Buying Clubs for Buying Power
My Mom belonged to a buying club when I was a kid. It was a little different than the buying clubs I belong to now. Back then, the products came in large bags, boxes, and buckets that had to be broken down on arrival, unless members wanted larger quantities. Now you have options for many different sizes and sometimes even individual packages. Of course, you get a better price on a 50 pound bag or a case but that doesn’t save money if you can’t use it all.
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Buying clubs have been around for ages. The basic idea is that a group of people pools their purchasing power in order to receive better prices. Farmers can organize a buying club to get better prices on feed, seed, or livestock. Families and individuals can organize a buying club to order food and household goods at wholesale prices. For some people this is the only way that they can find organic products or health foods without driving long distances.
Prepping With a Buying Club
I’m definitely not on par with Doomsday Preppers, but I do like to keep extra food on hand in case of emergencies. A lot of my stocked food is home canned, dried, or frozen from my garden. I also like to keep flour, rolled oats, wheat berries, chocolate chips, dried fruits, and various spices and baking supplies on hand for making my own foods from scratch. We make up our own trail mixes from nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate purchased through a buying club. I like to vacuum seal or freeze the extra foods to prevent pantry moths.
We probably have enough food on hand to last close to a year without buying any if something went terribly wrong. If you are interested in stocking up for emergencies, you can save a great deal of cash by joining or starting a buying club.
Start out by checking to see if there are already buying clubs in your area that are accepting new members. If you don’t hear of any through the grapevine, try contacting companies that sell to buying clubs and ask if they have contact information about buying clubs in your area. You might be pleasantly surprised to find a group that will welcome you.
If you don’t have a buying club nearby, check to see if there are companies that will deliver to a buying club in your area (see below). Once you have the necessary information, start organizing a group of people who are also interested. Check with friends and family, church members, or through local clubs and organizations you belong to. If all else fails, post on Craigslist to see if there are others who are interested. Be careful about meeting with people you don’t know…pick a public place to have a meeting.
Buying Club Friendly Companies
Check online for companies that sell to buying clubs. The ones that I am familiar with are: Azure Standard (affiliate link), Country Life Natural Foods, United Natural Foods Incorporated (last I knew, they were not accepting new buying clubs, so check for existing clubs), and Frontier Herbs. I’m sure that there are many more around the US that I haven’t heard of. If you know of any in your area, please leave a comment and share them!
Some companies make it really easy and others are less ‘user friendly.’ Azure Standard is great because each member places their own order and usually pays for it online with a credit card. There is a coordinator for each group and he or she is usually willing to pick up any prepaid orders for people who miss the delivery. They also might send out a reminder or let people know if the delivery is running behind. Some clubs have a Facebook page to share information. The orders come labeled with the customers’ names so there’s no breaking down or repacking. Members help unload the truck and there is a shipping fee added to each invoice.
I run a buying club for a company called Frontier Herbs in Iowa. They sell bulk herbs, spices, and loose leaf tea, as well as bath and beauty products, health supplements, and other goodies. Members email their orders to me and I place a group order. Shipping is free for orders of $250 or more. Everything comes packed together and I go through and make sure that all of the items are correct, compile the members’ orders, add up their totals and email them when their order is ready for pick up. This is a little bit more work than the Azure Standard order, but it is a great way to purchase goods at wholesale cost.
Things to Consider
There are a few things you should be aware of before you get started. I find that some products cost less at a local grocery store. Check to see if there are shipping fees added to your order and factor that into the cost. Some products are much cheaper when ordered in bulk through buying clubs. Flour, grains, baking powder, spices, essential oils, and some of our organic grocery products are much less through the buying clubs. I check each catalog then compare the best price to the store price before I buy through a club. Be sure that you will actually save money and/or have access to the products you really want, before you go through the work of starting a buying club.
Policies and Procedures
Check into the company’s return and refund policies, shipping fees, taxes (if they are in your state you will likely be paying sales taxes), minimum order amounts, and any other pertinent information. If you have to have a minimum order of $500 per delivery, will your club be able to meet the minimum? Do you have to order every month? Or can you order just once or twice a year? Is there a membership fee or yearly fee paid to the company? Check the prices against what you might pay through an online company. Sometimes you can find a better price with free shipping for orders over $50 by shopping online. Get all of the facts before you make any commitments.
Paperwork and Expenses
Some companies will want you to fill out paperwork to start buying from them. They may want your social security number or a tax ID number if you are planning on opening a line of credit. I recommend against this, as it can cause complications if some members bounce checks or never pick up. If you don’t know members well, you might want to have everyone prepay you for their orders. When I order from Frontier, I pay for the order with my credit card. Our credit card company has a 1% cash back perk. I know all of the members and have never had a problem with anyone forgetting to pay me or pick up their products. Although this works well for me, and I get a little cash back from each order, I don’t know if it would work well for you. Get to know your members before you trust them to pay you back.
You may also wish to charge a yearly or one time membership fee to help cover the cost of photocopies, a freezer or refrigerator to hold orders, or any other expenses that you might incur as the coordinator. Some companies charge for paper catalogs, but will send the coordinator a complimentary copy. Usually their catalogs are available online so you don’t have to pay for a hard copy.
Don’t Go Crazy!
Starting a buying club may require some organization, work, and patience, but it may very well save you a good deal of money in the long run! Be careful to order within your budget and think carefully about ordering extras or large quantities if you can’t use it up quickly enough. It’s very tempting to load up on goodies that you’d like to have, but don’t really need, so make a list and stick with it! If the club doesn’t meet the minimum for an order, send out a message asking if anyone needs to add anything extra or if they know of anyone who’d like to join the club.