Saving Money through Inventory Time

by K. M. Eldredge

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It's five minutes until you have to drop the kids off to school. As your hand hits the doorknob, Precious announces, "Teacher says I need to bring a box of crayons." You tear your hair out as you spend two minutes ransacking the kitchen drawers for crayons. Burned down birthday candles aren't an adequate substitute. Rats! It's time to hit the drugstore on the way to school again.

Does a scenario like this occur in your home from time to time? Maybe instead of crayons you discover that you're out of pantyhose, stamps, or whatever tools you need to make your life run smoothly. You can curb those instant panic attacks if you take the time once in awhile to schedule an informal inventory.

Taking stock of what you have lets you know what supplies are in the house and what you need to put on your next shopping list. There are several kinds of inventories that you can manage, including:


I like to plan my menus, see what's in the pantry and refrigerator, and then write down my needs on my list. The next time I go to the grocery store, I buy what I need. If company shows up and I want to feed my guests, I can create something tasty from my inventory instead of asking the pizza delivery person to come to the rescue. I check the food inventory weekly.

Office and School Supplies

There are certain items that every member of the house needs, such as paper, pens, pencils, and toner for the printer. The things used less frequently can fit on a shelf or file cabinet drawer. This can be checked every two weeks or as needed.

Cleaning and Bathroom Supplies

Laundry detergent, dish soap, bathroom tissue, paper towels, and cleaners are all necessities on my list. Don't you hate it when someone else uses up all the bathroom tissue without saying a word? Well, you can stay on top of that problem by keeping tabs of the inventory on hand. Check for these supplies weekly.


Some of us have to keep a perpetual eye on those dreaded pantyhose. Socks are another item that need frequent replacement. Keep track of the basics at least once a month, especially for kids. Does everyone have shoes that fit, underwear that's presentable, pants and shirts that aren't stained or torn or missing buttons, and do all the members of the house have an outfit that makes them feel terrific? You don't have to incur a lot of expenses in replacing a wardrobe all at once. Instead, check out the superstores or discount stores for the pantyhose, socks and underwear, and look around at a variety of resources for the other clothing items. Your local thrift shop might have something deluxe for every member of your family, or you might hit upon a fabulous yard sale. Department stores often have incredible end of season sales on a number of items, including those that will carry you through multiple seasons. Check your clothing inventory at least once a season.


Go through your home and list all your magazines and books, videos and DVDs, board games, computer and video games, and find all your photos that you haven't put away yet. The next time someone complains that there's nothing to do, you can whip out your list to prove him or her wrong. If you decide that you need something new, try to find someone who will trade items with you. Or take a stroll through the used book, music, or gaming store. Try to trade your stuff for credit or other merchandise. Organize your photos, one album at a time. If the weather is blah, the power goes out, and the family is stuck at home, you've got a treasure trove of activities to do together.

Where can you keep your inventory? One solution is to make a database on the computer. If a database program is beyond your reach, then you can make a simple listing in a word processing program. Make one file for each category and print them out. Put them in a binder if you are so inclined. Always make a backup copy of your inventory, though. You never know when the Computer Monster will gobble your files. Another alternative is the ever-reliable blank notebook. Paper notebooks are easy to take around the house as you inventory, too.

This time next week, you and Precious will be able to sail out the door with everything at hand because inventory time helped you figure out what you need. One other inventory that might be fun to keep is your wish list. This one you can keep to yourself, but go ahead and put everything you ever wanted on there, no matter how silly or extravagant. Someday you might surprise yourself by getting your heart's desire.

Take the Next Step

  • Choose one of the above inventories (or come up with your own) and begin to take stock of what you have and what you need to put on your next shopping list.
  • Get cash back on the groceries you buy. Checkout 51 can show you how!
  • Could spending 5 minutes reading a newsletter twice a week save you time and money every day? Dollar Stretcher Tips readers think so. Subscribe and find out how many ideas stretch your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.

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