Stockpiling, Military-Style

Commissary shelf stocking.

If you’ve been reading much here at The Paycheck Chronicles, you might have noticed that I am all about saving money.  And, since the top three expenses in most families are housing, transportation and food/personal items, I am very interested in figuring out how to save money on daily consumables.  While rent and car payments are have the potential for big savings, everyday shopping items provide the opportunity to save a little bit of money a lot of different times.

Stockpiling consumables (buying a lot when the price is low, or you have great coupons) is one strategy that can reduce your overall spending, as long as you are able to maintain a balance between your stock-piling and over-stocking. You’ve probably seen television shows or newspaper articles about people who have huge reserves of food and other household items, usually due to savvy couponing. This isn’t a bad thing, but being military makes the math a little less clear. Moving every 2-3 years, sometimes overseas, makes it less sensible to have 24 years of toilet paper in your basement. (And I have been guilty of this; I once moved about two cases of baby bath to Australia!)

So, how do you stockpile if you’re in a transient family?  The key is understanding your family’s consumption, and to have some idea when you think you might move (and err on the side of caution if you can’t guess).  For example, I know that my family will consume approximately one 10 ounce bag of coffee grounds every week.  In April of this year, our local store was selling our preferred brand of coffee for $2.50 per bag, down from the usual price of $4.99 per bag.  I did some quick math and calculated that we would be living here for approximately 12 more weeks, and bought enough to bring our total supply to 12 bags.  (And then put it in the freezer – coffee beans freeze well.)

It isn’t always possible to guesstimate exactly, and sometimes families don’t consume things at a steady rate.  My saltine cracker math was off and we’re 7 days from moving with an entire box of crackers left.  If your calculations are close-ish, you can usually find a way to make up the difference somehow (cheese and crackers for snack, tuna on crackers for lunch, cracker coating on chicken for dinner…)

Food and other consumables are a big budget item for most families, and saving a little (or a lot) on each small item can add up to large amounts of money saved.  Carefully thinking through each item will help you buy the right amount and save the most.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.