When I was 17, I was between jobs for a few weeks.
I had quit one job and was interviewing for a new job. I had $20 to my name. I was also a bookworm, so when my friend, Meg, and I were at a secondhand bookstore and I saw a book I really wanted, I was tempted to buy the book.
Meg, who was a spendthrift, tried to cajole me into it, but I resisted. Meg’s mother, who happened to be with us, praised me for my smart money sense. She said, “You’re smart. If you don’t have money, you shouldn’t spend it.”
Such basic advice, isn’t it? Yet, so many of us have forgotten that.
The Rationale Behind Stocking Up On Deals
Since the recession in 2008, too many of us are in search of the next great deal. If we can pay as little as possible for something, we can make our money go further, we rationalize.
Toys are on clearance after Christmas? Stock up! They can be future birthday or Christmas presents for the kids or they can be a birthday party gift for a friend’s kid.
Shirts are on sale, buy one, get one free? Stock up! You’ll save money because you won’t need to buy shirts for a while.
Kids’ summer clothes are on clearance? Stock up! Next year you’ll have their summer wardrobes for a fraction of a price.
In theory, this practice makes sense. You are being smart with your money because you’re getting things at a much lower cost than they normally retail for.
When Stocking Up Doesn’t Work
The problem is that stocking up doesn’t often work in real life. Maybe you buy your son size 12 summer clothes for next year because he’s currently in size 10. But when next summer comes, he’s had a growth spurt and passed size 12 altogether. Now he wears size 14.
What do you do with all of those clothes you bought for such a great deal? Turns out the deal actually cost you money because you didn’t need those clothes. They didn’t even fit your child when the time came to wear them!
Unfortunately, this type of scenario happens way too often when we try to stock up. Instead we’re left with merchandise that we didn’t use and didn’t need.
Plus, it clutters up our house, so we need to buy storage containers to store the stuff we’re not going to use. Now our deals are costing us even more money.
What If We Only Bought What We Truly Need?
I’ve been deep in the stock up cycle for 5 or 6 years, thinking I was making smart money moves. Turns out all I was making was clutter. That fact hit me over the head when we were packing for a cross country move two years ago. So much stuff! So much stuff to somehow get rid of because I didn’t want to pay to ship it across the country.
Now, my attitude has changed.
Now I try to buy on an as-needed basis. This summer, my daughter needed new shorts. I didn’t want to pay full price, so I hit up Goodwill and our local consignment shop. True, we didn’t find everything she needed on our first trip. But, whenever we passed by those stores while running errands, we stopped in. Within three weeks, we had her summer wardrobe complete.
There were no items to store for months or years while I waited for her to grow into the items I had already bought. Plus, she got to pick clothes she liked rather than ones mom had bought on clearance at a rock bottom price.
Because I still shopped secondhand and I bought only what she needed, I didn’t pay any more than I would have had I stocked up. In fact, I think I spent less because I bought ONLY what she needed.
Rather than stocking up when I see sales, my new motto is to buy on an as needed basis. I’d prefer to keep the cash in my pocket and my house a little less cluttered.
What about you? Do you still buy items on clearance and stock up or do you take an as-needed approach?
Millennial Moola says
We have a bag of squash we bought for $2, except all but one are already spoiled but because we didn’t need that much. I have wasted so many tons of food that I switched to buying smaller portions
Jonny Pean says
Hi Melissa, stocking up might not always work when it comes to clothes, but I love your idea of stocking up gifts nonetheless.. :)
Well, as all my kids are no longer short people and living at home that scenario is no longer an issue. I sometimes, I stress “sometimes” will buy 2 of a similar or identical clothing item if on special AND I was going to buy anyway.
But I do stock up on specials for things that do get consumed. Canned and packaged food items that have long shelf life I tend to do this. Perishables not so much, unless there is a party/function type thing happening within the week and I will definitely use it.
But clutter? OMG my wife has her half of our master bedroom jam packed with clothes. Then there are 2 “guest” bedrooms with closets, again jam packed with clothes. How many shoes does she need? Apparently 78 pairs are not enough. I. Kid. You. Not.
She won’t dispose of clothes she had or bought just after we were married. 32 years ago!! Because, you know, she is going to lose weight and wear them again. Yeah right!
With her working in a lower paying care giving position, and myself on a disability pension (they’re called benefits in New Zealand) money is tight. But, does that stop her shopping. Far from it. I’m convinced she spends more now than when I was able to work. Go figure. Always complaining I need to get a job because we can’t make ends meet. I would if I could. But she “has” to spend money on friends birthdays. And they to us too. Our house is cluttered with untold serving dishes, designer plates/cups & saucers etc. that we don’t need or use. But will she get rid of them? No. Will she sell them to get a bit of money? Oh no, what if X notices it’s not in our house… yadda yadda yadda. I could go on, but I’m terrified I might actually, unlike Kim Kartrashian, break the internet. lqtm
As an adult woman…I no longer outgrow clothing. So yes, I will stock up for myself IF
it is a good deal and I know my present pair of jeans will need to be replaced soon. I also go to
thrift stores/yard sales. But I also allow myself the privilege of buying new when I see good deals.
I also stock up on canned goods or foods with long shelf life if I get a good deal. I know there
are PREPPERS out there who spend a lot of money on those “prepping kits” stock full of
freeze dried or packaged foods. Instead of buying those EXPENSIVE prepping kits…I just
stock up more on foods with long shelf life. I then try to incorporate those foods into my
monthly food needs. I also then have food available to share with someone in need.
I want to mention that I talk to God a lot about my needs and I find it amazing how those needs are met in the most interesting of ways!
I have four growing kids, so my stocking up on clothing is limited. Like the author, I stock up on items I know will be able to use – jeans and plain t-shirts, etc, that are used year round. Even if my kid is in size 12 only for a few months, better that I spent $5 on the jeans than $20! But still, like the author said, our go-to for clothing is thift stores and garage sales. However, the boys get new a lot more often – it’s hard to find used boys’ clothes in good condition!
I do stock up on non-perishables and dry goods, and I’m attempting to have around 3-6 weeks of supplies on hand. Sometimes we eat two cans of peaches every day, and other times we don’t touch them for 2 weeks. So it’s hard to predict how quickly we will go through something. By having a few weeks’ average in a separate pantry space I’ve created, I don’t have to make a separate, extra trip to the grocery store because we are out of ranch dressing and oatmeal. Of course, this only works with shelf stable foods and batteries, etc.
But I do hate clutter! Extra clothing that will fit someone someday are all in one tote in our utility room. I may stock up on a good deal for clothing that fits me well, like tank tops, but I won’t buy more than I can comfortably fit in my closet. Extra food and medicinal supplies are stored on shelves in a closet. :)
Great post – thank you!