Monday, August 6, 2012

Protect Your Budget in a Tough Economy

Did you notice anything the last time you went to the grocery store? Could you feel that stinging sensation as you handed over your debit card or feel that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realized you were just a little more broke than before you went shopping?

We can blame the  dry weather, the economy, whatever for the increase in prices but no matter what's the cause, the fact remains that meeting our needs is getting more expensive. And painful. We all have our little tricks and hacks that help us stretch our dollars. We eat out less, we only buy on sale (with a coupon) and even the Java Hut is getting less of our money. Been there and still doing that. I happen to have one more little trick up my sleeve that helps out on so many levels that I don't think I could manage without it.

I stockpile.

No, not the weird kind where I keep 200 bottles of syrup in the bathtub. That's just strange. I'm talking about the kind of stockpiling that helps when you're too sick to go to the store or during inclement weather. I'm talking about the kind of stockpiling that gets you from one paycheck to the next or helps you out until you find another job. I'm talking about stockpiling  just in case.

I'm not prone to excessive shopping but I do have a few guidelines that help me make stockpiling successful and easy. Here are my rules:

I set limits to what I stockpile. There's no need to hoard peanut butter as if they've quit making it. My oldest loves the stuff, so I'll keep about 5 jars or so, not 50. Never 50.

I use my available space wisely.  I preferred to rework my cabinets and closets rather than store food under a bed. It's also wise to store things as closely to where you may need it: Toiletries near the bathrooms, food near the kitchen, you get the idea. Sometimes it isn't possible, but from a time standpoint, it keeps you from wasting minutes trying to run down the location of something. And never store chemicals with food. Drain cleaner does not belong near the pasta.

I never buy everything all at once.  It's true I've got five jars of peanut butter, but I didn't buy it all at once. Let's say my budget is $100. I tend to keep a running total of what I'm spending on the same envelope that has my list written on it and coupons stashed inside. Now suppose I've spent $95. I'll try to find $5 worth of something to stockpile. No, it isn't a lot of money but at this point anything I buy is going to be extra so even the small dollar amounts will make a big difference.

I won't stockpile unfamiliar items or too many kids' favorites. Both of these are just common sense ideas. If I don't know if I like it, there's no point in buying a dozen and with kids, well, they just tend to change their minds a lot. That's why six cans of pineapple makes more sense than six cases.

I stockpile what will make my life easier. Here's my basic stockpile list and I try to aim for several month's worth, accumulated over time. Your list will probably look different depending on your wants and needs.

Household items: paper goods of all kinds, vinegar, bars of soap, batteries, furniture cleaner, baking soda, laundry supplies, dish detergent air freshener, tub cleaner, air filters, tape of all kinds.

Kitchen: soy sauce, pasta, rice, oatmeal, peanut butter crackers, canned goods, peanut butter, coffee, juice pouches, spaghetti sauce, cereal, paper plates and cups, plastic utensils (hey, some days they just work best), zip bags, aluminum foil, certain meat, condiments, honey, baking goods.

Personal: deodorant, shampoo, swabs, cotton balls, dental care items, lotions, wet wipes (not just for babies, works on a ton of surfaces), razors, soaps, lotions.

Medical: Basic over the counter medications including ibuprofen, expectorants, saline solution, cough drops, vapor ointments, bandages, and a variety of medicines to cover stomach ailments, heartburn, etc.

It's an incomplete list, but you get the idea.

Having extras on hand is easy to do and very affordable. It protects your budget during economic distress. Just ask yourself 'What things would I need if I couldn't get to the store for a while?' Whether you're snowed in, not feeling well or laid off, anything that would help you make some meals, get you through some sick days or until the next paycheck will be beneficial.

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