Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten sucked into watching Extreme Couponing? I don’t watch it anymore but back in the day when we were struggling financially I’d sit there and try to soak up every ounce of wisdom those coupon divas had to share. I mean, how did they do it? How did they manage to save hundreds and hundreds of dollars on their hauls? Impressive right?
I mean from a quantitative point of view – aka accumulating the most amount of stuff for the least amount of money- it really is impressive. But, as a frugal lifer I take issue with stockpiling so many items for the sake of stockpiling. In most of these episodes you’ll hear things like ” I’ll buy the whole shelf – we don’t really use it but at least I can add it to my stockpile “. In retrospect these ladies were probably actually buying into consumerism because they were wanting to coupon to buy more, more, more regardless of whether what they were buying was useful! It can get incredibly wasteful when your stockpiling products that you don’t regularly use – the shelf life of many foods although rather long wouldn’t be sufficient to carry you through consuming let’s say 600 tins of tuna before it expires ya know?
Tangent –> I wish they would do a follow up to show exactly how much of that stuff actually gets consumed and how much gets tossed. Interesting stuff I imagine.
That’s not to say that stockpiling is a bad thing! Don’t get me wrong, done correctly, it’s quite the opposite actually! We stockpile on the regular for things that we know we use and need. I see it this way: if you’re going to stockpile things just to benefit from the deal then you’re absolutely wasting your money. If you’re stockpiling things that are essential in your home then keep on keeping on because stockpiling can and will save you thousands every year.
We tend to buy all our goods on sale and stock up to make sure we never run out and have to pay full price. See, when you run out of something you’re forced to buy it out of necessity which becomes problematic because buying out of necessity and not planning ahead often costs you more money. Consumerism is really founded on this idea of fulfilling immediate needs right? So, it’s not surprising that running out of laundry detergent can potentially set you back over 10$ a box if you’re in a jam when you can get the same product for half the cost when on sale. You don’t have to pay full market price for these items folks. With a little planning, organizing and know how you can stock up on what you need at a fraction of the cost.
The point is, stockpiling can be extremely useful and beneficial to keeping your expenses down if you approach it reasonably. I’ll confidently say that stockpiling is what helps us keep our weekly grocery budget under 100$. Would you believe me if I told you I’ve never paid more than 4.99$ for laundry detergent? I hope so because it’s the absolute truth. I stock up when it goes on sale and I buy as much as my budget permits. Usually, I have at least 6 months worth of product in my garage so I’m never faced with an emergency run to the store where I’m forced to pay full price for essential household items. For what it’s worth we tend to use 2 boxes of powdered laundry detergent per month as a family of 3 which means I always have at least 12 boxes stocked in my garage.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
How to build your stockpile from scratch
Identify your household needs
All our needs are different but I’m pretty confident in saying that we likely all need some form of detergent, fabric softener, bleach and cleaning supplies. Sure, you can make your own which I’ve tried and although it does save you a ton of money I really wasn’t satisfied with how the products cleaned my clothes and home. For what it’s worth, all the DIY detergents I’ve made ended up dulling our whites and being ineffective at stain removal. Additionally, with my weirdo skin conditions I know that Tide works well for me and keeps me rash free so I stick to what I know works.
To get a solid idea of what you need pull out a pen and paper and divide it into categories: household cleaners/detergent, personal hygiene and food. From there, take an inventory of what shelf-stable items you use on a very regular basis. Those items are the ones you need to be stock piling folks.
Related TTBH content: The Buyerarchy of Needs aka do you want or need it?
Save 20$ per week for a “stockpile fund”
So how does one start saving up enough money to start spending money to save money? It’s really not that simple right? Most people are living paycheck to paycheck with very little space for any extra expenses! I was one of those people and so, I know just how difficult it is to spend a little extra on anything let alone boxes and boxes of kleenex or detergent. Well, my suggestion is to plan ahead. If you’re in a situation where you can’t necessarily start stockpiling right now, that’s fine! Start putting a little away every week to build up a stockpile fund. This way, you’ll always have a little extra cash available to you to take advantage of awesome sales happening in your neighborhood. If you’re truly stuck and can’t manage to put anything aside have a look at my post about side hustles that can earn you a little extra cash. Doing a little temporary side hustling can totally give you the momentum you need to build up enough of a cash flow to start stockpiling sooner than later.
Create a space/location to store your goods:
Find an area of your home that you are willing to devote to stockpiling. Folks, this stuff takes up room and without having a dedicated space you’ll easily get overwhelmed by the stockpile hoard. Garages, closets, basements, spare bedrooms and even garden sheds work well. Find a space and prepare to start filling it up with awesomely useful household goods.
To put this in context there was this one time years ago that I was able to score a bunch of 1$ coupons for Cottonelle toilet paper. It also happened to be a flash sale weekend where the 12 packs of said toilet paper were at the ridiculously low price of 2.99. So, Mer and I loaded ourselves into our car and hit up at least 5 different stores to stock up. We paid 2$ per pack and ended up hauling over 260 rolls of toilet paper home that day. Stocking it was a challenge because we didn’t have a dedicated space at the time and admittedly I did go way overboard. We had so much TP that we were storing it under beds, in closets, in bathrooms and basically every nook and cranny we could find. Moral of the story: set up a dedicated space that will keep your home organized and stress free. Sleeping on toilet paper isn’t ideal folks.
Scout sales/specials and online coupons
The next time you get your weekly flyers in the mail take the time to really look through them and make a mental inventory of which of your stockpile items are on sale and where. I cannot believe how many people tell me that they dump the lot of circulars directly into the recycling bin! Those circulars are your lifeline when you’re building up your stockpile.
When I receive mine I divide them in two piles. One pile is devoted to drug stores and the other to grocery. Why might you ask? Well, in our area drug stores tend to have awesome sales on household cleaning products while grocery stores tend to do better with regards to sales on food (obviously). Once I’ve split them in two I jump in and start making an assessment of whether there’s something I need on sale.
Generally speaking, laundry detergent goes on sale only twice per year in these parts. When you’ve been doing this stockpiling thing for a little while you’ll start to notice patterns when it comes to sales on certain items. So, because I know that our laundry detergent goes on sale only twice per year I make sure to get as many as my budget allows for when it’s time.
If you’re feeling especially thrifty you can scope out online coupon sites to try and score coupons for these same items. Having said that, coupons need to approached with caution. I handle it this way: unless it’s a coupon for something I’ll buy regardless I will not take the time to print and use it. Coupons can easily lead you into the excess buying of unnecessary things simply to take advantage of a deal.
Hit up more than one store to get more product:
In our area when there are great sales there are usually limits on how many items you can buy. Sales generally start on Thursdays and run until the following Wednesday but usually by the weekend the really great deals are sold out. I usually head out early on a Thursday with Margsy in tow and hit up as many stores as I possibly can. One drug store that usually puts my detergent on sale has 4 locations in my area and I make sure to visit each one. This way I can stretch the 3 person limit to 12! If something is sold out I’ll always ask for a rain check. This way I can head back in when they’ve replenished their stock and still benefit from the awesome deal.
What makes its way into our stockpile
Stay tuned for a post on stockpiling food and freezer items!
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Want to read even more frugal fabulousness? Here ya go!
- 4 ways frugal living has changed my life
- 50 side hustles that will help you pay off your debt
- Why buying used isn’t gross
- 10 things you can do right now to save you money
- How to incorporate bartering into your live to save you money
Talk to me about your stockpiles!
Do you do it? If so, what are your must have stockpile items? If not, is it something you’d consider?