I have a whole back-up food area in my garage where I keep items that we use often. Some of my closest friends have come over to help themselves to supplies they’ve needed when they’ve run short. My friends have affectionately groveled over some of my great bonus buys and the deals I’ve gotten over time… whether it be for a great piece of furniture on a blow out sale, a new cool pair of boots or a great deal on our favorite whole wheat pasta – the fact is – buying on clearance, is still buying!
For a long time, I’ve tried to convince my husband otherwise. I’ll come home from a bargain shopping spree and claim: “I saved over $50 on all this!” And his patient response is ALWAYS the same… “Yes, I’m sure you did, but how much did you spend?” In the past, this has tended to pop my shopping bubble – he’s right. As I’ve developed my organizing business and been so close to others as a coach through the purging process of digging out from a lifetime of clutter, I’ve learned a lot more about myself! It’s like living in a huge fishbowl.
Recently I’ve been confronting this personal shopping habit and its triggers. Convenience is one thing, but overbuying is another altogether. While I LOVE the thrill of finding things on sale – and the feeling of “winning” (not intending to quote a celebrity icon – sorry) when buying something cheap that is sold for a higher price, I’ve only recently begun to calculate the “failure costs” of my shopping habits.
Over the holidays this past year, I went to my food storage/pantry shelves to prepare a couple of bags of items to donate to the local food pantries. While doing so, I started to pitch out what had amassed an “expired”. As I gathered cans of organic soups and veggies, cereals, cake mixes, spices, dressings, and other things, I realized that I really wasn’t saving much money if I over purchased and didn’t use the items at all!
While sorting, I began feeling really bad about this habit of mine, and determined to learn my lesson once and for all, thought I’d actually do a cost/benefit analysis. (Sometimes I go to extremes!) I emptied all the expired items, rinsed out their contents to prepare the packages for recycling and began to calculate how much stuff actually cost me. I looked up the retail price of items and calculated a loose savings amount to be 25% of the retail cost. When I calculated the entire loss the amounts came to:
- Total items purchased at a retail cost: $185
- The percentage saved at the time of sale: 24%-40%
- Approximate money “saved” at the time of purchase: $50
- Total tossed merchandise cost: $135
And that is for a period of about 4 months. So – while I’m convincing myself to save $12.50/month when buying sales items, I’m actually throwing $33.75/month out. OUCH!
The hidden costs of buying on sale didn’t make much sense to me when I focused on what I was “Saving” at the time of purchase, but they sure do now! According to a recent article published by the Associated Press: “The USDA tracks actual spending and breaks it down into four categories: thrifty, low-cost, moderate and liberal. For a family of four… that spending ranges from a “thrifty” $524 per month to a “liberal” $1,014.” Since we’ve made the switch to organic, we hover somewhere within the moderate level of spending on groceries for our family (unless you include dinners out – 1-2 times/month). Regardless, an additional $9/week equals out to $468 annually. Something to really look at for sure!
What have I done about it? Well f, I try my best to NOT get triggered when sales items come up unless it is an item I KNOW I WILL USE WITHIN 3 MONTHS. Other things that have helped curb wasted $$: I plan my meals, I inventory my freezer and pantry items by locating like items together so I can see what’s running low, we use a running menu and shopping list for perishables and items we run out of, and I donate monthly to the local food pantry to be sure the items are used.
If you’re a shopper, maybe it’s time to start calculating the “loss” cost vs. the “opportunity” cost that is so often a trigger and begin to look deeper on what you’re buying, why you are buying it and what it’s costing you.