Warehouse-club staples, such as vats of mayonnaise and crates of toilet paper, aren’t the only products for which buying in bulk can translate into serious bargains.
We’ve discovered eight unexpected buy-in-bulk values. For people who need these items in mass quantities, the savings can be significant. Just remember: This strategy requires commitment. To snag the lower per-unit prices (all listed prices here exclude taxes and fees) and capture the full value of your purchase, you have to be willing to pay the larger upfront costs and use all of your supplies.
Happy bargain hunting!
Sky-bound commuters and serial vacationers can save hundreds by buying plane-ticket packages.
JetBlue famously offered the "All You Can Jet" pass in 2009 and 2010, which allowed travelers to fly on as many trips as they could in a month for $599. This year, the discount airline targeted business travelers with Go Packs, ranging from $699 to $2,499, that included ten nonstop, one-way flights between certain airports from September 13 through December 19. JetBlue would not say for sure whether Go Packs will be offered again, but the ticket packages have proved popular with its customers.
To keep an eye out for other plane-ticket packages, enlist some help from AirfareWatchdog.com. Sign up for alerts based on your selected departure city, and the Watchdog will let you know via e-mail when it finds a cheap flight or package of flights, even aboard smaller airlines that might not show up on bigger search engines, such as Kayak.com and Bing Travel.
(See more: January's best shopping deals)
A chatty Cathy need not hold her tongue for savings. Avoid hefty overage charges by embracing your loquaciousness with an unlimited, low-cost, prepaid plan. Same goes for texting addicts and data suckers.
For example, Boost Mobile, one of Sprint's prepaid brands, offers unlimited minutes, texts and data for Android phones starting at $55 a month. (With its "shrinking payments" incentive, Boost lowers that monthly payment gradually as you make on-time payments -- to as little $40 for punctual Android users after 18 months.) For other unlimited options, check out our picks for the Best Smart Phone Plans for You.
You need a spotter anyway, so why not get a deal for multiple memberships while you're at it? Many gyms, including Bally Total Fitness and Washington Sports Club, periodically offer friends-and-family discounts if you sign up together or if current members recruit newbies.
For example, 24 Hour Fitness recently offered a deal for current members to add family to their membership for $30 a month per person with no initiation fee. Regular rates can range from $40 to $75 per month per person, depending on your location.
If your gym isn't currently advertising this kind of deal, ask about a discount anyway; membership costs may be negotiable. (See Master the Modern Art of Haggling for tips on talking your way to a better bargain.)
No surprise here, sports fans. If you're really invested in a team, buying tickets for the whole season all at once instead of game by game can be a big financial win.
And if the season heads into extra innings, you'll get first dibs on playoff tickets. For example, when the Washington Nationals extended their 2012 season (the first time since 1933 that D.C. sent a baseball team to the playoffs), season-ticket holders paid $50 each for postseason tickets that were going for triple that amount online, reports Liz Farmer, of the Washington Examiner.
Season-ticket deals can be found outside the sports arena, too. Many theaters, museums, aquariums, amusement parks and other venues offer discounted passes for frequent visitors.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Get your fill of veggies every month straight from your local harvest at a healthy discount. You can find a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program in your area at LocalHarvest.org.
Subscribe for periodic packages of locally grown fruits, vegetables and other products with one upfront payment. For example, Seabreeze Organic Farm, in San Diego, Cal., offers four weekly or biweekly deliveries starting at $173 (plus the CSA membership fee). The regular-size package weighs about 12 to 17 pounds and includes four to five different fruits, eight to eleven different vegetables and a bouquet of flowers.
Andrea Muse, author of Buying in Bulk and founder of FrugallySustainable.com, estimates that you can save up to 50% off your grocery bill if you buy in bulk correctly. She recommends starting small so that you can work the quantities into your cooking routine and storage space. And she suggests finding other people to invest in a share with you to split the costs and the bounty.
If you're coping with a chronic condition, you shouldn't have to suffer the high costs of medications, too. You might already know that you can save by ordering a 90-day supply from a mail-order pharmacy instead of getting a 30-day refill. But you may not realize that your neighborhood pharmacy can probably bag you the same bargain -- and with face-to-face interaction with your local pharmacist. Walmart pharmacies, for example, offer the already good deal of $4 for 30-day supplies of eligible generic drugs. But they do even better with 90-day supplies for just $10. (You can also get your orders delivered to you free.)
You'll see clear savings by ordering your contact lenses in bulk, too. At www.1800contacts.com, for example, a 30-pack of one-day Acuvue Moist lenses goes for $30, which would add up to $720 for the year if purchased singly. But the site recently offered a $60 discount if you order an annual supply of 24 boxes in one fell swoop. And if you'd rather see this deal at your own eye doctor's office, try asking him or her to match the mail-order price. Many optometrists are open to negotiation.
For a great bulk deal on gift cards, you will have to head to a warehouse store, where you can buy multiple restaurant gift cards for less than face value. At Costco, you could pay just $80 for two $50 cards for eateries such as California Pizza Kitchen and McCormick & Schmick's.
You can also get discounted packs of movie tickets at warehouse stores. At BJ's, you can get four tickets to AMC, plus a small popcorn voucher, for $35. That movie-going experience for four adults in D.C. would cost about $53.
Hope kid sis doesn't mind a hand-me-down sorority sweater. If you can persuade your close-in-age kids to attend the same college, you might be able to cut back on some tuition costs. Many schools offer discounts for siblings in attendance at the same time.
If you have two children attend the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., for example, the younger sibling may apply for a GW Family Grant and pay half-tuition -- a huge discount considering GW's $45,735 price tag for 2012-2013. (Unfortunately, this sibling deal cannot be combined with any other scholarships or financial aid.) At Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., the family discount gets a second sibling 10% off tuition. And if a third sibling attends, that student would get 20% off (and our kudos to the parents).
Having multiple kids in college can also get you a break with college aid. With the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), if you qualify for need-based assistance, your family's expected contribution to college expenses would stay the same regardless of how many students you're covering. So, if your expected contribution is $60,000 total, and you have two children in college, then you'd be expected to pay $30,000 for each (with aid filling in the gaps); if you have three scholars enrolled, you'd pay $20,000 each. "It's kind of like you get two for the price of one," says Jodi Okun, financial aid specialist and founder of College Financial Aid Advisors.
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