Avoiding the Stock-Up Sale
By Yolander Prinzel
I was once a big fan of stocking up on things when they were on sale. I used to think this was a great way to be frugal — buying things on sale before I needed them in anticipation of the time when I would. After a few years I accumulated so many unused items from this habit that I finally realized that being frugal doesn’t mean that you buy a bunch of stuff you will eventually need, it means using the stuff you have until it cannot be used any longer and then replacing it. Not only does this process give you time to actually earn some return on your money while you wait until the right time to spend it, it also creates an environment in which you become more judicious about whether or not you “need” to buy the replacement item — because if you already have replacement items on hand you are more likely to use them before they are actually needed.
Unless it’s a frequently used commodity like food or a household chemical you clean with weekly, if you really want to be frugal you should avoid buying the following items until they are absolutely necessary.
1. Linens. Avoid the white sale like the black plague. Sure, you will eventually need new towels, sheets and pillowcases, but the ones you have can probably last you a lot longer than you think and stocking up on something that needs to be replaced so infrequently is wasteful. In addition, who knows if you will even like the style or color that you’ve stocked up on by the time you are ready to use them. Wait until your linens become uncomfortable to use, ineffective or are on the edge of threadbare before you replace them and then, only replace like for like — don’t buy entirely new sets if only a fitted sheet is needed.
2. Underwear. When underwear goes on sale, men and women flock to the store in droves. But underwear has a surprisingly long life and doesn’t need to be replaced as often as there are underwear sales. Often, you can go a year without buying new underwear and still have completely intact pairs. So don’t buy underwear until the ones you have stop doing their job.
3. Wardrobe basics. Every time a store like Old Navy has a sale on t-shirts and tank tops, people go running — after all, you can’t go wrong with wardrobe basics like that, right? But many of the purchases from these sales end up packed away with still-tagged items from prior t-shirt and tank top sales. It may seem appealing to have 50 t-shirts, but it’s a waste of money if you aren’t actually wearing them. If you have a t-shirt or tank top that is stained, has holes or is otherwise unwearable it makes sense to replace it — but you don’t really need to plan ahead for it.
4. Make-up. When your favorite make-up goes on sale or is sold with an amazing free gift, you may be tempted to buy it before you actually need it. If you know exactly how quickly you’ll use your existing make-up, you may be able to get away with this. If not, you could be left with expired make-up or something that doesn’t suit your style by the time you are ready to actually use it. When your make-up products have a week or less left in them, buying replacement bottles makes sense. Before then, unless it is the same foundation you’ve been wearing for years, you could be throwing money away.
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