Stocking up for winter


The weather is getting colder, which means that everyday tasks — like going to the grocery store — will soon become a lot more challenging. Armed with vivid memories of trudging through the snow last year with shopping bags in tow, my wife and I decided to stock up on food before it gets really chilly outside. So, we’ve been purchasing a lot of non-perishable items at once, which has elicited some interesting reactions from people who work at the store.

In general, retail staff are puzzled about why we would want to buy so much stuff at once. Even after explaining that winter is coming soon and we live almost a mile from the store and we don’t have a car, I still have to spell out the rationale for our behavior. Namely, it’s a lot easier to stock up on food while the weather is mild, so you’re never forced to walk to the store when the weather is seriously crappy. Even after getting the full explanation, I’m sure they still think we’re weird. After all, I’ve never seen anybody else in the store buying such large quantities of food.

There’s probably a larger social construct at work here. In general, Americans are pretty bad at saving money, whether it’s keeping extra cash on hand for emergencies, or saving up for a large purchase or retirement. As a culture, we tend to focus on our needs right now, at the expense of planning for the future. Granted, there’s no huge commitment involved in buying a few months’ worth of food at once. You’d be spending that money over the next few months anyway, so you just need to allocate the time and effort to buy the food beforehand. Yet almost nobody does it.

This whole discussion makes me wonder: if we somehow educated people on the benefits of planning ahead for non-financial matters — like buying food before the winter — would they make smarter decisions about their financial futures as well?