Today’s guest post is from Mrs. Micah: Finance for a Freelance Life. Mrs. Micah is a very frequent commenter here… and every other personal finance blog I have come across it seems. Her youthful and boundless energy is inspiring. Why don’t you check out her feed and see for yourself? Oh, and PS – I’m an overbuyer. You’ll know what I mean (and could have guessed that yourself about me) once you get to the end of the article.
I was first introduced to the concept of over/underbuying by Gretchen Rubin at her Happiness Project blog. I am, without doubt, an underbuyer. This means that I don’t tend to stock up on items I know I’ll need–even if they’re on sale. I’m always looking for a way to spend less. I don’t optimize my shopping.
And overbuyer, on the other hand, might buy 3 beef steaks because they’re on sale–not because she particularly likes beef or will use them in time. Her cabinet is full of soup cans long forgotten (hopefully still good) and bought “just in case.” She shops at Costco, but never seems to save money.
If you don’t immediately recognize yourself, the link goes to a quiz Gretchen designed for identifying your shopping habits.
Like so many things in life, this is a place where we must seek the middle path. The hard part is finding the middle path and convincing ourselves to stay on it!
Here are some ideas for underbuyers to shift towards the middle:
1. Start planning your bulk purchases. If you know that you cook with canned tomatoes every week, consider stocking up when there’s a discount. The tricky part is that sometimes you only find out about the discount at the store. So make decisions beforehand on what you will and won’t “allow” yourself to buy. Consider carrying a list–something like “canned tomatoes, up to 6; acne cream, up to 3; etc.”
2. When calculating your weekly spending afterwards, divide bulk purchases across the month. If you’re like me, you feel really guilty for spending more money than you “needed” to, even if it’ll all even out or save you money later.
3. Consider learning to shop for a couple weeks of groceries at a time. This will help you start to think in terms of bulk. You’ll begin to see big picture and how you can use it to your advantage. I’m not yet able to do this…but it’s something I’m working towards.
And for overbuyers:
1. Make a list. Don’t buy stuff that’s not on the list. And make sure your list is rational while you’re going shopping. Ask yourself “Do I really need this? Will I use it?”
2. Give yourself a flex allowance. I really like how Paid Twice gives herself a wiggle percentage of the overall money spent. That is, she can spend 3% of the total (I believe it’s the total) on impulse buys. You’ve got a little outlet for your natural tendencies–when you see something on the list that you just can’t live without. As long as you stay within your budget!
3. Think more short-term. Remember that goods expire. Work on focusing on the short-term and whether they really will be used up in that time. Perhaps even let yourself feel a little healthy guilt over the idea that they might expire before you used them.
With my suggestions, I focused on grocery shopping, but I think the principles apply to other shopping areas.
Are you an underbuyer or an overbuyer? What are you doing about it?