“The only noble use of stockpiling is to donate it to charity.”
Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
Is it wrong to fill your pantry and closets with items you’ve carefully shopped for? Or, are you being greedy for not giving it all to your local food bank? My opinion is this: it is not bad goal to provide for your family by stockpiling. If the entire goal of couponing is to avoid paying full price and save money, then stockpiling must factor into the equation.
The thing about food….
I spent some time contemplating this yesterday and something troubled me. It’s easy for a person to think a couponer who stockpiles is being greedy by not giving, and yet…
- What about the person with tons of fancy clothes and shoes in their closet? Shouldn’t they give some away, too?
- What about the person with the nice house? Shouldn’t they open up some rooms in their house to the homeless?
- What about the person with the expensive SUV? Shouldn’t they have purchased a used car and given the rest of their money to single moms so they too could buy vehicles?
- What about the person with an extensive DVD or music collection? Shouldn’t they donate some of it to someone that’s really, really bored?
- And what about the person who just went on a big Costco shopping trip? (Somehow that isn’t met with the same criticism, but applauded for “smart shopping.”)
I can’t put my finger on it, but there seems to be something that upsets people when they see a couponer leave the store with 12 free boxes of pasta or 15 cans of frozen juice for $1. Perhaps it’s because they feel that person has gotten too good of a deal and for that reason, they should be guilted into giving it away.
Consider the Math
At some point, you’re going to have to determine if stockpiling is being resourceful or if it’s being greedy.
I say when done at proper levels, it’s being resourceful. Let me illustrate.
Suppose my family eats four boxes of cereal in a month. Does it really matter if I buy four in one shopping trip (at a great deal with sales and coupons) or one box each week for four weeks? The end consumption is the same, isn’t it? The only difference is I’ve spent a LOT less money.
How Couponing and Stockpiling Increase Generosity
While many accuse couponers of being hoarders, the ironic truth is they are some of the most generous people I know. Couponing for Community recently shared how couponers donated over 26,000 items in one week. After the tornados hit in Alabama, Couponing to Disney organized an online drive and over 500 boxes of items were received. Couponers also send their expired coupons overseas to our military families.
Here’s what it’s important for you to know. You can provide for your family by stockpiling AND still give back. It does not have to be one or the other. In fact, I believe stockpiling and using coupons to save money actually increases your ability to be generous!
Here’s a quick and easy way to know if you’re a hoarder or a stockpiler:
Your girlfriend is at your house and mentions that she needs to stop by the grocery store on the way home to pick up frozen spinach for dinner. You have spinach stockpiled in your freezer that you got for free with coupons. If you’re a hoarder, you keep your mouth shut and let her take her three kids into Safeway to buy the spinach.
If you’re a stockpiler, you will give her the box of frozen spinach.
I think Angela hit the nail on the head. A stockpiler isn’t attached to her items. They help her family; they serve a function. Hoarding is when there are more items than can possibly serve a purpose in a particular household and there is an unreasonable attachment to them. Can this happen? Yes, absolutely. I believe just about anything can become an addiction, including couponing and stockpiling. But I don’t believe this describes the majority of couponers.
A Final Word About Food Banks
If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know that I DO deeply care about working with our local food banks. Last year, I reached out to FISH Food Banks, the oldest operating food bank in Pierce County with 8 locations. In 2010 alone, FISH served 364,000+ people. Clearly, there is a need and I don’t intend to make light of this fact.
As I took the time to meet with them and tour several of their banks, I learned something surprising. While food and non-food donations are appreciated and accepted, they’d far prefer our monetary donations. I’m not sure if this is the case for all food banks – so don’t hear me say that – but it is the case for FISH. FISH has the ability to buy the items extremely cheap AND buy the items and quantities they need to best serve their clients.
Knowing this, it seems unfair to me that the person spending $150 on their few grocery items should point to the savvy couponer who spent $75 and say, “you there – give!” When they could just as well decide to lay off the gourmet marinade and give $10 to their local food bank. Now I’m not saying buying a bottle of $10 marinade is wrong per se, but I take issue when people judge others for not being generous when they haven’t taken a hard look at their own level of charitable giving. I think it’s a far more productive exercise to ask ourselves this: what more can I be doing? how much more can I be giving?
I’d like to end this post with an ancient Chinese Proverb, and it’s one I’m sure many of you are familiar with.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
To teach someone how to feed their family for a lifetime is a very noble cause in my book. Many, many wonderful couponers do exactly that. Ask almost anyone that uses coupons and you’ll find they are willing to teach others. But please don’t forget that another very noble cause is to provide for the ones closest to you: your family.