Thursday, June 11, 2009

Does Stocking Up Make Sense When You Are Broke?

The other night I went out to buy someone a small gift. I am currently on a No Spending Challenge for June, but before I started it, knew I had a couple of gifts to buy in June and set aside the money for them. Anyway, so I was out at fairly well known department store with the express intention of going in, picking up the gift and getting out. I had my coupon in hand and knew exactly what I needed, I had just two items on my list.

The first I found easily, then I walked around the other side of the rack to look for the other item... and then the store almost got me. There in front of me was a clearance rack with 70% off on one side and 90% off on the other. 90% off!! Like magnet it drew me in...

I've always been a sale shopper. I do love clearance racks, and it wasn't long before I was idly looking at the merchandise and checking out the prices. When I saw how low some of the discounts were I started thinking about whether or not these were something I could use or whether they might make good gifts. A few things were winter merchandise and I wondered who might enjoy these for Christmas gifts. Then I heard it, a little voice inside my head that seems to have appeared since started my Fighting Foreclosure blog, it is the voice of you dear reader, as well as the writing voice of this blog, and it was speaking very clearly. It said:

"What in the Sam Hill do you think you are doing?!?"

For a few moments I had forgotten my No Spending Challenge completely. I had even forgotten about the other gift I wanted to buy. I was lured in by the promise of big sale prices. The truth was though, that even at 70% and 90% off things weren't really all that low. (Maybe I've just gotten accustomed to thrift store prices.) Yet in the old days I might have spent some serious time at that sale rack and eventually I would have found something I wanted to buy. Then, just like having one drink makes it easier to have several more, I would have walked through the entire store, searching for more racks and other discounted treasures. I'm not saying I wouldn't have found good deals, and I'm not even saying that it doesn't make sense to shop for holidays in advance... but only when you have the money to invest in it.

Here is something that I have learned over the last year. Stocking up and buying in advance makes sense, but when you do that you are tying up that money into something you can't spend. It is no longer cash, it is now a sweater or a can of paint. For example, let's say that I ended up buying $25 worth of Christmas gifts off that rack and just for nice easy math, it was $100 worth of merchandise. So, it would be a great deal, right? But that $25 is now locked up, and it won't be used until December. If you have extra money in your budget and you don't think you will need that $25, then go for it! But, if you are like me and having to scrimp and save every penny, tying $25 up in a way I can't use it isn't smart.

Because, you know it isn't just $25. It is the $30 that was spent stocking up on hair care products because there was a great sale, and $50 in lumber because eventually I am going to fix that fence and I want to have the supplies on hand, and another $10 spent stocking up on canned goods, and so on and so on. A sale is not a great deal if it hurts my purchasing power when I need most. It doesn't make sense to have Christmas gift stocked away when I am struggling to make sure I have grocery money - no matter how good a deal it is!

Until things are better for me financially, I am trying to buy more with a "Just in Time" mentality. I will shop as I need things. Yes, I know that I may miss a few deals here and there, but the thing is - stores have sales over and over again. Missing an opportunity now may mean I have to wait awhile before another comes my way, but it makes sense for me for right now. I'm not saying at all that everyone should do this. I don't plan on doing it myself, forever. However, as long as cash is so tight and my budget so slim, I need to shop only as I need things. Not to mention that I definitely shouldn't be doing non-essential shopping on a No Spending Challenge - jeesh!

Fortunately I heard that voice, and for once, I listened. I dropped what I was looking at and headed to the other side of the store, got the other part of the gift and got myself out of there ASAP!

Photo by: cjelli.


Frugalchick said...

I too have to repeat to myself that there will ALWAYS be another sale. That one clearance rack is not going to change my life.

Anonymous said...

Good for you, for walking away!! And I agree with your strategy. We do things the same in our house! Shop only what you NEED. :) And it makes perfect sense!

Dawn said...

Frugalchick - Exactly!! You said it perfectly!

Frugal Dreamer - Thanks - and good for you for doing it for your home as well!

Catie said...

That mentality is the ONLY way to do this, truly. Even in good economic times there is always another sale. However.... don't you already set aside Christmas money every month? So isn't it already "tied up" (barring emergencies). But then, on the other side of that, do you want to get someone a gift because it's a great deal, or do you want to get someone a gift because you see it and think "Omigod Catie would LOVE that!!"

There's a lot of processing involved here! I also resisted some great clearance prices this week. It felt great.

Dawn said...

I do set aside Christmas money and when I first read your comment Catie, I thought, "Sure, but it is still liquid and I earn interest on it. I can use it for an emergency if I needed to." Then I realized something...because it is June, it did not remotely occur to me to use money out of my Christmas fund. I could have easily transferred it over whatever I spent, but I didn't even think of it!! Ha!

And truthfully, if I had seen something that was PERFECT for someone, I would have been more inclined to buy it - that would have felt a lot different to me. Say I did see a great gift and thought, "This is Catie-perfect!" and it was on 90% clearance - I might not have been able to walk away. However, if it wasn't on sale, I could always jot it down in a notebook I keep of ideas of such things and then get it later. The things I were looking at were more generic gifts though, I realized I was more captivated by the potential sale price than the item itself.

Anonymous said...

Just came across your blog for the first time, so sorry if i'm mistaken, but if you're still "fighting foreclosure," i would say that buying gifts for others is not an essential item.

You really shouldn't be in the store at all. The "deals" and sales will always suck you in. That's why they pay marketing big bucks for displays and seductive come-ons.

I've found that if i just don't LOOK at the sales circulars or step into the stores, I have no problem maintaining my discipline.

Dawn said...

Anonymous - Welcome! I always like new readers! The "Fighting Foreclosure" comes from staying out of it. You might want to check out my profile page for a little background. Or even pop back a post or two and see the one about my budget. You can get a feel for what I am going through there.

I agree though that one great way to keep the discipline is to not go into stores at all! I, for the most part, try to avoid them and when I do need something purchase online. This was a special occasion though - and budgeted for.

getting stuff done said...

yeah, well bloody done. it is so hard to not shop when they do that sale thing. I am currently trying very hard to just buy stuff as and when I really need it. So far this month it hasn't made any difference, which is a bit grrr. but this includes a big online grocery shop. I hope that it will prove to be worth while though.

Dawn said...

I hope it will be for you too. I am very interested to hear how your online grocery shopping works out!