One of the adages that I hear a lot is: being poor is expensive. One day my dad heard this and laughed because it sounded dumb to him. I took a moment to explain a few examples where it rang very true.
Costco. Let’s take an old favorite of mine now, toilet paper (heh). Toilet paper at Costco is $15 for 30 rolls. Does you fat lot of good if you have $2. You are stuck buying it at $1 a roll at the Dollar Tree. Expensive to be poor.
Same thing across the board. Ketchup? Buy a huge ketchup for $2 that is 2.5x the size of the $1 ketchup bottle, but if you only have $1, or you have $3, but you need meat or other staples: plum out of luck.
You need medical or dental procedure? You can cash pay and save 30% or more. Poor? you pay full price, often times with interest.
Car loans at 0% for those with money, car loans with pie in the sky rates for poor people. Not just people with bad credit, but people with low income as well.
It goes on an on. Those are just a few examples, but I wanted to address this, because it is one of the most common reasons that people tell me they cannot afford to stock up.
Maybe this is just incredibly personal, but I really think a stocked pantry is essential. I’ve been through periods where having the pantry was the only reason I could eat. Periods of time where it was incidental, but also purposeful: I’m going to ONLY eat from this backlog of purchased very cheaply food in order to save for glasses, dental work, to pay a bill, or achieve a goal. I could eat for over a month from my pantry feeling little pain until week 4. By pantry, I also mean freezer.
I purposefully do “no spend” months periodically and “eat from the back of the pantry” to make sure no food ages out or freezer burns out. Usually twice a year is sufficient.
Back on track: SO, if you are poor or low income how do you make this happen? Keep in mind that this doesn’t just apply to food. It also applies to: laundry soap, dish soap, soap soap, dishwasher detergent, shampoo, whatever you need that you can buy in bulk and save on long term.
For many things, Costco is terrific. A couple years ago a membership on my own was too costly for me. So I split it with a friend, and then eventually my mom. That is one way to mitigate cost of membership.
To mitigate cost of purchases form a personal Costco co-op. My parents, uncle, myself, and my best friend, along with another person or two that rotated worked together and formed our own kind of co-op. This does not just apply to Costco, but I’m using it for simplicity. I’ve used this same team of co-op members to bring down the cost of boxes of household supplies via auction or local liquidation stores.
From here it’s pretty simple. With whatever we bought, we’d break it down and share the costs. One of us would buy all of it (often on credit, because we couldn’t afford it all together) and then we’d reimburse each other in cash for the overall savings. Now I could get, for example, a six pack of toilet paper for $3 effectively doubling my purchasing power.
Or, since I am a household of one, we’d split things. I don’t need a HUGE jar of mayo, soy sauce, dried onion, cumin, taco seasoning, etc, but I don’t want to over pay for it to get a smaller amount either. One of us buys, the other repays and we split it. The reduction in cost can be astronomical, and instead of one person getting ahead by spending less per ounce or pound, everyone gets ahead! In addition, let’s talk about the problem of waste. How many times do we buy in bulk only to find we can’t actually finish what we bought? We thought it was a great deal per pound, but it’s only a deal if it doesn’t go to waste! This way, that never happens. We all save, we build community, and we don’t waste.
And honestly, it can be kind of fun, and organizing it is really rewarding. I love saving people money. If I could do that for a job I’d be thrilled for life. Anyone who knows me knows that I spend my life interjecting ways to save you money on things you already do. Oh, you going to do that? I KNOW there is a coupon. Here is a way to get points for that. Let’s make sure if you spending that, you getting all advantages!
I just stocked piled sponges last week using this method at Costco. My best friend goes through them faster than I do. Costco has their giant pack of 21 sponges on sale for $8.19. I don’t want to spend $8.19 on 5 years plus worth of sponges. I don’t want to store THAT much. We split the cost. For $4.10 I have sponges for at least 3 years. Otherwise, I likely would have spent $1 a sponge in the future.
Some people may scoff, “Dude. You saved like $6. It’s not worth it.” To this I say the thing I will beat you over the head with. “Death of 1,000 paper cuts.” You do this 10 times? You’ve saved $60. Over the course of your lifetime? Tens of thousands of dollars. Plus, every time I do a deal like this I smile to myself about saving future Tami money. It’s all to put Future Tami in a better position than she currently is in. Future me is grateful!
A year later, I smile to myself when I pull that $0.25 bottle of dish soap out, or that bar of fancy soap from Whole Foods that I stockpiled 5 years worth when it was on sale for $1 instead of it’s normal $3 price. (That sounds more impressive than it is. Due to a stocking thing my Nana taught me I only go through about 2 bars of soap a year.)
Auctions can be great as well. I’ve scored hugely at the local auction house. I’m fortunate in that there is one less than 15 minutes from my house. It’s online, but I pick up in person. I’ve purchased cases of laundry soap, dish soap, jet dry, and more! For as little as 20 cents a bottle. I’ve enough of all of the above for years. Storage can be an issue, I know, but I have one six foot shelving unit that I dedicate to long term storage and that is my limit. If it doesn’t fit I cannot buy it – no matter how good the price. It takes trial and error to know what a reasonable amount of product to keep around is. How fast do you use it? How long will it last? What is reasonable to store? Will you get sick of it? All of this comes from trial and error. Never be afraid to learn!
I hope this was helpful and you can form some sort of co-op with your friends and family to reduce your costs. Just the few examples above show a cost reduction of 50-75% per item. Imagine that spread out over your home, over time?
Way, way back in the day I couponed, and yes, I saved loads of money, but it also took a lot of time. Even when I figured out how to streamline it, the amount of time organizing coupons, researching deals, and going to different stores was prohibitive. If you are chronically ill, and have limited spoons like me, or you work full time, it is asking a lot of you. The exception being if you love the thrill of the chase. Some people really get a kick out of getting a great deal – I know that feeling – but I have determined that while I may lose out on a deal or two, this is the most consistently cost effective method for me and six years in, I’ve nothing to regret!