The Dangers of Buy One Get One Free

When you go to the store to buy something you need, isn’t it great to see the sign “Buy One Get One Free” or “Buy One Get One 50% Off”? Well, yes and no.

We all love getting something for nothing, or for less than we expected. But there is a danger in taking advantage of BOGO opportunities. You need to carefully manage where you put the spare item so that you don’t forget that you have it.

I’ve recently experienced TWO situations where I thought I needed something, only to discover that I already had at least one extra. Luckily I realized it before I went to the store to buy more.

Here are some solutions for managing the extra stuff:

  • If you have enough cabinet space, put the new items behind the one you’re finishing up. Don’t buy any more until you are running low on the last of the them.
  • If you don’t have enough cabinet space, designate a more spacious area in a closet or cabinet to keep extra items until you are ready to use them. Be sure to group similar items together so that you always know how many you have. Remember to shop your closet before going shopping.
  • Resist the urge to stash the extra item somewhere else, especially if it is going to be buried behind a lot of other stuff. You may think you’ll remember you put it there, but by the time you are running out of something, you will have forgotten. (Trust me on this.)
  • Be sure to look at expiration dates before buying extras. There’s no use getting an extra one at 50% off if it is going to expire before you have a chance to use it.

Free Stuff Is Not Free

I was listening recently to my local classical music station, WQXR.  They are now a public radio station and they were having a pledge drive. They were offering all sorts of premiums to induce listeners to donate money. My first thought was, “Hey, I’m a monthly supporter of this station. How come I never get any free stuff?” Then I realized that I didn’t want any free stuff. I have enough tote bags and mugs, and I already own plenty of CDs that I never listen to.

When we get free stuff, we feel like we are getting away with something. But free stuff really isn’t free. Once it comes in your house, it depletes your energy. First, you need to figure out where keep it. Then you need to remember to use it. (One of the most frequent statements I hear from my clients is “I’d forgotten I had that!”) Years later, you may come across it and realize you never used it, and then you pay for it in aggravation, especially if it has a long-past expiration date on it.

You not only pay in energy, you also pay in real estate. If space is at a premium in your home, it may be hard to find someplace to keep this free item. Finding a place for that item means you won’t have room for something else.

When we pay for something, we have made the judgment that it is worth the money we spend on it. We are more likely to value it and keep track of it. Free stuff, however, has not been assigned a value by us, so we are more likely to forget about it.

At the annual conference of NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers), some of the vendors at the Expo hand out free samples of their products. At my first few NAPO conferences, I was very excited to get free stuff. However, it would sit in my closet for years without being used. Now, I don’t bring anything home from the conference unless it’s something I know I will use in the near future, or that my clients will use.

When you are handed a goody bag at an event, go through it and only bring home the items that you know for sure you will use. Give the rest of the items away to your fellow attendees, or toss them in the nearest trash can. Whatever you bring home, find a place for it right away with similar items. If something comes in an impossibly small package that will likely get lost among your stuff, toss it.