Have you ever watched an episode of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” and wondered if maybe you had tuned in to “Hoarding: Buried Alive” instead?
We’ve talked about the benefit of having multiple “like” coupons. Stocking up can not only help you save money, it’s considered by many to be wise for emergency planning. But stockpiling can sometimes become hoarding if you’re not careful. I found a few definitions to help identify the difference:
Stockpile: n. A supply stored for future use, usually carefully accrued and maintained (Answers.com). n. A large accumulated stock of goods or materials, esp. one held in reserve for use at a time of shortage or other emergency (Google Dictionary).
Hoarding: to accumulate money, food, or the like, in a hidden or carefully guarded place for preservation, future use, etc. (Dictionary.com, emphasis mine). The excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them (Mayo Clinic, emphasis mine).
So perhaps the line where stockpiling turns into hoarding has to do with accumulating too many items and having an emotional attachment to them, and/or an inability to share them with others.
Here are a few tips to keep your stockpile from growing into a hoard:
Limit it to a three month supply of any given item. Most avid coupon shoppers (and disaster planning experts) agree that this is a good number. Just be realistic about what really makes a three month supply. I personally am guilty of having more than 20 boxes of pasta in our house at one time. If that were a three month supply, we would have to eat pasta twice a week, almost every week. Is that possible? Sure. But likely? Probably not. Time to give some away!
Check expiration dates regularly. Again, be realistic about how much of an item you will really use before the expiration date. When I first started couponing, I was able to get several jars of mayonnaise for under 50 cents each. I know that we rarely use up a whole jar of mayo before the expiration date. I should have kept only one, and either given away the rest immediately, or not bought them at all and left the coupons on the store shelf for the next shopper to find them (i.e. be a “coupon fairy”). If you’re regularly surpassing expiration dates before you use items, you should re-evaluate your stockpiling methods. And donate items long before the expiration date! Food pantries can’t use expired items.
Consider how much space you have and don’t stock up on more items than you are able to keep organized in your home. Some people have a walk-in pantry with wall-to-wall shelving. Good for them! (By the way, I don’t have one of those.) But if you have to resort to storing items under beds or in clothing closets, you’re going to have a very difficult time keeping things organized, and you’ll probably end up forgetting what you already have. Likewise, if you can’t find a place to put things away at all and they’re left sitting out on your counter or on the floor, you should buy less or give away more.
Consider the condition of your storage areas. If you plan to use a garage or basement, remember that those locations are much more susceptible to dampness and temperature fluctuations, which can affect food quality and shorten expiration dates. I personally avoid storing food in our garage (and we don’t have a basement). Those can be great places to store cleaning supplies and paper goods, though.
Coupon shopping can be exciting and it’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of “How many things can I get for FREE this week?!” But keep yourself in check! And remember, you don’t have to buy everything NOW… there will always be another great deal right around the corner!