Americans are hoarding toilet paper again because of COVID fears, and it could cost them
Stocking up has become a national pastime as concerns over a second wave of pandemics this winter have fueled the desire to store food and supplies. But Americans say they are not done yet and that behavior could cost them financially.
One in three Americans say they still pretend to stock up on pandemic-related items, according to a December study by LendingTree that asked more than 1,000 people about their shopping habits and plans. Another third of the report they've already filled with groceries and housewares found the poll.
This may not come as a surprise to shoppers who have once again encountered empty toilet roll shelves or ongoing restrictions from retailers like Costco, which keeps some desirable items like Clorox wipes limited to one package per customer.
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Inventories spiked in October as COVID-19 infections began to rise - but the pandemic has only worsened since then due to vacation travel and colder weather. Stocking provides a psychological feeling of comfort and readiness during a crisis, experts say.
The buyers have stocked up on toilet paper and paper towels. Few rolls of paper towels were available on a Sunday in Florida.
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"We see this with hurricanes, snowstorms and the pandemic and the prospect of a winter that's going to be even worse than before," said Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree. "It makes people take action to make sure they are okay when what we saw in the spring repeats itself."
However, these stockpiling behaviors can lead to some negative consequences, such as: B. to trouble others finding essential items like toilet paper and disinfectant.
And there is also a financial disadvantage for people who stock up: some over-spend and go into debt, according to LendingTree. Consumers say they recently spent an average of $ 359 on stockpiling - or more than double the $ 178 they spent in the spring wave of the pandemic, according to LendingTree.
This creates a financial hole for some consumers as more than a quarter of the cases indicate they have accumulated credit card debt related to stockpiling pandemic supplies.
"It is important that people fight against these impulses and drives and take a step back in order to understand what they need and what not," says Schulz.
Of course, Americans are generally spending more on food and cleaning supplies - but they're also cutting down on travel and eating during the pandemic, said Jon Berbaum, president of research and technology company Highland. Four in ten Americans stay at home more and more than six in 10 go out less.
"This contributes to higher total grocery spending at home," notes Berbaum. "Food prices for staple foods such as meat, eggs and poultry, as well as everyday household goods, have also increased."
No rainy day fund
Another downside: Nearly half of Americans surveyed by Highland said they ran out of emergency funds, while 8 in 10 said they couldn't afford $ 500 emergency bills. While they're not apples-to-apples, around 4 in 10 consumers before the pandemic said they couldn't pay $ 400 emergency bills without borrowing them, according to a Federal Reserve investigation.
"Most Americans are so low in financial error that the additional $ 150 to $ 200 they spend on deliveries will make it harder for some people to stay within their budget," says Schulz.
Before stocking up, financial experts advise consumers to take some steps to avoid spending or overbearing.
Make a budget for 2021
Year end is a good time to start budgeting if you haven't started already, notes Colleen McCreary, chief people officer for financial services firm Credit Karma.
"This is the perfect time to think about your monthly expenses in general," she notes. “Think about the habits you want to prioritize. Does it make sense to have supplies? "
Make a list before shopping
Don't get caught buying items because they are in short supply or other people are pulling them off the shelves. Prepare a list before you go to the store. Check out what you already have handy in your house and stick to it.
"People forget that they were in the past," and they may already have some of those supplies, says McCreary. "Don't buy the biggest packet of toilet paper just because you think you will need it."
Don't forget your emergency fund
Building or rebuilding your emergency fund shouldn't be sacrificed for stockpiling, financial experts note.
"People need to understand that they need to keep building their emergency fund," says LendingTree's Schulz. Even if it takes longer to pay off debt, it is important to add some money to this account. Otherwise, the next time you run into an emergency, you could be deeper in debt.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Toilet paper: COVID supplies could be damaging your personal finances
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