I’ve Paid For This Twice Already…

Frugal living and debt reduction tips for a better financial future. This is one family’s story.

October 3rd, 2007

My Bulk Buying Leads to Lifestyle Inflation

As I said yesterday when sharing all of the reader suggestions on how to incorporate bulk buying into my shopping, I have struggled with this concept in the past. One of my struggles, how to find the money to take advantage of bulk-buying deals, was what prompted the original post that I received all the great suggestions from. My other struggle is a little more nebulous and harder to exactly define, and something I am still considering: keeping bulk buying from leading to lifestyle inflation.

Lifestyle inflation, to me, is when you have more money and increase your spending to match that. It is why even with a raise, sometimes, you just don’t feel like you’re making any more progress or getting any closer to being ahead. I used to do this a lot, especially on a month to month type basis. I’d have a month where I made more money contracting than I expected, and I’d go to Target and buy a bunch of stuff I had been waiting to buy until I had some money, and also a bunch of little extra things in the process. Or we’d have a little extra money in our bank account, and I would let us go out to eat a few times because we were doing so “well”. That extra money we had never got converted into anything that was making a positive difference in our financial health – it just got frittered away.

How does bulk buying lead to lifestyle inflation for me? It is kind of the same concept. The vast majority of my bulk buying is in the realm of groceries. When I buy something in bulk, it should reduce the amount of money I need to spend in the future because I am no longer buying that item as part of my normal grocery shopping. Somehow though, that never happens for me. It never seems like my grocery bill goes down. Even though I don’t do it consciously, it seems that I must be using the money saved with bulk buying to buy other things I might not have normally bought and my budget is never reduced, so I never actually see the savings tangibly. So, in effect, bulk buying seems to cost me more over the long run than buying in small amounts would have – I get more stuff for less money, but I also buy other stuff I can’t generally afford, leading to more money spent overall.

I am taking big steps to rectify this phenomenon though. First, all the tracking of my groceries I have been doing. I haven’t gotten to the point where I am dissecting my list here, but I do keep track of anything I buy that isn’t on my list and own up to it in my weekly grocery post, and I am not adding new things to the list before I go to the store that I wouldn’t generally have bought before. So the temptation to add more and more frivolous items to my cart is greatly reduced.

The other big step I am taking (that is still a work in progress) is figuring out what a reasonable grocery budget for me is. Once I know what is actually reasonable and that I can generally stick to, I can start building in bulk buying and then track if I am reducing my future budget by at least what I am saving by buying ahead. This process seems rather endless and frustrating to me right now, but I do know I am making progress (even if it doesn’t always feel like it!). If I have an unreasonable number as my budget, then I will never hit it, and I don’t want to blame buying in bulk for that when it isn’t the issue.

Once I can combine a reasonable grocery budget with a good consistent tracking system, I feel like I have the tools necessary to battle the lifestyle inflation I seem to slip into every time I free up money I would have used for groceries, and I can start saving even more money to apply directly to debt. At least – that is the hope. The real tangible and true goal of all this is to turn that bulk buying savings into snowflakes for debt elimination.

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14 Responses to “My Bulk Buying Leads to Lifestyle Inflation”

  1. If you are serious about debt elimination and it’s just you, you can cut drastically on your grocery bill – and you don’t have to buy bulk to do it. Things like cream of wheat, beans, and oatmeal can get you through the month with little cost. I little sacrifice now will be worth it in the end.

    As for the idea that you spend more when you make more, that’s what our family is facing right now. I’m trying to cut us off at the pass by putting the extra income in savings when the paycheck hits the bank account. For some reason, if it’s not there you aren’t as likely to spend it.

    Good luck on your debt reduction.

  2. I think your reasoning is dead on.

    One other factor though is that food prices seem to have increased quite a bit in the last year or two. If that trend continues then that might mess with your system a bit.

    Mike

  3. I’m trying to wait until I totally use up a product to purchase another one…my main problem is shampoo, conditioner, and beauty products…I love to buy the latest beauty products…whether or not I need them…

  4. @Kathryn – I have two little kids and a husband who is at his limit of putting up with my “cheap” meals lol but I totally see where eating really cheap for a short time could help a lot! Unfortunately my spouse is super picky.

    @Mike… yeah… costs going up… mess with my head… ugh. lol

  5. I have been doing that too!

    It is crazy how many half-used bottles of shampoo I apparently have….

  6. Sounds like organized thinking. It makes a lot of sense, too. Saving money often makes me think “ooh, free money!” even though that’s not the case. :-/

  7. Well I am hoping to recover that “oh free money!’ feeling soon :)

  8. Wow! I thought I was anal! Not that it’s a bad thing…I’m impressed. I would suggest having a budget that is basically the same from month to month. Whatever is beyond your monthly spending limits goes to debt, savings, or whatever your goal is. When your income fluctuates it means you put more or less towards that goal.

    As far as tracking goes, I couldn’t do it without MS Money. Best.

  9. susan yoder Says:

    July 26th, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Because of my fine hair I cannot use cheap shampoos, but I found that Avon shampoos are like the designer brands for less. I buy my shampoo when they are $2 each (about three times a year) and my deordorant from Avon for .99 about 5-6 times a year. Also I buy my shower and hand soaps at the dollartree store which saves me bundles. Anything I can get at the dollar store that is cheaper than Aldi’s I buy there. I take my mom to get her hair done across town which is right by the dollartree store and aldi’s, so every Friday we shop there while I go garage saling when she’s getting her hair done. We save a bundle on gas and groceries. I no longer go to target or walmart etc. unless I have to and only buy what is on my list there–save lots of money!

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