Smaller Isn’t Always Cheaper

by Kay Lynn

Milk bottles

Mr. Boomer and I ran an errand last week and stopped at McDonald’s on the way back for lunch.  He is a big fan of their fish filet sandwich and there’s a special promotion or these on Fridays.  (For the record, I had a salad.) 

When ordering, I asked the person taking my order what size of drink was available for a dollar.  Mr. Boomer interjected that it was the small, but I persisted. It turns out that there are two sizes available for $1. Both the small (16 ounces) and the extra large (42 ounces) sizes were the same price.
It’s a no-brainer, right?  But if I hadn’t asked that question I would have ended up with a small.  Yes, there are free refills but I wanted to take the drink back to the office.
This was an easy comparison because the price was the same for both sizes.  What if the extra large was $1.50?  Here are three tips on how to compare.

Cost Per Unit

When trying to compare different sizes of the same product figure out what is the common measure or unit to understand the best value. For the soft drink example, the measure is an ounce.  The larger size at a cost of $1.50 is 3.5 cents per ounce while the small size is 6.2 cents per ounce.
While you’ll have to figure this out when buying most prepared foods, most grocery stores do list this information on the grocery shelves.   My chili recipe calls for 64 ounces of canned chili beans.  Sometimes I buy four 16 oz. cans and other times I buy two 32 oz. cans.  Why?  I select the can size based on the better value that day. 


There are a lot of things that are a better deal in bulk.  Warehouse clubs such as Costco and Sam’s Club are great options.  We sometimes don’t buy items that would save us money per unit.  Why? 
One reason is that it you don’t need the number of items sold in the packaging.  Even though the dog toys per unit are $2, it’s still better to pay $4 and just get the one my dog needs.  Another factor is the storage requirement for bulk sizes. My freezer doesn’t have room to store 5 pound bags of strawberries and everything else we need in there. We have storage for a 32 roll package of toilet paper but you may not.


Part of your evaluation on the less expensive option is whether there the item will perish or expire before it can be used.  Mr. Boomer and I are constantly working on this factor.  When we two gallon milk packages at $2.50 each versus 1 gallon at $4.00 is that the cheaper option if we can’t drink it all before it goes bad?  As our kids have grown and left we’ve made these calculations and adjustment to our purchases.

When shopping for regular purchases remember these considerations in figuring out what is the best buy. How do you figure out the best choice?

photo credit: markhillary 

Content © Bucksomeboomer  2009-2010. All Rights Reserved.

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Andy Hough January 17, 2010 at 2:51 pm

One other thing to consider is whether buying the larger size will lead to extra consumption. Knowing you have more of a product can lead to you using more of it than you would use if you had a smaller amount. That can reduce or eliminate any savings from buying the larger unit.
.-= Andy Hough´s last blog ..How to Help Haiti =-.

Bucksome January 17, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Thanks, Andy. I hadn’t thought about that factor.

SFaith January 22, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I still would have ordered the smaller drink which, these days, is a more important savings than money.
.-= SFaith´s last blog ..Why Write A Business Plan? =-.

SFaith January 22, 2010 at 12:27 pm

I still would have ordered the smaller drink to save calories which, these days, is a more important savings to me than money.
.-= SFaith´s last blog ..Why Write A Business Plan? =-.

Bucksome January 22, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I drink diet so no worries about the calories. But I know it’s not good for me….

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