New reader Lee Ann asks about stockpiling. Do I, as a avowed minimalist and person interested in frugality stockpile?
Well, at any given time there are between 18 and 36 rolls of toilet paper in my home. But, No.
There are many reasons that I do not find stockpiling a frugal choice. It might work if you are the United States Armed Forces and buying in bulk. Or if you are feeding 8 children under the age of 12 and can predict your meals, school supplies and clothing choices. That has not been my experience with four children.
1) I have found it far more frugal for us to shop at a store with consistently lowest prices, plan my meals around their cheaper items than to stock up on something that the kids got tired of eating after 3 months. I would valiantly try to finish off whatever the stocked up items was, all by myself. But after eating it for 9-10 months, I was done too. And the remainder would go to the Food Pantry.
What about foods that don’t spoil? Well, if doesn’t spoil, that is, if a one celled organism does not recognize it as food, than it probably isn’t. And I would prefer to eat fresh food that does spoil, and purchase those foods in smaller amounts.
What if there is an apocalypse? Or a war? Or a drought? Well, if I am not swept up to heaven in the rapture, I suppose I am hosed anyway…forget the meal plan. War? We will have to see how it plays out. Too many stores could just make you a target for the hungry masses. And I am not yet prepared to shoot hungry fellow refugees to keep my stash only for my own DNA brood. A drought? I could grow a lot in my back yard using the grey water from my house. Again, I do not need to plan for every contingency, but be aware of what we might do and how we might help our neighbors.
2) School supplies: I have not home-schooled, and every year the school district would send a list for each child from their “teacher” with what was needed for the following year. SIGH. After several years in the district, I realized that the list was a composite from several teachers at that particular grade, and not necessarily reflective of what my child’s teacher would require them to use in the classroom. Case in point–a particular brand of watercolor paints that my 2nd grader must have. I dutifully bought the pricey item. I dutifully wrote the child’s name on the back. At the end of the school year, when it was returned unopened. I used alcohol to remove the name and wrote the next child’s name on it. When it returned to me a year later, unopened, I again removed the name and saved it until the last child took it to school, stored it in his desk for 10 months and then I removed the final name and donated it to a group that creates school supply gift packages for students that can not afford them.
Long story short–I still have #2 pencils that were required purchases for my students 5 years ago. E-mail me your address if you want them.
3) Clothing: When your children are infants and toddlers, they do not care what they wear. Depending on the child, they may not care until age 3 or age 15. But eventually they do. And they will not wear whatever frugal thing you have stockpiled for them, whether it is cousin Sally’s hand-me-downs or brand new (sale) Gap fashions. They want their own thing. So, for us, the most frugal way to deal with clothing for children and myself is to take everybody shopping at 1) the thrift stores 2) discount stores like Target and TJ Maxx and 3) if it can not be found at those places: negotiate. For example: sport coats for the boys to attend their brother’s wedding were purchased at Goodwill for $3.50 each. When beloved daughter wanted a particular dress for homecoming, she bought it herself. When she wore it to her brother’s wedding a few months later, I reimbursed her for the purchase. I did not pay for the rental of a tux for middle son for homecoming, but I did buy him a $200 suit that he will be able to wear for all occasions until he outgrows it. For myself, not stockpiling clothing means having only 7 days worth at a time, replacing them as they wear out. I have heard many, many folks talk about spending lots of money and time on second-hand clothing that just wasn’t right and languished in a closet. Better, I think, to have only seven outfits that you are happy to wear every day.
List of items that I make sure we do not run out of: (is that stockpiling? Probably.)
What do you all think?