Sunday, February 23

Why You Need An Emergency Fund of Stuff

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Most financial gurus will suggest you build an Emergency Fund with enough cash to cover 3 to 6 months of essential expenses. I’m going to suggest you also start building a 3-month stash of household and personal goods.

Initially, my Emergency Fund of Stuff was an accident. I signed up for Amazon’s Subscribe & Save and wasn’t sure how quickly I’d use up a product before I needed my next shipment. If I ran out of something, I’d pick it up from the local grocery store and then have extra when my Amazon order came through. If I received too much of something, I’d store the extra and adjust my timing for my next order.

But then I decided I really like having extra on hand of essential items, and I hate running out of things, so then I set out to purposefully amass 3 months worth of essential personal and household purchases.

My new apartment has a small pantry-sized storage room that I’ve been taking advantage of. When I first moved in, I used this as the space to throw everything I was too lazy to put away. But recently I carved out a morning to organize it, and now it’s a dream storage space of my Emergency Fund of Stuff.

You need to start hoarding household goods for your physical and financial health

You should keep 3 months of household goods and toiletries on hand in case of emergency. If you fall on financial hardship, this will reduce your stress, ensure your physical security, and keep more money in your bank account. Some people even take this a step further and build a food storage to last 1 year.

It’s also worth noting that this can help you should you face a double whammy of lost income and physical disability. Breaking your femur won’t only take you away from work for a few weeks, it will also make grocery trips a special kind of hell. We tend to only think of bad luck in terms of temporarily disrupting our finances, but we can end up temporarily physically disabled too. In fact, a 25-year-old has a 58% chance of becoming physically disabled for 3-months or longer!

An Emergency Fund of Stuff will make your real Emergency Fund last longer

The greatest perk of building an Emergency Fund of Stuff is it will take the pressure off your financial Emergency Fund should you find yourself in a bind.

For example, let’s say you need $400 per month for groceries and household items. Imagine you can slash that number in half by having a stockpile of dry goods and cleaning products, so when you go to the grocery store, you only need to spend money on things like meat and fresh produce.

Your cash Emergency Fund will last a lot longer the less you need to use it, and the easiest way to use it less is to reduce the number of items you’ll need to buy.

Items that are great to keep for an Emergency Fund of Stuff

Like building a cash Emergency Fund, building an Emergency Fund of Stuff takes planning and time. You likely will not be able to run out and stock your home in a single grocery trip. Or maybe you can, but it will cost you a few hundred dollars. Instead, you should take your time building your stash of stuff by starting with the most essential and expensive items and working your way through your list.

Here are some suggestions of what I keep in my Emergency Fund of Stuff:

  • Contact lenses
  • Soap
  • Toothpaste
  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Pads & tampons
  • Razor blades
  • Household medicines like Tylenol or Ibuprofen
  • Paper towel
  • Kleenex
  • Toilet paper
  • Household cleaning supplies
  • Dish soap
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Laundry soap
  • Garbage bags
  • Plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and parchment paper
  • Coffee
  • Cereal

On that list are items like contact lenses and razor blades, which are necessities but are also expensive. My latest order of contact lenses was $200. That’s a bill I’d hate to pay if I was skipping a paycheque.

If you have a child like me, your list might also include things like diapers, wipes, and baby food. I actually ran out of diapers when my baby was only 5 days old. I was still recovering from the birth and totally on my own, so I couldn’t make the trek to the grocery store for diapers. Thankfully a friend rescued me and delivered a giant box to my home. But ever since then, I’ve always been a few months ahead in my diaper supply.

I also keep “luxury” items in my storage. These are things I would NEVER pick up if I was without an income, but are also things that I hate to be without. For me, this is primarily Sephora items, like my favorite facial cleanser or eye makeup remover, but also includes things like wine. If you’re unemployed, you probably don’t feel good about dropping $20 on a bottle of wine for dinner. But if it’s already in your pantry, you have nothing to feel bad about.

Building your Emergency Fund of Stuff is easy and affordable

Amassing 3 months (or more) of household items is actually extremely easy to do. You can copy my method of over-ordering on Amazon Subscribe and Save, or you can do something even easier: buy 1 extra of an item when you go shopping.

Keeping up your Emergency Fund of Stuff becomes as simple as buying whatever item supply is dwindling. Instead of waiting until you run out, you buy when you run low. Once established, maintaining it will be no different than your regular grocery trips.

Personally, I only like to keep things with expiry dates 9 months or longer, but if you’re diligent about working your way through certain items faster, you might opt to keep ones with shorter best before dates on hand.

Hoarding can be profitable

I understand in the personal finance community that often sings the praises of minimalism, hoarding months worth of household goods might seem counterintuitive. However, if doing so is good for your budget and your long-term financial security, it’s worth the effort.

You can often save money by buying items in bulk or on sale. Instead of picking up one can of pasta sauce, you can now buy six to take advantage of the discount if you buy multiples. Furthermore, being deliberate about your purchases can help you spend less overall.

Do you keep any household goods or personal items on hand to complement your emergency fund?

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About Author

Student debt killer, super saver, and stock market addict. BSc. in Chemistry from the University of Alberta, MBA in Finance from the University of Calgary. CEO x 2 and MOM x 1. Currently residing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but hooked on travelling.

12 Comments

  1. I employ this strategy alongside my travel hacking. Helps me to achieve the mininum spend (example: $4,000 in 3 months) required to earn the credit card sign up bonus. I’ll eventually spend that money anyway, so I can front-load my purchases and get the big bonus of points! Double win.

  2. Interesting idea! We have a large pantry but it’s more about saving money than it is about having emergency stuff (Although it’s super handy to have a huge assortment of staples available)

    We’ve probably got about $300-$500 worth of food but it would have been $500-$700 at full price. Usually it’s dry/canned stuff that we use a lot of. Cereal, pasta, canned tomato, coconut milk, sauces, jams, peanut butter etc. etc.

    Peanut butter is a good example. I think I bought 15-20 last time they were on sale for $2.88, so that’s $50 right there. My two girls love peanut butter and we probably use about 1 jar per week! It’s super easy to run downstairs to get more when we run out.

  3. I do this! I hate running out of things like toilet paper. What I do with deodorant that have no progress indicator is I always have two at home and when I open the spare one, then I buy a new one. I do that for most things and then if they’re on sale, I might buy a few more, but I try to not buy more than 3-6 months worth so I’m not storing stuff for too long.

  4. I used to do this when I stocked up on sales. With a well organized pantry there are lots of things I keep an eye out for and store. We love frozen fruit which can 50% the cost on sale.

    I don’t do it with luxuries though. I have the opposite thought. I don’t want to make it easier to indulge when I am trying to keep spending to a minimum. I also prefer to buy as I need for those items. For me part of the treat is going to get them when I need them. Always having them on hand turns them into basics for me.

  5. Interesting article, but like Owen, we do the same for saving money if something is on sale and a save trip to the store.

    I’m just curious, Household medicines like Tylenol/Ibuprofen and contacts have a shelf life, so I imagine you keep a reminder (perhaps on your smartphone calendar) to let you know when they are about to expire?

    That can be tricky to juggle, as to deciding when to start using them, otherwise you may find yourself forgetting and using/wearing expired products. I’m curious how you get around this?

    • Tylenol lasts for years, but Ibuprofen has shorter expiry timelines, so you have to watch that more closely.

      This comment just reminded me to go check mine, and I had a little thing of Midol that expired last month!

      I personally don’t use these medicines often, so I only have 1 ibuprofen (it’s about half full so I think I’ll pick up another) and 2 tylenols in my storage — 1 open that I’m using, the other stored, both have expiry dates in 2020!

  6. CheckoutSaver.com on

    I really enjoyed this read! I do this too, to an extent, and the added security of having extra on hand or the savings of buying in bulk are really favorable!

    One huge thing i didnt see in your list: water! Essential in an emergency, more vital than food, and generally just a good thing to stockpile.

  7. Such a great idea, especially if you have a big event coming up. I stocked up on shampoo, toothpaste and froze some meals right before we went on a two week trip and it was nice to not have to be jetlagged and have to run to the store immediately after coming home. Same with after having our baby – didn’t have to grocery shop for two weeks after he arrived (although I did send my husband out once or twice for fresh apples and bananas to snack on). We have minimal space in our condo, but it’s worth buying an extra bottle of shampoo or tube of toothpaste when it’s on sale than paying full price when you eventually need it.

  8. Great idea. Usually, when I think of storing stuff for emergencies, I think of natural disasters. Okay, sometimes I worry about a zombie apocalypse.
    I never think about losing my main source of income or being injured. It makes sense to be prepared for something like that.