A colleague and his wife are extreme couponers. She spends the equivalent of nearly a full workday a week following through with sales, coupon clipping, stacking, turning in CVS Bonus Bucks, etc. They can get an entire bag of things for next to nothing, and sometimes they even walk away with money in their pocket. (Some retailers allow “overages,” which means that don't cap the discount at the price of the item. Buy a $1.00 item with a $1.25 coupon, and you get 25 cents back!)
After doing this for a bit, it's possible to amass enough supplies to stock a convenience store. Some example of this kind of stockpiling are here. On one of the videos I saw flash by around a dozen baby shampoos and a dozen baby lotions — along with a bunch of paper towels, toilet paper, sandwich bags, laundry detergents, sodas, etc. I've seen videos elsewhere that have the same assortment of products, but in even bigger quantities.
Nothing lasts forever
First, I'll let you in on a secret. I don't shave every day. In fact, my workplace is fairly lax on dress code, so sometimes I shave but once a week. Hence, I don't go through a whole lot of shaving gel. One can of shaving gel easily lasts me over a year. A three-pack from Costco lasts me about five years.
You wouldn't expect shaving gel to go bad, right? Well, the can I'm using now still does the trick, but the scent from the can I'm using now isn't quite the same as the one I just finished. Scents are usually some kind of organic compound, and they break apart over time. It might take years, but they do break apart.
Which leads me into my point. Even if I were to shave every day, would I have use for three or four dozen cans of shaving gel? There's a good chance that they'd go bad after a decade, which would be about how long it would take me to go through those cans. So, even if I got those cans for a quarter apiece — or less — they do actually have an expiration date. By the end, I might end up with a substandard product, or one that doesn't even work at all.
When to stockpile deals
There are times to stockpile, and it's best to stockpile when you can get the products at a really good price. Here are some situations where you can stockpile with wild abandon:
- You have a large family. I'm the only one who uses man-flavored shaving gel in my house, but a house with four teenage boys would use more. Three cans wouldn't last but a few months with that kind of usage.
- You know you'll use the stuff up by the expiration date. Some products have longer expiration dates than others. If the product does have an expiration date, it's fairly easy to figure out whether or not you'll go through it by the expiration.
- You have an outlet for the abundance. For the folks that have enough to outfit a convenience store, this is an opportunity to give to those in need, and do so for pennies on the dollar. Think care packages for troops overseas, or Dopp kits for the needy, or items for the local food bank. I suspect that bargain hunters of this scale primarily enjoy the thrill of getting something for next to nothing. Whether this becomes an asset or a liability depends on how the products are used or passed on — or even if they are used or passed on.
- You know that the stuff absolutely will not expire in your lifetime. If you have the room for toilet paper and can get it really cheap, go for it. The experts say that “[p]aper can last generations and will only lose effectiveness if it gets wet or moist. There is no set expiration date.” (Just keep it above the high water mark.)
If you do extreme couponing, how do you manage the volume of stuff you bring in?