Running Your Money: How to buy toilet paper

Running Your Money column logoBy Harry Stoll

Ancient Chinese civilizations invented gunpowder, the plow, the printing press, steel making, horse harnesses, porcelain, and much more. Put toilet paper on that list also. This essential item is among the 100 or so non-perishable items in most homes. Here is a troika of buying principles:

Buy the products you like.

Buy them on sale.

Buy them in large quantities.

Of course you don’t want to do anything that wouldn’t be prudent, but you should buy your favorite products. How you decide that is strictly subjective, but you know what products you like, so buy them. Many shoppers decide the house brands are their favorites. Stores are able to buy huge amounts of products from established manufacturers because that lets the manufacturer sell them to the retailer at a lower cost.

One deal—one price. But don’t be fooled into thinking the products are the same; corners could be cut. The only way to find out is to test fly them yourself. I’ve had very good luck with paper house brands from Raley’s and CVS. But it remains that you have to buy the products you like. If the cost is astronomical you might have to lower your standards.

The next thing to do is find what you like on sale. Paper products and personal care products seem to be on sale every week. (I use one of the many Gillette razors and never find their blades on sale. Not fair.) And the markdowns are often huge. Maybe they are just turning a smaller profit and the profit on the usual price is obscene. There is nothing you can do about that. Find what you like and buy it when it’s on sale.

Now, what you do is buy as many of these products on sale as they will let you buy. Sometimes there is a limit, but often it’s within what you can reasonably tote out to the trunk and find storage for in your house. You might have to creative to find space; maybe one of those under-the-bed covered trays would help.

Now a word about Sam’s Club and Costco: Other than the pallet loads you have to buy, I have two problems with them. I can never find out ahead of time what the prices will be, and their regular prices, while admittedly low, are often higher than the same product on sale at CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreen’s, or whatever grocer you shop at.

Coupons drive me crazy. I do snip them out of the Sunday paper but because they only let you buy one or two items I’m not too excited about them. As to those couponing TV shows: if you believe them you’ll believe in Smackdown is a competitive sport.

Shopping for fresh food is another task. Grocery stores usually come out with them on Thursdays. If you have a dedicated cook in your house, E can make use of those ads, but that’s a heavy-duty undertaking and fresh food must be bought about three times weekly.

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