Let's face it, everyday necessities aren't exactly exciting; in fact, they're downright boring and practical. It's no fun to shop for cat litter, toilet paper, batteries, diapers, or socks. And yet, when you're out of them, your entire world can come to a screeching halt. Many of these goods are so necessary, we've run out of the house bleary-eyed at 3 am just to replace them.
Unfortunately, when you're in a rush, a savvy shopper's commitment to buying discounted goods goes out the window, and it's easy to pay too much when you can't wait around for a deal. Therefore, it's cheaper and easier to stock up on these items when you don't need them. Below is a collection of items that you should always buy when you see a deal, even if you're still flush at home. We've even included some data from the dealnews archives to show you just how much you can save with a little advance planning.
Potential Savings: $7 off laundry detergent, $15 off disinfectant wipes
If things like cleaning supplies and laundry detergent aren't on your list of necessities, you either (a) live in a dorm room, or (b) live in a cave (and are likely also stealing WiFi from a nearby Starbucks). Still, even the average person probably doesn't think about purchasing household supplies until they run out. Yet these items are best bought in bulk, since most have a shelf life of a year or more. For example, in the past few months, we've seen an average savings of $7 on laundry detergent in bulk sizes or 2-packs. We also saw an average of $15 off disinfecting wipe bundles that include two to 12 packs.
Potential Savings: $10 off toilet paper, $22 off paper towels
Fact: There is never good time to run out of toilet paper. It's all that separates us from the animals! Paper towels, conversely, may seem to be a less urgent purchase, but a minor kitchen spill can quickly turn into the Messapocalypse if you're out of them. The only defense against a dearth of paper goods is proactive buying. In the last few months, we've seen an average savings of $10 on 24- and 48-packs of toilet paper, while paper towel deals that include anywhere from six to 60 rolls have yielded savings of as much as $22.
Pet Care Items
Potential Savings: Up to 50% off pet supplies, $13 off litter (after rebate)
As a responsible pet owner, you know that Sir Fluffykins has very basic needs, the ignoring of which will result in a very mad and/or sick cat. To save your furniture from claw marks and your slumber from hourly wake-up calls, your best bet is to stock up on necessities during pet site sales. In the past few months, we've seen multiple discounts of up to 50% off from stores like PetSmart and Petco. Plus, we occasionally see pet companies offering pet food or cat litter for as little as $0 after a mail-in rebate. For example, we saw a 7- or 8-lb. bag of cat litter for $0 after rebate in October, offering a savings of $13.
Potential Savings: $10 off cereals, $14 off coffee pods
When you're running low on funds, it helps to have a pantry that's been pre-stocked with provisions that have a long shelf life. Nonperishable foods like breakfast cereal, coffee, ramen noodles, canned goods, and other such noms are all things that can be bought in bulk from stores like Costco and Sam's Club, or via Amazon's Subscribe & Save shipping option. For example, in the past few months we've seen an average savings of $10 on 3- to 6-packs of breakfast cereals and $14 on single-serving coffee and tea pods (for Keurig coffee makers and the like) in quantities of 24 to 144.
LED Light Bulbs
Potential Savings: $12 off
In the long run, LED light bulbs are extremely energy efficient and long-lasting. However, the start-up cost of replacing every light in your home can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, waiting to buy an LED bulb when a traditional light goes out can mean missing a significant deal. Your best bet is to buy up to four LED lights at a time, when they go on sale. Following this plan, you can save as much as $12 per bulb.
Potential Savings: $6 off supplies, $6 off printer ink
An emergency office supplies purchase can send you into the red faster than you can say "I believe you have my stapler." The good news is that keeping an eye out for coupons from stores like Staples, OfficeMax, and Office Depot can keep you well-stocked with most supplies. However, the best discounts from these merchants often come in the form of printable coupons, so you may have to travel a bit. In the past few months, we've seen an average in-store savings of $6. (These coupons almost always require you to spend a minimum amount, usually $25.)
The exception to this is printer ink. When you're all out of cyan and your printer goes on strike, it's best to already have some generic ink on hand. Recently, we've seen packs of printer ink (usually including a full set of all the necessary colors) for about $6 under the price of other brand compatible packs; naturally, generic ink costs considerably less than brand name printer ink.
Potential Savings: $9 off
If you've got a lot of small electronics, or at least one child, you know the extreme annoyance that running out of batteries can cause. However, jumping on a battery deal can save you $9 on average. Interestingly, if you're buying AA or AAA batteries, you shouldn't necessarily opt for the super-jumbo-crazy bulk packages. The majority of battery deals we've seen in the past few months have been for 12- or 16-packs.
Potential Savings: $9 off diapers, $8 off wipes
Attention new parents: You will never, ever, have enough diapers. Newborns go through at least 10 or 12 per day. When added to the myriad of other baby products you'll need to keep on hand at all times (like wipes, formula, breast milk storage bags, etc.), the costs can be daunting. Save yourself some future heartache and buy that bulk pack of Size 4 diapers if it's on sale, even if your little one only weighs 6 lbs. right now. In recent months, we've seen an average savings of $9 on diaper packs that include 120 to 228 units. Also, we saw about $8 off 300- to 600-piece baby wipe packs.
Potential Savings: 15% to 60% off
Makeup can be a costly impulse buy. Getting your cosmetics online rather than from a department store or drugstore can result in huge savings. Plus, stocking up on makeup from sites like Sephora often yields free beauty samples in addition to big discounts. In recent beauty sales, we've seen sitewide discounts of 15% to 60% off.
Potential Savings: $13 off
Running out of razor blades can, at first, feel liberating. After all ladies, no one can tell that you haven't shaved your legs if you wear pants. And gentlemen, who doesn't feel more dashing with a bit of stubble? But eventually, no matter your sex, you'll either have to embrace your new life as Sasquatch or break down and buy some razor blades. If you stock up, however, you can save $13 on men's replacement razor blade bundles with eight to 24 cartridges.
Potential Savings: 20% to 50% off, or $10 off $30
Running out of toiletries like soap, toothpaste, body wash, and shampoo can lead to some creative decisions about personal hygiene. If you don't want to smell like a member of the Occupy movement, check out coupons from sites like Bath & Body Works, The Body Shop, and Crabtree & Evelyn, which often stack with ongoing sales. Recently, we've seen such coupons take 20% to 50% off. We've also seen a number of dollar-off coupons that require a minimum purchase, such as $10 off $30 or more.
Potential Savings: $10 off socks
Running out of underclothes is usually cause for a trip to the laundromat, not the store. But when your intimates are looking more like Swiss cheese than underwear, you'll wish you'd jumped on the large number of discounted multipacks we often see from eBay sellers or daily deal sites. For example, we've seen a savings of about $10 on 3- to 12-pair multipacks of socks in the past few months.
There's no worse feeling than unexpectedly running out of the necessities, but looking out for big discounts will make you well-stocked and sane. Plus, avoiding those spur-of-the-moment purchases could save you a minimum of about $100 in a year, thus keeping you and your wallet happy.
Did we miss anything? What items do you think are best bought ahead of time? Have you saved a boatload of money buying something before you needed it? Brag about it in the comments below!