Buying in Bulk

Everybody loves a bargain. And it’s well-known that the larger package will generally cost you less per item than the small one.

But what if space is at a premium? Purchasing decisions should not only be made in terms of dollars and cents. Clutter and storage space should also factor into the mix.

As I discussed in my recent post The Dangers of Buy One Get One Free, when you buy more than you need, you are in danger of losing track of the extra items. The shrink-wrapped package of two bottles of Tylenol might cost less per tablet, but if  you forget that you have a second bottle, you haven’t really gained anything.

Buying big bulky things in bulk can be problematic if you are short on storage space. Paper towels, toilet paper, and tissue boxes take up a lot of room. Unless you have a large family and go through these really quickly, you’ll make better use of your limited space if you always have one or two extra on hand, but not eight or ten.

You might think that if you buy a lot of something, you’ll never run out. But if you are someone who doesn’t have a good system for keeping track of when you are on the last one, you are still going to run out. It’s better to buy fewer of them, and to put a sticky note on the last one saying “Order more!” so that you’ll remember to do so when you are opening that one.

If you do your purchasing on Amazon, you can instead save money with their “Subscribe and Save” feature. You’ll need to figure out how quickly you go through an item so that you can set the appropriate subscription frequency, but once you’ve got that worked out, you’ll be able to rest assured that you won’t run out of this item and you’ll still be saving money.

When it comes to purchases of frequently-used items, it’s true that less is more.

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

I have written in the past about how coupons and sales cause us to behave in ways that waste our time. (You can read these rants in Coupons: To Clip or Not to Clip? and Sucked in by a Sale.) I have a new chapter to add to the legion of examples in which we waste so much time to save money.

My daughter wears contact lenses. Earlier this year, she went to the eye doctor for her annual exam and she ordered new contact lenses. A full year’s worth.

When she got home and told me, I asked her why she ordered so many. Why not just six months? Did she have the storage space in her room for a year’s worth of contact lenses? (We certainly don’t have space for them in the bathroom.) And what if her prescription changes during the year?

She explained that the contact lens company was offering a $200 rebate if you purchased a full year’s worth of lenses. I was briefly mollified, but only briefly, because the next thing I knew, the receipt and rebate form were on my desk. In other words, if I wanted to get the rebate, I was required to put in the effort.

Muttering audibly, I went to the website and entered my info and scanned the documents and did everything required. A month later, I received via e-mail a virtual Visa card worth $200.

Remember the good old days when rebates came as checks in the mail that you could just deposit in your bank account and be done with it? I hate when a rebate comes in the form of a gift card. The burden was now on me to use this card by the expiration date.

Since it was not a physical card, I started using it for various on-line purchases. I kept track of how much was left on the card so that I would be sure to use it all up.

The card expires tomorrow and I still have $6.81 left. I’ve had that balance left for months. I’m fairly certain that I will not be able to use it up, as I rarely order such a small amount in an on-line purchase. (I tried using it for a partial payment on Amazon but it didn’t work.)

It has been such a waste of my time to (1) apply for the rebate, (2) keep track of the balance, and (3) monitor my on-line purchases to see if they come out to $6.81 or less with tax added. Although $200 sounds like a nice gift, it is really just another way to induce consumers to spend more money than they need to, just like coupons and sales do.

I’m now adding “rebate” to my list of dirty words.

My Credit Card Travels More Than I Do

The first time I experienced credit card fraud was in 1982.  I opened my bill to discover that I had charged $1,100 at Pit Number One in Atlantic City.  The trouble is that I had never been to Atlantic City.

This was back in the days before the Internet (yes, children, there was such a time) and way before we did on-line shopping.  Maybe that’s why I’m not fearful about using my credit card number on-line.  I know that these kinds of crimes are as old as the hills.

Thanks to the rapid pace of technology, I didn’t even have to wait for my charge bill to arrive to discover my latest bout of credit card fraud.  I use a computer program called Quicken, which enables me to track my expenditures and the value of my assets.  I can link up with nearly all of my financial companies and download their data, which then matches up with what I’ve previously entered.

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Gems Among the Stocking Stuffers

As a Professional Organizer, I find the holiday season agonizing.  So much emphasis on shopping — buying things that will be given to people who probably don’t even want them.

I love getting my weekly e-mails from the Container Store, but when they sent me one about this year’s collection of “Stocking Stuffers”, I got nervous. Stocking stuffers are the ultimate junky gift — emphasizing quantity and low price over quality.  The Container Store offers free shipping if you order $100 worth of stocking stuffers.  That made me even more nervous.  How many of these stocking stuffers will I be cleaning out of my clients’ homes over the next couple of years?

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In Praise of Automatic Bill Pay

Have you ever felt stressed because you knew you had bills due but weren’t sure where the bills were or if you had missed the deadline?  Have you ever been charged a late fee?  Have you ever spent hours on the phone trying to straighten out a bill payment that was never received?

If these sound like common occurrences in your life, I have three words for you: automatic bill pay.

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