Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Stocking Up"

As part of my shopping to save strategies, I often check out blogs with a money saving theme. Some of the comments I have seen regarding couponing and the "drug store game" are critical of people who use coupons, or those who stock up.

The first group contends that couponing takes more time than it is worth. Daughter Jeana has figured out what her hourly "wage" for couponing is, by calculating what she saves weekly, compared to the time it takes to get read to shop. Her hourly rate is more than I make at my job. Of course, couponing is not a full-time job, but it certainly is worth doing, if one is a careful and thoughtful shopper. Besides, most of us can "walk and chew gum at the same time"--that is, we can watch t.v. or have a conversation while clipping coupons.
This group is often also critical of those who coupon, as if they are lower class for trying to save money. Statistically, more middle class, better educated people take advantage of coupons than do people in lower socio-economic groups. Even if I were rich, why should I not save my pennies? In fact, couponing may be one way many middle class families stay in the middle class.

Those who are critical of stocking up contend that one saves more money by making a list of only what is actually needed that week, and sticking to the list faithfully. Now, if you are one of those impulse shoppers who mindlessly throws stuff into your cart as you shop just because it is new, or because it is eye-level, or because it sounds good at that moment, then listing probably would help you stay on track with your spending.
However, those of us who faithfully try to match coupons with sales and items for which we receive ECBs or Register Rewards or rebates--we are shopping from a list, but our list includes not only what we may be out of this week, but also what we know we will need next week, or the next, or sometime in the future.

Stocking up, creating a stockpile of nonperishable items which you or your family uses regularly, is one of the best money-saving tips I can offer. If I let myself run out of toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, or body wash, I may have to pay regular price in order to have that product right now. But if I have faithfully shopped specials, rebates, and coupons, then I have the item in stock in my own pantry, cabinet, closet, or bin, purchased on sale, and often free by combining coupons and sales.

My mother-in-law and my own mother were both depression babies--that is, they grew up in a time when every penny had to count, and people had to rely on many strategies just to keep food on the table. One of their favorite sayings was

"Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without."

My MIL in particular was great at stockpiling. She had two of the largest freezers sold by Sears and Roebuck on her service porch. They both stayed full all the time, with the bounty of foods she found at great prices. She never paid full price for dried beans, flour, cornmeal, cake mix, meats and poultry, etc. She also stocked up on canned goods whenever they were on special, buying a case at a time of corn, peas, tomatoes, or green beans when they were ten cans for a dollar. When Wick and I married, he taught me the lessons he had learned from her.

I learned from my mother and grandmother too, about growing a garden and canning the produce. The summer I was expecting our second child, I canned all summer--squash, tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato relish, tomato juice, pickles, anything that could be put into a canning jar. Throughout the following year, if bad weather kept Wick from working on the construction site, we still had plenty of good food on the table.

Stocking up also means that in times of need, I have an abundance to share. When a baby is born, a new couple marries, someone takes an unexpected trip, a family has a financial crisis, I will have the wherewithal to create a basket of useful items at little or no cost.

I think God expects us to be good stewards of the bounty with which we are blessed in this country, and playing the "drug store game" and clipping coupons helps me to be a better steward.