Save your budget by "shop-pooling"

When it comes to the bulk-buying ball, I'm a wallflower. I've been to Costco and Sam's Club, of course, but mostly in the way that most people visit the zoo. I walk the aisles, platter-eyed, in admiration of what's on view, but I know that it would be suicide to take anything home with me.

That's because I live in Manhattan. Not only do I lack a car to haul the booty home with me, but I also just don't have the storage space. So even though Costco dropped hints last summer that it again wanted to open a store in Manhattan, I had to wonder how many locals in this tight town could really avail themselves of the bulk deals. Some of my neighbors don't even have stoves, let alone chest freezers.

Enter "shop-pooling," a simple savings solution that can rack up serious savings. If I go to Costco with friends and we pool our resources, we can take advantage of the deep discounts together and divvy up the spoils. I may not be able to eat eight pepper bacon-wrapped filet mignons, but I have a few friends who can use two each. I can't fit 30 rolls of paper towels in the sink cabinet, but five of us can take six each, and use the economy to mop up the savings. After all, there's no law that family packs have to be split among blood relations.

We city dwellers arrange to rendezvous for play dates, cocktail hours, and spinning classes, so it won't be very difficult to get together once a month for Costco runs. I don't have to stand by in jealousy and wistfulness every time I see a Sam's Club. With just a few strokes in my appointment book, I can slice my grocery budget down. One of us can buy a membership and we can split the costs among our shopping club. And because I'll have access to a membership, I can finally avail myself of those cut-rate TVs, too.

For that matter, shop-pooling doesn't have to apply only to city folk. Even if you've got your own garage in which to plonk all those yet-to-be-eaten potato chips, bringing along a friend or three to the warehouse store might unlock savings potential you otherwise might have passed by -- you might not ever buy a 12-pack of computer duster for your family, but you might use a few if your friends take the rest. And as an added bonus, it will get you a little face time with neighbors and buddies you might not otherwise get to see.

Hey, pooling works for saving on gas and easing traffic. It makes perfect sense to apply it to another thing you have to do every day.
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