You Could Save Over $200 Buying These 10 Items When You Don't Need Them

If buying household necessities last-minute makes you giddy, you're in the minority. And probably spending too much money.

Let's face it: No one wakes up in the morning with a burning desire to buy everyday necessities like pet food, toilet paper, batteries, or diapers. And yet, when you're out of them, your entire world can come to a screeching halt. Many of these goods are so essential, we'd run out of the house bleary-eyed at 3 am to replace them.

When you're in a rush, a savvy shopper's commitment to buying discounted goods goes out the window, and it's easy to pay too much because you can't wait around for a deal. Therefore, it's cheaper and easier to stock up on these items when you don't need them — and we've got the data from the DealNews archives to prove it! We've rounded up a collection of items that you should always buy when you see a deal, even if you're still fully stocked at home. Read on to see how you can save over $200 with a little advance planning.

Cleaning Supplies

Potential Savings: $10 on laundry detergent, $6 on dishwasher detergent

If cleaning supplies aren't on your list of necessities, you either live in a dorm room or in a cave (and are apparently stealing WiFi from a nearby Starbucks). Still, even the average person probably doesn't think about purchasing these household supplies until they run out. However, you'll save an average of $10 on laundry detergent and $6 on dishwasher detergent if you buy in bulk ahead of time.

Paper Goods

Potential Savings: $9 on toilet paper, $27 on paper towels

Fact: There is never good time to run out of toilet paper. It's all that separates us from the animals! Paper towels, conversely, may seem to be a less urgent purchase, but a minor kitchen spill can quickly turn into a Messapocalypse if you're out of Bounty or Brawny. The only defense against a dearth of paper goods is proactive bulk-buying. In the last three months, we've seen an average savings of $9 on toilet paper multi-packs. Buying your paper towels in bulk is even better; you'll save $27 on average.

Nonperishable Foods

Potential Savings: $12 on coffee pods, $10 on beef jerky

When you're running low on funds, it helps to have a pantry stocked with sundry canned and boxed provisions. Nonperishable foods like breakfast cereals, coffee, ramen noodles, canned goods, and other such noms are all things that can be bought in bulk via Amazon's Subscribe & Save program, which yields big savings. In fact, we've seen an average savings of $12 on Keurigs coffee pods and the like in recent months, and an average $10 off beef jerky snacks.

Pet Care Items

Potential Savings: $15 on pet food, $7 on treats

As a responsible pet owner, you know that Sir Fluffykins and Sgt. Barksalot have very basic needs, the ignoring of which will result in mad and/or sick pets. To save your furniture from claw marks and your slumber from hourly wake-up calls, your best bet is to stock up on pet supplies with coupons and rebates from stores like PetSmart and Petco; that way you can save an average of $15 on pet food and $7 on treats, which both Fido and our bank accounts have been happy about for the last three months.

LED Light Bulbs

Potential Savings: $9 on single bulbs, $30 on 4-packs

In the long run, LED light bulbs are extremely energy efficient and long lasting. However, the start-up cost of replacing every light in your home can be overwhelming. And unfortunately, waiting until a traditional light goes out to buy an LED bulb can mean missing a significant deal. We see a variety of deals on LED bulbs, sold singly or in multi-packs, and your savings will vary accordingly. If you just buy single LED bulbs when they go on sale, our research shows that you'll save about $9 on average. However, if you grab a 4-pack on sale, you'll net an average savings of about $30.

Office Supplies

Potential Savings: $16 on printer paper, $3 on ink, $8 on toner

An emergency office supplies purchase can send you into the red faster than you can say "I believe you have my stapler." Scoring office supplies when stores like Staples and Office Depot promote in-store coupons and rebates can yield big savings, like about $16 on printer paper. Of course, when you're all out of cyan and your printer goes on strike, it's best to already have some Internet-bought generic ink on hand. (Brand-name ink and toner is considerably more expensive, so your best bet will always be generic.) In recent months, we've seen an average savings of $3 on ink cartridges, and an $8 savings on toner.


Potential Savings: $11 on AA, $7 on AAA

If you've got a lot of small electronics (or at least one child) you know the extreme annoyance that running out of batteries can cause. By simply jumping on a battery deal every time you see one, you can save about $11 on AA batteries and $7 on AAAs. Interestingly, when you're buying batteries, you won't necessarily see the biggest savings if you spring for those super-jumbo-crazy bulk packages. The best battery deals we've seen in the past few months have been for packs of 4 to 20.

Baby Products

Potential Savings: $11 on diapers, $2 on wipes

Attention new parents: You will never, ever, have enough diapers. Newborns go through at least 10 or 12 per day. When added to the myriad of other baby products you'll need to keep on hand at all times (like wipes, formula, breast milk storage bags, etc.), the costs can be daunting. Save yourself some future heartache and buy the bulk pack of Size 4 diapers that's on sale now, even if your little one currently only weighs 6 lbs. In recent months, we've seen an average savings of $11 on disposable diapers and $2 on wipes.

Shaving Supplies

Potential Savings: $6 on razor cartridges

Running out of razor blades can, at first, feel liberating. After all ladies, no one can tell that you haven't shaved your legs if you wear pants. And gentlemen, who doesn't feel more dashing with a bit of stubble? But eventually, no matter your sex, you'll either have to embrace your new life as Sasquatch or break down and buy some grooming goods. If you stock up ahead of time, however, you can save an average of $6 on replacement razor cartridges.


Potential Savings: $2 on toothpaste, $5 on deodorant

You'll end up making some, let's say, creative decisions about personal hygiene when you're out of toiletries like soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo. If you don't want to smell like a Comic Con refugee, you'll definitely want to jump on any toiletry sale you come across, even though these items are always fairly cheap. Our research shows you'll save about $2 under what your local Walmart charges if you pickup your toothpaste online when it's on sale. Furthermore, in recent months we've seen an average savings of $5 on bulk packs of deodorant.

Total Savings: $206

There's no worse feeling than unexpectedly running out of the necessities, but looking out for big discounts ahead of time will keep you well-stocked, sane, and in the black. By our count, if you'd only purchased our examples when they went on sale at any time in the past three months, you could have saved over $200! Clearly, avoiding those need-driven, spur-of-the-moment purchases by planning (and purchasing) ahead of time is your best bet for a happier life.

Readers, did we miss anything? What items do you think are best bought ahead of time? Have you saved a boatload of money buying something before you needed it? Brag about it in the comments below!

Michael Bonebright
Former Senior Blog Editor

Michael added the finishing touches to most of the Blog articles on DealNews. His work has appeared on sites like Lifehacker, the Huffington Post, and MSN Money. See him rant about video games by following him on Twitter @ThatBonebright.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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On printers, go laser. It's insane just how little toner we have to buy. We got a $40 B&W HP LaserJet off CraigsList in 2010 and I've replaced the toner *ONCE* in four years an it cost about $35. Now we don't print a lot, but we do put out several sheets a week. I've not done the economics on color laser but it's probably also very good.

With my B&W if I need to print something color, I send it to the office and reimburse them. If I didn't have that option I'd look into the costs of color laser, or buy an inkjet just for color jobs, or send them to an office supply store.

Laser is positively _frugal_.
Might have been helpful to have included what constitutes a good price on these items.
Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
@Wolfcub01 We always joke about that here... why buy new ink when you can buy new printers for cheaper?!
So far I have found that even if buying generic ink it is cheaper to buy a brand new printer with ink all ready in it than to purchase new cartridges for the one I all ready have ...........
Greg the Gruesome
>Of course, when you're all out of cyan and your printer goes on strike,
>it's best to already have some Internet-bought generic ink on hand.
>(Brand-name ink and toner is considerably more expensive,
>so your best bet will always be generic.)

I remember Consumer Reports tested name-brand and third-party inkjet cartridges and found that the name-brand ones were actually the better value because a lot more pages could be printed using them. Unfortunately I can't find the story on the magazine's web site, and maybe this was so long ago that things have changed.

Also, doesn't printer ink eventually go dry if not used within a certain amount of time, even if the cartridge is never removed from its packaging?
@Lindsay - I bought bulk Nissin Ramen Beef Flavored noodles (30/box) one time thinking thatI would save some $$$. I tried 3-4 within 6 months and they were all good. The rest, past over a year and tried another one, and it went bad and stinky rancid, that I have to throw out the rest to the trash. Total waste of money. Worse, noodles get infested with bugs when stored too long.

Believe me, I am Asian American myself (born and raised mostly in SE Asia)...I've had more w than your fair share of noodles (of myriad varieties).
Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
@Jord1016 @eastside_golfer You are of course correct, but we're including the info for both types for perspective, in case you encounter one such deal and not the other. Moreover, occasionally sizable discounts on items like that have a limit on how many you can buy.
Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
@vwoom We're using non-perishable in a relative sense here. There's a huge difference between what's generally considered to be perishable, like fruit and veggies, and boxed items with loads of shelf-storing preservatives. (YUM, right?!)
"Nonperishable foods like breakfast cereals, coffee, ramen noodles..." mean, it would last for years?!

Unfortunately, ramen noodles has a shelf life...several months and lengthy, but it becomes rancid to a point that it will be unpleasantly "stinky" to eat, when reconstituted with water.

So, no. It is considered "perishable".

Coffee..somewhat non-perishable. But it gets bad and rancid too.
I agree with eastside_golfer, either our math skills are sub par (golf pun intended) or we're both missing something. $36 > $30
@eastside_golfer: I found that interesting too... My only guess is there is a savings already built into a 4-pack that you would not receive with single packs. Therefore the total cost per bulb remains lower with the 4 pack at a $30 savings as compared to a single pack at a $9 savings. [Example- Single Bulb normally $20, save $9= $11/bulb -- Four Pack normally $70, save $30= $40/pack or $10/bulb]
I have learned from experience that stocking up on baby products can be a big mistake. While the others can work quite well, I (and others I know) have been burned on baby products. Toothpaste, deodorant, paper products; your teeth, underarms, and butt needs don't change, but your baby does. Stock up on size 4 diapers? Great, unless your kid hits a growth spurt, and goes from size 3 to size 5 in half the time. Now you're sitting on half a case of 4's trying to unload them on eBay. Stock up on the formula that they drink by the gallon? Great, until they get sick, and once they're better have an irritation to that brand. They won't drink it anymore, and no one who values their baby's safety buys formula second hand. Most places won't even take it as a donation. Wipes? Fine. Otherwise, stick with light bulbs and batteries.
michael bonebright (DealNews)
randallmagg-- You certainly can save on vitamins and makeup by buying them in bulk, but be aware of storage requirements and shelf life. Most people store their vitamins and supplements in the bathroom, which (as a humid environment) can cause some vitamins to degrade, even if they have airtight lids. (more info:

When it comes to makeup, be aware that many cosmetics have a super-short shelf life once opened. So, if you're a fan of multiple mascaras, for instance, you're gonna have to toss any open tubes after 2 months. (more info:
Interesting, you save $9 by buying one bulb and you save $30 by buying a four pack. Of course you could just buy 4 singles and save $36. Or am I missing something?
For those that use them, vitamins/supplements would be recommended to jump on when on sale. There have been tremendous savings with certain sales. Medicines could also be added to that list.

Soap/body wash/shampoo/conditioner, beauty supplies (make up, lotions, etc)

Gift cards for stores you often shop at. If you know you are going to shop there, and find a gift card that would save you 10-20% or more, why not jump on it?

This doesn't apply to me (I live in Oklahoma so we can't order it online) but alcohol is a good idea to stock up on if you see a great sale.