Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Works for Me Wednesday: Stockpiling

Two weeks ago I talked a little bit about figuring out your lowest cost per use and keeping track of that for all your products used in the household. Once you get the hang of finding the lowest price per use with the help of your price book, you can then take a step up the next rung on the ladder of money and time saving by stockpiling. By stockpiling I do not mean hoarding, which is amassing more goods than you could possibly use in a lifetime and then wasting the goods through spoilage, forgetfulness, or just plain failure to use. Stockpiling is a blend of art and science, buying just enough to get you to the next sale or, if you are like me, enough to last you for 6 months to a year and then replacing as you use it, rotating the goods so that the oldest is used first if the goods are perishable.

Let’s start with a (semi) non-perishable example – diapers. Diapers are shelf stable, but they also are "perishable" in that your baby will graduate to larger sizes and will eventually not need them any more. Thus, calculating how many of each size you need can be difficult. However, if you know your rate of use (for example, one jumbo pack per week, or three diapers per day, or what have you) you can feel safe purchasing out a couple of months ahead.

So let’s say you have calculated your cost per use, and you can roughly estimate your rate of use. Then, when you find a sale or have identified the place with the lowest cost per use, you can stock up. This may take the form of buying 8 jumbo packages on supersale at the local drug store, or it may mean that you buy the massive box ‘o diapers at the warehouse store. Either way, you have purchased enough to get you through until the next time you are passing by the warehouse store or the sale happens again, and you are not putting on yoga pants and going to the corner store at 9:49 P.M. because you are out of diapers and the baby has a stomach virus. This saves you not just money, but time and frustration.

Again, start small with the things that are on your grocery list every week. Milk, diapers, bread, peanut butter. Some things (like milk and bread) are highly perishable but freezable. Some are shelf stable (like peanut butter). The cool thing is, if you buy ahead, you know you are always paying the lowest possible cost per use price for the item, and you rarely, if ever, run out of the things you use every day. Even if you are a small family, you can calculate your cost per use and rate of use and determine how much you use in a month or 2 month period and buy accordingly.
The other cool thing about stockpiling is this: let’s say catastrophe strikes. A death in the family. A job loss. An illness. If you have a stockpile, there is breathing room – margin – for you and your family. There are fewer things you need to buy weekly. You can occasionally skip shopping for a week and eat from your pantry and fridge. You will not need to worry about running out to the store in your grief, sorrow, sickness, cash-strapped state. You will have planned ahead, and can weather the little storms (and the big ones) that much easier.

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