Concepts in Frugality: Hoarding

by Kelly · 30 comments

in Concepts in Frugality,Series

Today’s post is part of an occasional series called ‘Concepts in Frugality’. You can see other posts in this series here.


One thing that you often hear mentioned in any list of money saving or frugal tips is the idea of taking advantage of sales or good deals to stock up on stuff at good prices. Touted as the frugal person’s bank account of sorts, these stockpiles are supposed to help you control your budget and expenses, as you buy things when they are at a good price, not when they need them. And of course there are also all the times you can get things for free, from hand-me-down children’s clothing from friends, to buy one get one offers combined with coupons from the corner drugstore.

But is buying extra, even when you don’t need it, taking advantage of a good deal to stock up on what you will use eventually anyway, stockpiling for a rainy day, or hoarding?

Hoarding, or the compulsive collection of goods, is a strong word, of course. And I don’t think it’s the same thing as stocking up on a good deal, or buying large quantities of a bargain, at least not when kept under control. But when does stockpiling pass the line into hoarding? Is there ever a point at which enough is enough? Can you have too many tubes of toothpaste?

Although I’m not able to take advantage of many of the deals that most of my readers can, because they don’t exist in France, I still like to think of myself as an expert stockpiler. I have a laid-in supply of just about everything, from bars of soap from Ikea (bought on sale for 4 for รขโ€šยฌ.30) to canned tomatoes to children’s clothes. And I feel like these supplies are insurance against having to pay a high price because I am in a situation of obligation, not option.

Sometimes though, I think people might look at me a bit askance. “Why are you buying 8 packs of baby wipes- they’ll last you for months!” my usually frugal mother said to me the last time she came shopping with me. But they were on sale for a really good deal, and they don’t have an expiration date, so I stocked up. It’s only now, three months later, that I need to think about buying some more.

While I try to stock up on good deals that come around, sometimes it’s just not possible. My house is small, and my budget is limited, so I have to use our limited resources as best as I can. Friday I’ll discuss how and where I store my stashes of stuff… it is possible, even in a small house!

Tell me how you do it. Are you a hoarder or a stockpiler, or do you buy things as you go along? I know it’s not always easy buying extra when the budget is tight- what’s your strategy?


1 Nancy February 23, 2009

I consider myseslf a stock-piler. I take advantages of sales, coupons, etc. Not only for food and household items but also on gift items. If I see an item that I think would make a great birthday gift for someone that I know I will be buying a gift for, I buy it and save it for the special day. Saves not only money but last minute buying which typically costs more than planning ahead.

2 Babaloo February 23, 2009

I'm definitely a stockpiler, or a squirrel as I like to call it. When something's on offer and it's something I regularly use, why not buy multiples of it? Obviously that only works for non-perishables but still. When Lidl has coconut milk on offer I go and buy as many tins as I can fit onto my shelf – they cost double in other supermarkets and I know I will use it for Thai Chicken which I make regularly. That's just one example.

I think squirrelling things away works really well for me, I'd like to figure out how much I've actually saved that way.

<abbr>Babaloo´s last blog post..Siesta</abbr>

3 Nicki at Domestic Cents February 23, 2009

I’m not a stockpiler. When items I frequently use are on sale I’ll buy a couple of them, but not ten of them. In general I try to purchase essentials (like personal care items or dry goods) when they are on sale as opposed to when I run out of them, keeping a regular flow of items in my house without exhausting my supply. I keep my pantry stocked but not overstocked.

The only real reasons for not over-stocking my pantry are a super-tight budget and a pretty small pantry.

Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog post..Oatmeal Banana Cookies

4 Kelly February 23, 2009

Babaloo- ‘squirrel’- too funny. I love it!

5 FW February 23, 2009

I stockpile on a small scale, but I also have my limits. If I have 6 bottles of shampoo, I don't buy more even if it's a really great sale. This helps not only with space issues, but crossing the line into hoarding. I know I could cut my spending to the bare bones in times of crisis and still have the supplies I need, but it's never to the point of 'I'll never use all this up in my lifetime'

6 Meg from FruWiki February 23, 2009

Except for a few food items like beans and flour, I rarely buy more than I’ll use in a few month’s time — if that much. But then I value free space a lot and have been actively trying to live with less. In fact, I’ve often given away part of stashes of things that I just don’t find myself using, like pencils, memo pads, paper clips, Q-tips, etc. And I usually don’t find the stuff I want on sale anyhow. But that’s ok since most of it is either super cheap or fresh foods that perish quickly.

When I do get the urge to hoard things, though, (which does happen) then I think about how else I’d use that money over the coming months or even years. Usually I figure out that I’d rather have the money — especially since I’m still paying down debt. And when I do try to buy in bulk, I’m often disappointed with the product, or it expires too soon, or I just get bored with it. So, I have to remind myself of those factors, too.

Meg from FruWiki´s last blog post..Mops

7 Saver Queen February 23, 2009

Oh, great post! I wrote on this subject myself a few weeks ago, because it calls into question the inherent relationship between frugality and simplicity. In one way, living frugally allows us to live a more simple life; in fact, this is one of its greatest assets. I believe that by living frugally, we can better appreciate the simple joys in life – spending time just being with loved ones, cooking, fixing things ourselves, being crafty, and enjoying life's riches, such as a walk on a crisp, cold, sunny day. We are free to spend our time doing things that matter, rather than in crowded shopping malls. But stockpiling goes against this – spending our time in the stores trying to get the best deals means we are still spending out time shopping.

Although I still stockpile a little, I have cut way back. I've considered the amount of time and energy I've put into it, and I've concluded that it's not worth it – not for me, right now at least. I still shop the sales, get freebies when I can and double up my savings with coupons. I am certainly glad that I stocked up on some cheap products like facial cleanser when I watch the prices soar. But I am mostly using up my old stockpiles now. I have realized that sales do return and I can usually get away with buying just a few products at a time.

I think the things to consider are:

Do I really have the space for this?

Does my stockpile cost me money in terms of rent/electricity for the extra storage space?

Will I see another good deal like this in a couple of months?

Do I really need the product?

And, most importantly – can I afford it? Remember, it's only a good deal if you can afford to buy it. If you are buying on credit, tack on the credit card interest to the final cost.

<abbr>Saver Queen´s last blog post..New this week…</abbr>

8 Kika February 23, 2009

Another thought – there are times I’ve bought more of something b/c of good price but then felt that we used it more quickly than normal b/c we knew we had more stored away. Also, each person has to decide if they’ve crossed the line into hoarding (ex. are you buying more b/c of fear of not having enough later?).

9 Shannon February 23, 2009

We are in the same boat. We like to stock up on dried beans, grains, sweeteners and other dry goods when we can, but have a small space. We have actually turned our office closet into a place where we only store food items. It is our “pantry” in a 900 sq. ft. home. Oh and no dishwasher ;).

Shannon´s last blog post..My Breastfeeding Story: Low Milk Supply

10 Craig February 23, 2009

If I have the room for it I usually try to take advantage of deals like this too. If I know I am going to be buying it again in the next week or month, might as well save now. It’s going to def be used so it’s not a waste.

11 tiffany February 23, 2009

Hi there! My first time really visiting. Great post. I’m not sure if one would classify our house average/small I just know it does become clutter easy. However, like you if you know your going to need it and have space (and if its a great deal) I too stock up. Sometimes if its a deal that often comes around, I may skip it. Great site! I really love! Anytime you want to do a guest post, I would be honor!


12 Kristy @ Master Your February 24, 2009

I'm not a stock-piler at all, in fact, I'd say I'm even pretty bad at catching the sales. I buy what I need when I need it and hope that I haven't run out of it along the way. Incontinence is the best example here. I never find this on sale and I have to buy it every month. But, to be honest, if I did find it on sale, I'd probably skip over stock-piling and move straight into hoarding! I hate shopping for these items! Hate it!

As far as the pantry goes, I don't really have one specific dish I make regularly as I like change. I keep a nice stock-pile of spices, but beyond that I rotate the pantry with items that I feel like eating that month. I will usually change it out depending on the meal I'm making, and I've been known to simply buy what I need to make the dish. Not the most frugal way to handle things, but it does work for the time being.

<abbr>Kristy @ Master Your Card´s last blog post..Credit Counseling Services: A Primer</abbr>

13 Courtney February 24, 2009

I am definitely a stockpiler, especially when it comes to personal care products. Especially with toothpaste, shampoo, body lotion, sometimes when I combine coupons with sales, I can get amazing deals on this stuff. So I stock up. My husband thinks I'm a little nuts, but he never complains when we always have backups of whatever he needs!

Can't wait for Friday's post about how you store everything…I definitely struggle with this.

<abbr>Courtney´s last blog post..I can’t even believe it…I sewed a cloth diaper</abbr>

14 Amiyrah February 24, 2009

I am definitely a stockpiler, but since we are in a small space, I don't do it to a scale that I would love to. I stockpile a certain item up to the capacity that I can for it(toothpaste, for example) and then I give away the rest to charities, churches, friends and family. If I know I can get it for free or get paid to take it from the store, I get it. I know there is always someone in my circle that can use it but don't have time to research deals for these items every week.

It's become some what of a bartering element….we've been getting free organic veggies from a family member and free babysitting offers from others in exchange for their favorite shampoos, paper towels, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.

<abbr>Amiyrah´s last blog post..8 things I learned on my anniversary vacation</abbr>

15 Betsy Bargain February 24, 2009

I think it makes sense to stock up as long as you will use the products before they expire. Why not buy the things you use regularly when they are on sale for the lowest possible price?

<abbr>Betsy Bargain´s last blog post..Get Paid to Play</abbr>

16 Rebecca February 24, 2009

I stockpile to a certain extent. Like you mentioned, there is only such more room in the house. Plus if I go overboard, my pantry becomes so full that it becomes hard to find anything. So I have limited my stockpiling somewhat, only stocking up on things are really great deals and that I know I will use within a reasonable amount of time.

<abbr>Rebecca´s last blog post..Feb 23, Disney Cars Room Theme – Decorating a Room With Disney Pixar Cars</abbr>

17 Lisa February 24, 2009

Hi Kelly, You're into the Oprah pop-psychologist hoarder bit now! Do they have warehouse stores in France? I never saw one. BJs is addictive and causes me to buy huge jars of Nutella, many of them, as it's not nearby and the only source. You can only by TP by the 36 pack, etc. but the real deal is UNIT pricing. Sometimes even at the warehouse the unit price is higher than the discount store's sale price for a smaller amount. I learned this years ago. So always go for the unit price and you may not have to hoard.

<abbr>Lisa´s last blog post..A Trip to Crowe’s Pasture: Shhh, it’s a Secret!</abbr>

18 Kelly February 24, 2009

@Amiyrah- being in a small space just means getting more creative about your storage, doesn't it?

19 jpritchard February 24, 2009

i'm not a hoarder–never have been. i'll admit that since i don't reguarly cook with recipes & certainly don't meal-plan (it is just my husband & myself) we have plenty of food in the pantry to sustain us for A LONG TIME: baking essentials, rice, stewed/diced tomatoes & beans take up most of the space.

i think one of the reasons i'm NOT a hoarder is because i've never learned to clip coupons i'd actually use–or that actually make a difference in my total bill. just a couple weeks ago i found a coupon for toilet paper–which i was quite excited about because i struggle find applicable coupons for things other than Little Debbies & frozen pizza's (which we don't eat…ever). i carried that silly piece of clipped paper in my purse for WEEKS until last week when i finally used it. and would you believe that it was for a MEASLEY $0.25 off? SERIOUSLY!?!?

so…for those hoarders, "squirrels" & other store-it-til-you-need-it's, HOW do you find coupons or "deals" that actually apply to your eating habits/living habits if you ARE a primarily natural, organic eater who is picky about her toothpaste?

<abbr>jpritchard´s last blog post..a West Virginian joke…</abbr>

20 Debra February 24, 2009

I think there is a fine line between stockpiling and hoarding. And I think it's different for everyone & for different items. We are a family of 3 so what is hoarding to us would be stockpiling to a family of 8. I do stockpile many things. If I find a good deal I stock up. Not only am I saving money but I think I save time since I don't have to run out for just one item.

<abbr>Debra´s last blog post..Happy Homemaker Monday…</abbr>

21 Karen R February 24, 2009

I stockpile in case of emergency. My dh didn't have to stop at the store to buy anything but milk and bread and some fresh produce, when I had chemo. If we are snowed in for a week or two, we are covered.

22 Saver Queen February 24, 2009

Kiki – this is a question I've pondered too. If you have more of something, will you use more? I think if I"m going to be totally honest with myself, i would say yes.

jpritchard – i find lots of coupons for healthy food and products i actually use, including milk, eggs, yogurt, tomatoes, healthy cereals, whole wheat bread, etc. but i find most of them through Canadian Living & Homemakers magazines (i'm canadian) and also on the boxes or packaging of existing products, like on the plastic milk bag, inside the cartons of eggs, inside the box of contact lens solution, etc. however, it is true that it's hard to find coupons for organic and natural products – but not impossible. try googling around for them, look through magazines at your health food store, or write the manufacturer. Kashi was giving out free product coupons for a while – in fact I got a free regular size box of flax almond cereal that way. Don't know if that helps, but I hope so.

<abbr>Saver Queen´s last blog post..Can you save money on your warehouse club membership?</abbr>

23 jodi @ bpr February 25, 2009

I was raised in a household where pretty much everything was purchased last minute…my MIL is the exact opposite…she is a true stockpiler, always buying on sale, looking towards the future. I helped her defrost her freezer one time, and there were probably 20-25 packs of hotdogs & another 20-25 packs of frozen corn…not to mention countless other meats & veggies!

I have tried to learn from her without going overboard and balance somewhere in the middle. I don't like to be caught without (can't tell you how many times growing up we got down to 1 roll of toilet paper between 2 or 3 bathrooms before more was purchased). I try to buy in quantity things we use often when I can get them on sale and always be ahead of the game. Works nicely for us!

<abbr>jodi @ bpr´s last blog post..Bless this Nest</abbr>

24 Sherry February 25, 2009

My parents were youth during the Great Depression & were forever affected by their circumstances. My mother in particular often had days without food or just bread & jelly for several meals. Both sets of grandparents struggled with employment. So…coming from that heritage, I have learned that a full pantry, a full tank of gas & money is the bank not to mention a job is a tremendous blessing.

Stockpiling, hoarding, whatever you call it, I have been raised to "prepare for a rainy day." I have a supply of basics (legumes, flour, wheat~yes I grind it & make bread, as well as many other items). I regularly "rotate" my food storage, meaning I store what I eat & eat what I store. Do I think of it as hoarding…NO, as hoarding implies I am taking from another. I never leave the store shelves bare! I hope to never have to use it, but if I do, our family is prepared to live on what is stored with just supplementing with fresh produce & milk. I'm not a fatalist or religous zealot, I just believe in the Girl Scout motto…"Be Prepared"……

We have limited space but have become creative, using space under the beds or in nooks & crannies. I take advantage of sales & coupons to acquire my supply. Large companies buy in bulk to obtain a great price & in turn, attempt to be fiscally responsible…(well, not so much recently)…I'm just trying to use my funds to keep my family comfortable as needs may arise…

25 Lucie @ Unconvention February 25, 2009

Wow I didn't have time to comment when this posted, and I can see the concept of hoarding strikes a nerve with people!

I like to think of myself as a frugal hoarder. We stockpile things we use constantly when we find good deals (ex: diapers, which, btw, you have convinced me to do cloth for #2). We only buy a lot of things we know we will use and when it doesn't bust the budget. I have a list of things we buy in bulk that I keep separate from my shopping list and I keep an eye out for any deals..

Great post!

<abbr>Lucie @ Unconventional Origins´s last blog post..6 Reasons Anti Racist Parenting is for Everybody</abbr>

26 Grace February 25, 2009

I am a sometimes stockpiler. When canned goods we use often (tomatoes, beans, etc.) are on sale at my co-op, I buy several months worth. There are currently five tubes of Toms of Maine and three packages of toothbrushes under my bathroom sink, because they were at Big Lots. But I don’t lay in a six month supply of everything or anything like that.

Except lotion. I have years and years worth of lotion…but that’s not a frugal thing, it’s an obsession thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

Grace´s last blog post..Tiny Shiny Things

27 Sarina February 27, 2009

I am recovering hoarder. I definately stock up when there is a good deal. The hard thing is remembering to use or donate things before they expire. I’m working on it…baby steps.

28 fendel February 27, 2009

1qI’m definitely a stockpiler… and would be even more so if I had more pantry space.

My husband and I have both been out of work for several months, so the fact that I have a couple years’ worth of shampoo/lotion/soap/etc stashed away is turning out to be handy.

When we go to the store and I try to buy extra of something that’s on sale, he looks at me funny, and I always say: “I don’t know about you, but I’m planning to live long enough to use up [three quarts of almond milk | a 12-pack of toilet paper | 4 cans of diced tomatoes | etc].” Good thing I do most of the shopping. He’d wait until we’re out of something and then go pay whatever they’re charging that minute at the nearest store.

29 Sandy February 27, 2009

I would hoard too but I have a small kitchen and an even smaller cupboard. When I can’t resist a sale combined with a coupon I stock up and ring my mom’s bell then deposit my find on the back porch. It’s enclosed and makes the perfect fridge in the winter. Of course mom likes to deduct rental fees in the form of swiping a goodie or two.

Sandy´s last blog post..Benefiting from The Recession

30 Meg from FruWiki July 20, 2009

I’d like to add that I think there are BIG differences between stockpiling and hoarding.

* Stockpiling is done with a clear goal in mind, such as preparing for emergencies and/or saving money.
* Hoarding is done mindlessly, collecting stuff because it is there.

* Stockpiling is done with specific items in mind, particular ones that are needed/useful and generally will need to be replaced regularly with use (like food).
* Hoarding does not discriminate between useful and useless. Hoarders will collect garbage, knick knacks, you name it.

* Stockpiling is done carefully with money in mind to minimize expenses.
* Hoarding is done compulsively and screw the budget.

* Stockpiling is done in an organized fashion so that you can find what you need when you need it.
* Hoarding is done haphazardly. Things are put wherever they’ll fit — even if it’s just the top of a pile. Just try to find something when you need it! Hoarders will often buy extras instead of move the piles!

* Stockpiling is done with much care to preservation and reducing waste.
* Hoarding promotes waste when there are too many things to use and you can’t even get to things you need when you do need them.

* Stockpiling is smart, rational way to plan for the future. It reduces stress about what might happen.
* Hoarding is a mental disease. It is irrational and compulsive. It is an addiction. It causes great stress in families and often the hoarder becomes socially isolated.

I could go on and on. And yes, I’ve seen hoarding. It’s very sad. I would not wish that on anyone, whereas I do wish more people would stockpile responsibly.
.-= Meg from FruWiki´s last blog ..Ice cube trays =-.

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