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Your Go-to Guide to Buying in Bulk for the Office

Buying in Bulk

If your business wants to cut costs (and what business doesn't?), it may be time to analyze how much you spend on supplies. Office supply expenditures may seem small when compared to bigger ticket items such as furniture or equipment. But supply expenses can add up because they need to be replenished often. The average corporation spends $200 per employee per year on office supplies, and the average law firm spends $1,000 per employee per year, according to the accounting firm Chase Cost Management.

No matter how much your company spends, you may be able to trim your budget by buying more supplies in bulk. Purchasing large quantities can help you shave up to 20 percent off the regular price for supplies. However, bulk purchasing can come with a few potential pitfalls. Keep reading to learn how to overcome the top three challenges of buying in bulk, and discover which items tend to be the best to stock up on.

Overcome the Top Challenges of Buying in Bulk

Let's face it: Bulk buying can go wrong. We've all experienced it. You save on reams of paper but end up with boxes crowding the hallways. Maybe you score at a “buy two, get one free” sale only to realize your office doesn't need three label makers. Or perhaps the box of oranges that seemed like an amazing deal turns into a biology experiment in the lunchroom.

If you think about a time buying in bulk didn't work out for you, it probably fell into one of the following three categories. (Don't worry, we have solutions.)

  1. The challenge: You buy items you don't need because you don't want to miss out on a great deal.
    The solution: Make a list of items your business buys on an ongoing basis, and stick to it. Avoid impulse purchases of large quantities. If you're new to bulk ordering, here's how to know which items to put on your bulk list: Analyze your supply inventory for a month. What does your team consistently use up quickly? Usual culprits include basic office supplies, like paper products, writing implements, coffee filters, paper towels, bath tissue, snacks, and beverages. Buy everything else on a rotating basis. If you notice you regularly run out of a certain item, add it to the bulk list.
  2. The challenge: You don't have much storage space.
    The solution: Assess your available storage before adding items to your bulk list. If your supply closet is small or already overstuffed, skip the pallet of paper and go for good deals on smaller items such as paper clips or pens. (You may want to consider renting storage space for supplies, but be sure the savings from bulk purchasing exceed the rental cost.)
  3. The challenge: You want to supply healthy snack items (without shopping every other day), but perishable snacks get stale or rot before your team eats them.
    The solution: Stock up on hardier healthy snacks. Apples and carrots can keep for a month or more in the fridge. Dried fruit and nuts keep for three to nine months. Take steps to store food properly so it lasts as long as possible. If you want to treat employees to highly perishable snacks such as berries, citrus, or dairy products, survey them to find out favorites and only buy quantities that can be eaten before they expire.

Pro Tips for Bulk Buying

  1. Strategize long-term
    You're buying for future needs as well as the present. If your business is growing or entering a slow season, take that into account when ordering.
  2. Budget long term
    The upfront cost of a bulk order may cause sticker shock, so account for future savings when making purchasing decisions.
  3. Combine coupons
    Use coupons with bulk orders to save even more money.
Buying in Bulk

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As long as youre strategic about purchases and you have enough space to store extra supplies, buying in bulk makes good business sense.

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Abby Quillen is the author of the novel The Garden of Dead Dreams and the editor of two anthologies. Her articles and essays have appeared in YES! Magazine and The Christian Science Monitor and on Common Dreams, Nation of Change, Reader Supported News, The Daily Good, Truthout, and Shareable. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her family. When she's not writing, she grows vegetables and weeds, bikes and walks as much as she can, and jots down cute things her kids say. Visit her at abbyquillen.com.

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