We joined Costco last summer. Going there as a dweller of a 1500 square foot urban apartment, featuring a very small freezer at the bottom of my refrigerator, always struck me as a torment Dante should have anticipated for the acquisitive, yet semi-organized. You want what you cannot have. You constantly weigh whether 3 lbs of organic ground beef is a better use of your limited freezer space than a 3-pack of frozen pizzas.
Those days, however, are over now. As a near-rustic suburban dweller, my pantry alone is now the size of my old kitchen. I have not one but several closets. Buying a giant pack of paper towels, and then using them as I need them, is actually an option. And we have more bathrooms that need toilet paper! Adding to the blissed-out factor, when my husband and I ventured on Saturday to the King of Prussia Costco, my mother-in-law was babysitting. So there was no check except overall spending on loading up the cart.
Or shall I say carts. We wound up with two of them, and properly stimulated the eastern Pennsylvania economy. Now, a few days removed from the orgy of bulk-buying, I have been thinking about why we buy what we buy. The lure of the deep discount must provoke a very strong reaction in the human soul. Spending money is profligate. But buying diaper wipes at 25% off — now that’s smart. Because you need them anyway, right?
Except, knowing that we had thousands of diaper wipes at home, I let Jasper and Sammy entertain themselves in the backseat with several wipes during a road trip on Monday. They already have rash-guard shirts, but Costco had several kinds too, and if they’re at Costco they must be cheap… right? The net result of all this is more stuff — more things that must be processed and moved and consumed. Yes, we will drink the milk and eat the yogurt. The peppers, on the other hand, will probably go bad, and as with the wipes, abundance encourages a certain wastefulness. At times that feels nice and at times not so much. I’ve already nixed buying diapers at Costco because I don’t like Huggies (the brand they carry), and if you really want to experience torment, try using a product you don’t like for a month because you bought in bulk and now you have it and have to get rid of it.
I assume that, eventually, my kid-in-a-candy-store buying spree will die down and I will get over the fact that I have space to put stuff. But it is fascinating to see the psychology at play — why we convince ourselves we need bigger cars and bigger houses in order to transport and store all this cheap stuff. When, in reality, the economics would be better if we had smaller houses and smaller cars… and paid full retail price.
Do you buy in bulk?