Better Budgeting: If It's On Sale Should I Stock Up?

If It's On Sale Should I Stock Up?

Guest Article
by Lisa Pinter

Are you ready for money-saving ideas to to get the "best bang for your buck?" Let's start in the grocery store! Many of these hints and suggestions can also be applied to purchasing clothing, appliances, almost anything!

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I love a sale. The more money I save, the better!

If it's a really good bargain, I stock up. But, do you know when "stocking up" can actually cost you money? Maybe it's when you realize you just bought enough toothpaste to last through the next two generations of your family! Not only will your children's children be using the same brand, but you've got an appointment with the bank loan officer in the morning to arrange for a new addition to your home! (You need somewhere to store it, don't you?)

Okay. Seriously, if you come across great savings (we'll use toothpaste again!), buy within reason. For instance, if you brush your way through one tube per month, go ahead and buy enough for six months to one year. I can almost guarantee, if it's on sale now, it will be on sale again within the next year.

Another suggestion? Read the fine print in the ad before you go shopping. If there is a limit such as "one per customer" or "one per family," AND you have to drive ten miles out of your area to save $0.50 on a gallon of milk -- don't bother. With the cost of gas these days, you'll probably end up paying double! No savings there! Of course, if the store is just around the corner, go for it!

What happens when you get to the store and they're sold out of the particular product? First, if you have a suspicion this may happen, take the advertisement with you. (Again, check the fine print -- it might say something like "limited to stock on hand," or "available only at certain locations!") Then, check to see if the store issues *rainchecks! (For those of you who aren't familiar with rainchecks, it is similar to a coupon that allows you to purchase the item for the sale price at a later date when the product is restocked.) Who knows? You may even run across a cents-off or dollars-off coupon in the meantime! On some occasions, if you ask, the store may offer a substitute product of the same or greater value. Either way, you win.

* "Under the unavailability rule that is part of the FTC's Retail Food Store Advertising and Marketing Practices Rule, grocers must offer rainchecks to consumers if they run out of advertised items."

Now, let's say a brand new mouthwash is out on the market. Since you've never tried this label before, don't waste your money buying the large, economy size -- even if it's on sale -- you may hate the flavor! (You can almost see your money going down the drain!) Most stores offer sample sizes of new products; head for that aisle first! Or, keep your eyes open for cents-off coupons in magazines and local Sunday newspapers. And, remember, no matter what the product is -- don't buy it just because you can save money -- be sure it is something you will use. Otherwise, it will end up spending many months (even years) sitting on a shelf. (I love it when my mom annually cleans out her spices and packaged foods -- if she misses it one year, she'll find it the next!)

One final word: Storage! Not only do you need to have space available, but do your research to see what the shelf life is! Obviously, paper products, and the like, can be stored in a cool, dry place indefinitely.

Perishables are another story. Canned goods are usually fine for up to two years, but you really don't know how long they've been sitting around before that. Check for expiration dates. Frozen foods vary depending on what type it is. The best information can be found by consulting a favorite cookbook or by checking the "use by" date. Generally, meat can keep 6 to 12 months at zero degrees (ground beef and processed food should be kept for less than 6 months). Fish can be good for 6 to 9 months and vegetables are good for 12 months without a problem.

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Copyright 2001 by Lisa Pinter. All rights reserved.
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