Finances,  Food,  Frugality,  Organization

The Difference Between Stockpiling and Hoarding

“I’ve got coupons for the crackers!” Katie dug through her coupon holder as we entered the cracker aisle. “How much should we get?”

I checked the expiration date upon the boxes, holding one up to show my daughter. “How many boxes do you think we’ll go through by this date?”

Katie frowned. “Not a lot,” she muttered.

There is a difference between stockpiling and hoarding. It’s easy to forget that in the middle of a pandemic while facing an erratic supply chain. When we see something we use in stock, we instinctively want to buy it all because we honestly don’t know when it will be available again.

I struggle with this personally.

My life could be described as a financial feast or famine situation. I’ve had times of plenty and times of having not near enough. When I figured that out, I began to balance things a bit. During times of plenty I would stock up on bargains in order to survive the times of want.

For instance, a few years back I came across a back-to-school sale that had composition notebooks for an incredibly low price. Katie thought I was crazy as I hauled whole cases of notebooks home. I worried that I’d overdone things as storage and privacy concerns found me shifting my journaling habit to the computer instead of using notebooks but since those notebooks cost nothing for me to store I kept them.

And it paid off. My grandkids have used quite a few of them for school and play. I’ve used a bunch of them to make lists and take notes. My Katie is now working on the last batch, using them in college. Because they have been used, that purchase can be considered a stockpile.

Several years previous I faced an entirely different situation. I worked at a food plant for a while. They primarily made cereal and crackers. They kept a bin of the discards (imperfect boxes, wrong weight, etc.) that the workers were free to take home. I knew I would not have that job forever (I was a temporary worker) so I stocked up. I filled my pantry with those items.

A lot of it went bad before we could finish it. I felt like a fool for hoarding the stuff.

But how can you tell the difference? How can one know if they are simply stockpiling or if they are hoarding? Here are three general rules that I follow.

Can I Afford It?

This might sound silly at first but it is easy to blow your budget when you find a good deal on something you want to stock up on. I have done this more times than I can count over the years. I would see a stockpile of fabric in a thrift shop, arrange to buy the entire lot for cheap, only to realize that, while it was an excellent bargain that I spent all of my excess cash on the acquisition. While the fabric was used over time, I still remember my mistakes. I have adjusted my purchasing habits accordingly after that experience and others.

Sometimes it is better to pass up a deal, no matter how good due to budget constraints. While you can always save up a bit of money to have on hand with which to take advantage of good deals, depending upon when you stumble upon a bargain, your money stash might be a bit low to comfortably make the purchase. Bills and food must always come first. Remember that.

Will I Use It Before It Expires?

Many items like food and medicine have expiration dates. While the dates are just an estimate of how long the item will remain safely usable, those dates can be used as a guideline. When stocking up, check those dates. Estimate how much of the item you will use before the date on the container. Remind yourself that if the item isn’t used up by that date that you may not feel safe trusting it and limit the amount you purchase accordingly.

When it comes to items that expire, less is better in the stockpiling arena. It is better to use it up and purchase more than it is to invest in a stockpile that will go bad before you finish it.

BONUS TIP: Rotate your stock! The restaurant industry has a term for this: FIFO. It means “first in, first out.” Always use your old items first. This will ensure that nothing goes bad before you use it.

Do I Have Enough Room to Store It?

The catch to having a stockpile is that external storage is NOT cheap. Even worse, if you store your stockpile off site, you might forget that you have it and purchase even more. Look around the space in your home before you decide to stock up. If you can reserve a space that will allow you to access the items with little difficulty you are in good shape. If you find that area beginning to overflow, know that you need to stop for a bit and use up what you already have.

I recently had to do that with my book collection. It had outgrown the shelf I had assigned to it by at least a factor of two. Instead of being able to keep the books neatly organized I had them stacked in layers upon that shelf, to the point where it would take several minutes of hunting to retrieve a single book. In fact, when I thinned down my collection I discovered that I’d inadvertently collected duplicates of some titles. I’d collected so many that I’d forgotten what I had.

I will have a similar situation with clothing in the near future. Both of my daughters happen to adore clothes; whenever they thin down they bring their discards to me. Since the local clothing pantry is shut down due to the pandemic I will have to devise a solution. Since I now have a sewing machine, I will probably cut up the ones I can’t wear to either store in my fabric bin or recycle them into cleaning and family cloths. That will keep the storage space to a minimum and allow me to recycle them naturally. I may end up making a lot of patchwork items until the clothing pantry reopens but that’s okay – at least the items will be put to use.

Remember: if you find yourself beginning to trip over your stockpile, you’ve reached a danger point. While it is okay to stock up, it is painfully easy to start hoarding. If you cannot organize and keep track, you’ll find yourself with a problem.

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While there are a range of other questions you can ask yourself, those are the three primary ones that I personally use. Do you have any questions that you ask yourself that I missed? Maybe you can teach me how to stock up more efficiently. Thank you!

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I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

2 Comments

  • Joshua Cogliati

    You have asked the three most important questions. I some times ask myself another one: How often does a deal like this happen? So if it is say a memorial day sale, maybe I can just postpone purchasing it till next memorial day. Most sales are not once in a lifetime, so sometimes it makes sense just to wait for the next sale.

    • Annie

      That is a very good question to ask, Josh! I do the same thing, especially when I stumble upon clearance items. Thanks for the reminder!