I was at Walmart over the weekend and the entire stock of Halloween merchandise was 90% off.  Three aisles of leftovers were yours for a song if you had the time to go through it and the space to store it for a year.

I was not interested in costumes, plastic buckets or tubes of blood, but what did grab my attention were the boxes of ribbons.  A small selection had pumpkins or witches hats, but most of it was plain fabric ribbon in solid colors — just like the ribbon I use all year to tie bows on packages.  And here it was, for 10 cents/spool!

Given that I had the time and have the space, I purchased a generous amount of the ribbon.  As I was putting them in my cart, it seemed like a great idea.  But as I was managing the logistics at home, I began to wonder.  They didn’t fit with my other ribbons, so I had to determine a new way to store my treasures to make them visible and accessible throughout the coming months when I needed them.

It took a lot of time at the store to sort through the piles to find “normal” colors.  It took even more time for the cashier to ring up each separately, and hit about 8 other keys to override the price and provide the discount.  It took still longer for the manager to approve the transaction since it included so many price overrides.  Then it took more time to rearrange the closet and stack my purchases there in a functional way.

In the end, I wonder if my bargain was really a good deal after all.    

Think about this lesson if you are tempted to get carried away to stockpile something.  There is more of a cost to ownership than what you pay during the initial transaction.  Time, handling, storage and just overall “digging through to find it” frustrations may not outweigh what you save in currency.  But if you need a bow for anything in the next few years, I’ve got you covered!

— beth triplett

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