Shopping in bulk is a great way to save money, but when you live in a small space, it's hard to find a spot to stash that platoon-sized palette of toilet paper from Costco. A smart strategy? The same thing you do in every other aspect of your fun-sized life: scale down.
Here's your plan:
Sit down sometime soon and make a list—with brand names and any other specific details—of all of the things you buy regularly. Your staples, so to speak. Toilet paper, your dog's favorite treats, a particular scent of Mrs. Meyers hand soap—whatever. Jot it down.
Then, with your list in hand, you're going to hop online and set email price alerts for the things on your list. If you're a loyal Amazon shopper, CamelCamelCamel is great for this, and I know many folks who swear by Slickdeals' Deal Alerts for everything else. What you're after, at the end of the day, is a fully automated personal shopper, right in your email inbox. Your alerts will let you know exactly when prices drop enough to make it worthwhile to stock up—kind of like you're masterfully navigating the stock market.
But here's the thing: With this method, you can buy regular-sized packages of everything, instead of the Partridge-family-sized bags and boxes the membership stores try to send you home with. And you only need to buy as much as you can comfortably store.
Here's an example: If you have the space and want to really save on Nestle Pure Life bottled water, you can grab a pallet of 78 24-packs from Costco for $489—or around 25¢ a bottle. But of course there's nowhere to store almost a literal ton of water in your studio apartment. If you watch Amazon's price alerts, you can score a single 24-pack—normally $10 or more, depending on where you shop—for $5 or less... about 20¢ a bottle and actually a better deal than the doomsday prepper size.
The bottom line:
Set alerts so you can buy ahead—but just a little bit ahead—when your usual staples are on sale. This way, you're not bound to the massive packaging sizes when you buy bulk at a big-box store, but you still benefit from stocking up cheaply.