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Making Your Stockpile Work for You
Once again I’m using shopping methods for food to explain the concepts but they also apply to other consumables be it paper for the printer to print out more coupons, toilet papers, gift wrap, etc. If you haven’t already, please read Stockpiling 101: How to Store not Hoard.
So you’ve started stockpiling for fun and profit but are you working the stockpile or is it working you? Unless you are keeping an accurate inventory and using it to help guide you when you shop then you aren’t maximizing the value of the goods you have.
I hear a few of you asking me, “But Paul, how does stockpiling make me money?” When you are buying nearly all of your family’s needs when they are on sale, you are saving money and in the words of the late, great Ben Franklin, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Take the savings you will end up seeing and invest it, or at least stick it in the bank, and let the money saved earn interest. it may not start out big but over time it will add up.
So where to start?
I’d start by not worrying about inventory.
I can hear it now. “Hang on there, Paul. You want me to keep an inventory but tell me to start by not keeping one? What’s up with that?” I know. It’s like spending more money to save money, but we will get there and I promise when we do it will make sense.
So grab a notebook and keep it where it’s always handy. When you cook, write down what you used. When you open a package of toilet paper, note it too. Everything you use that needs replacing write down. Keep doing this for 13 weeks while you use the guide in Stockpiling 101 to buy extra stuff when it’s on sale. When the 13 weeks are up you will have a list of all the supplies you use in 3 months.
Those are your inventory goals.
Using food (this really does work for anything, but let’s stick to food) for the example, we can now go to the kitchen cabinets and pantry shelving and clean out everything. After it’s all cleaned out, put it back but write down everything that you are putting back in your cabinets. Every can of corn, every bag of rice, all of it must be written down accurately.
This is your inventory.
Take your goal and subtract what’s on hand for every item and this will tell you if you are short or over what you are going to try to keep on hand.
Let us pause here. If you have something in your cabinet and you haven’t used any of it in the past 13 weeks then you need to get rid of it. It’s taking up space that can be used for something you will use. Donate it to your local food pantry, toss it out, or do anything else you want with it but whatever you do get it out of the house.
Now we can start making this inventory work for us. We will use it to make the stockpile more efficient. I recommend the day before you go shopping to do this:
1. Grab your inventory and start listing everything you are short on.
2. Now get out the coupons and sale fliers for the stores you plan to visit.
3. Look at the list and check your sales/coupons. If you are short on an item and it’s on sale then put it on a shopping list called Buy.
- Example 1: Corn is on sale for 35¢ a can. You have a goal of 12 cans of corn and 8 cans in your stockpile according to your inventory so you will put 12 cans of corn on your shopping list.
- Example 2: You have several coupons for Green Beans for 25¢ off 4 cans. You have a goal of 15 cans and 8 in your stockpile. Put 16 cans on your shopping list so you can use 4 coupons and save $1.00.
4. Now make a second list and call it “Buy if Able.” Check your remaining coupons and the sales fliers against your inventory. If you have more than twice as much of something on sale or you have a coupon for it, don’t buy any – that way lies hoarding. Otherwise go ahead and take advantage of the sale – put it on the list.
- Example of more than twice as much: If your goal is 10 and you have more than 20.
- Another example: If your goal is 23 and you have more than 46.
5. Now make a third list and call it “Must Buy.” If your stockpile is below 25% of your goal, put it on your list as a “must buy” item, but only get enough to get you through the next week or 2.
- Example 1: If your goal is 8 and you have 3 then don’t put it on the Must Buy list.
- Example 2: If your goal is 9 and you have 2, put 1 or 2 on the Must Buy list.
You should now have 3 shopping lists, a Must Buy, Buy, and Buy if Able list.
6. Go shopping. Put the Must Buy items in the cart first, then the Buy, then if you have enough get the Buy if Able items.
When you get home, write the date on each item (I use a fine point Sharpie for this) and then rotate your stockpile, putting new items in back and bringing older items up front. Remember, the oldest can of corn you have on hand should be the can of corn you open.
Open up your favorite spreadsheet program or notebook and update your inventory according to what you bought. This is important.
When you use something, write it down in your notebook and once a day update the inventory. If you used it then the inventory must show that too. This is also very important.
Okay, it looks like more work, but it isn’t the way I do it. Yes, I spend a little time on this every day, maybe 5 minutes, and then another 5 minutes while making up my shopping list, but it saves me money and 40 minutes a week isn’t that much time when you spread it out like that. Just stay on top of things.
Once you start doing this, set aside 1 day every 2 months (every month if you have a family) to clean out the cabinets and double check your inventory so you know it’s accurate. An accurate inventory is essential to making your stockpile work for you.
Once you have been doing this a few months you should start to see more savings in your purchases than you were without a stockpile.
Now every rule has an exception, and this write-up has it too. Remember Step 4? If it is a money maker and you can donate the item purchased to a charitable organization then go for it. Donate from your stockpile and keep the new stuff for yourself. If you can’t walk out of the store with more money in your pocket or cannot donate it though I stand by what I said earlier, just don’t buy it.
Paul Stephens is a middle aged guy, just over the hill and having a blast. He was a Member of Boy Scouts of America as a child and young adult and has taken the motto, “Be Prepared,” to heart. Having survived floods, near misses from tornadoes, and unemployment, Paul has a small store of goods set away and does it on the cheap using methods explained for the readers of Adventures in Coupons.