Amy asked one of the great couponing questions today, so I thought I would share my thoughts on the answer. She’s wondering how much of something to stockpile.
There are a few things to consider when making this decision:
- Am I making money on this deal? (buy as many as you can, unless sales tax is prohibitive)
- How often does this item become available?
- How deep is the discount?
- How long will it take us to use this?
- What is the value of this item in terms of quality of life (nutrition, luxury, health, joy, etc…) for my family?
Some things can be quantified. For instance, toiletries may be quantified by stockpiling one for each member of the family that uses an item (5 people use toothpaste, stockpile 5 tubes). But, when items are free or profitable you will want more.
It’s difficult to say how much shampoo a family needs or how much cheese to buy. Your family may shower more than mine, but I may have a child whose only source of protein is cheese. Setting an appropriate budget has been the most helpful trick I’ve found. I stockpile within my budget and almost never find a deal that justifies breaking it (.75/lb cheese week, I went over about $2, but we also had a family birthday that week).
Here’s how it works: Each week, I set out to find the very rock bottom prices available. I look over my coupon stash to determine how many of each item I can purchase based on my coupons. Then I estimate the cost of items that I don’t have coupons for, but need (like milk and eggs). Finally, I adjust my coupon and sale purchases based on my budget. I’m careful to prioritize purchases based on how often they come on sale and how desperately we need them. I also try to prioritize high nutritional value (fish) over fun foods (cookie dough). Using this method, I usually know the cost of my shopping before I ever hit the store. (It just takes a little practice). If I get to the store and run across a must have purchase, I simply adjust by scratching something else off the list.
There are weeks, like this one, where I will choose to buy less than my full budget. I have plenty of food in my stockpile (I suspect we could go a month without shopping). I will put the extra money in an envelope and save it for a week when the deals are too good to miss.
Do I ever wish I had purchased more of something? Yes and no. Of course I would always want to purchase an unlimited amount of the best deal. However, another deal is always around the corner. We enjoy the yogurt while it lasts, then we switch to cheese. When the ground turkey is all gone, we eat cheap chicken. We may not always have exactly the food someone in the house is looking for, but we always have plenty of something good!
Note: If you need help knowing what an appropriate food budget is, try reading this.