simply buy extra of the smaller size. Your number of trips stay the same, and you're saving money!

Marybeth Henry is the author of Magazine's Frugal Mom Weekly. This newsletter offers frugal ideas, tips, and advice each week to help you in your daily life. To subscribe, send any email message to or visit

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