The idea of stockpiling may seem at odds with one of the tenets of frugal living -- simplicity.
To live frugally is, by definition, to live simply. The goal is to purchase only those things that you need and to fulfill only those most precious wants. It follows that if you don't buy a lot of extraneous things then you won't be emptying your bank account.
And this certainly makes sense. However, one of the best ways that I know of to save money in the long run requires me to horde certain things.
I'm talking, of course, about stockpiling -- that notion that when you see a great deal on something you use regularly that you should buy as much of that item as you can afford/use/store.
Please note my wording -- a great deal on something you use regularly. That's important. A great deal, not a good deal. Something you use regularly, not something you use every now and then.
In our family, those items that we use regularly and that we stockpile include:
- baby wipes
- toilet paper
- paper towels
- dishwashing and dishwasher detergent
- Shampoo (conditioner, not so much. A bottle lasts me a long time!)
- apple juice
- salad dressing (especially in the summertime)
- frozen vegetables
- frozen shrimp
- occasional convenience meals (for when I'm too tired to cook)
- soft drinks (or sodas or pop to those of you living outside of the South)
- dog food
Actually, the list could probably go on for awhile. But you get the idea.
I like to keep these items on hand, so I don't run out. Just today, I tossed out an old tube of toothpaste and ran upstairs to my toiletries stockpile to grab a new tube and a new toothbrush for myself.
That was so much easier than wrestling the empty tube for one last squeeze and then trying to remember to swing by the drug store for a replacement. And thanks to some great deals I've found at CVS and Walgreens and the Grocery Game, that toothpaste and toothbrush didn't cost me a cent. Not one cent. (If you're a super frugal shopper, you know how I did it. If not, I'm happy to share my secrets with you. Just post a comment or a question.)
Because of certain circumstances, I have stockpiles of other items, as well. These are things that I don't use as often, but I've still got a lot of them thanks to a variety of reasons. (Remember, I'm a reforming shopaholic. Also, it seems that certain items have a way of multiplying because they're such popular gifts. What woman doesn't have more candles than she can use? And my skin would have to be drier than the Sahara for me to use up all the body lotion that I've amassed.) I'll use these things as I need them or I may pass them along to friends or donate them to charity.
By keeping these items organized together, I always know what I have and what I need. Ideally, I should never run out.
Sometimes even I get fooled. For example, I thought we were stocked up on toilet paper last week, but my husband informed me that we were completely out. I'd mistaken our stockpile of paper towels for toilet paper! Ouch -- and I mean that literally and figuratively.
To remedy the TP disaster, my visiting father-in-law ran to the store to pick us up enough rolls to last us a week or so. Since then, I've stumbled on a great ExtraCare deal from CVS, so I'll be buying a bunch of 9-packs of Charmin this week. We shouldn't run out for quite a while.
If you're contemplating starting a stockpile, I'd love to share with you some tips on how to create and organize yours. I've found that you really don't need to devote an incredible amount of space to your stockpile (or stockpiles, if you spread them around the house, as I do.)
- Group like items together. That way, you know at a glance what you have and what you need. I struggle with this often -- not because of my own organizational skills but because of others who live with me. My toddler loves to get in the stockpile and rearrange things. Apparently, it's fun for almost 2-year-olds to load baby wipes, dog food and canned goods into their wagon. And my husband, bless his helpful heart -- never seems to sort things quite right on the shelves.
- Keep items handy. Like everyone else, my time is tight. So, I like to be able to grab something and go. I hate searching for something or having to traipse halfway across the house to get something that I need right this minute. For that reason, I keep things like cosmetics and shampoo and hairspray and body washes stockpiled on a small shelf in my closet. If I run out, it's easy for me to dash in the closest and grab something while my toddler is sitting on my bed reading or watching Curious George.
- Consider a second refrigerator or freezer. As I mentioned, we keep a stockpile of certain food items -- lots of frozen meats, veggies and convenience meals in the freezer. Since we live in the south, we never like to run out of cold drinks, so the second refrigerator comes in handy. Ours is in our garage, and we've only had it for a couple of months, but I couldn't live without it. I suspect it will become even more essential as my son gets older and his appetite grows. (When my brothers were teenagers, my mom had to keep her second fridge packed.)
- Shop your stockpile. When I find great deals on groceries, I stock up. However, I don't have room in my relatively small townhouse kitchen for all those extras. So, I repurposed an old bookshelf as a secondary pantry. It's in my garage, as well, and I keep nonperishable, pest-proof foods and household items there. (Think canned and bottled goods, toilet paper and paper towels, plastic bag and laundry and dishwashing supplies.
- Keep pests away. I learned this the hard way. Apparently we are -- or we were -- providing rent-free housing to a family of rodents in our garage. Before we got rid of the problem once and for all, we lost a tremendous amount of food to these vermin. They were attracted to anything sweet and anything in a box -- macaroni and cheese, cereal, rice mixes, hot chocolate in foil packs, and even Splenda. Now, we don't keep any perishable food unprotected in the garage. If I need to stockpile these items, I'll store them in the pantry in my kitchen. In the case of snacks and cereal, I keep a few items in a small plastic bin on top of the refrigerator in the garage. I only buy what will fit in there. Depending on your storage conditions, you may have to contend with ants or other insects. But there are ways to prevent these invasions.
- Let your stockpile guide your cooking. Every now and again, I'll find a recipe that I just have to try. But I usually plan our meals around what we have in the stockpile. Tonight, we grilled chicken (marinated in an expensive grilling sauce that I got for less than $1), a noodle side dish (bought on sale for less than $1) and some steamed frozen peas (bought on a super sale with a coupon.)
- Try other brands. I'm brand loyal to a few things -- Coke Zero, for example. But since I've started stockpiling and bargain shopping for basics, I've relaxed some of that brand loyalty. It is possible to stockpile only your beloved brands, but it will take longer, and you probably won't be able to keep as robust a stockpile. But if you're willing to try other brands, you'll save a lot of money. And you may discover that your brand allegiances weren't so deserved. For example, I used to use only Degree deodorant and Finesse hairspray. But since I've begun stockpiling, I've given some other brands a try and I've been pleased with the results. My pits don't stink, my hair looks great, and I have extra money in my purse. As for Coke Zero -- I always have to have some in the house, but if I find a good deal on Diet Cheerwine or Diet Dr. Pepper or Diet Mountain Dew, I'll buy a few. But never Diet Pepsi. Ick!
- Know when to say, "Enough!" Nearly every week, I find toothpaste on sale for nothing or next to nothing (when combined with store and manufacturers' coupons and rebates). But I won't be buying any for quite a while. There are just three of us -- and Jackson doesn't have a full set of teeth yet! -- and we probably have enough toothpaste to last us the year. Even when you stockpile, you much set a threshhold of how much is enough. Your threshhold will be different from mine, and it will likely vary from product to product.
Do you stockpile? I'd love to hear your comments on how you make this budget-trimming tool work for you.