One of my wife’s favorite cosmetic products was recently discontinued. For years she’s used a certain facial cleanser from Avon, so when Avon stopped selling it, Kris was frustrated. She’s tried similar products from other companies, but prefers the one from Avon.

It occurred to Kris that maybe she could find the product online. She tracked down a seller on eBay and ordered a two-year supply for $50 (plus shipping). This is double what she had been paying, but she decided it was worth the cost.

For the next couple of years at least, Kris will be able to enjoy one of her favorite products. She’s stocked up.

This is just one example of a dilemma I’ve faced lately. When does it make sense to stock up on a product you like and use regularly? I’ve learned that when I find a wine I love, I should buy a case. This makes sense. But it doesn’t make sense to stock up on laptop computers when I find a great one. This would be an expensive habit, and the technology would quickly become obsolete.

But many items fall somewhere between a case of wine and a lifetime supply of computers. Lately I’ve wondered when it makes sense to stock up on products I’m passionate about. (And does it make a difference whether these products are consumable or non-consumable?)

Timberland Chocurua
I’m not usually the kind of guy who notices brands or model numbers. I wear my clothes and use my appliances without much thought. I can’t tell you which company manufactured my cordless drill or who made the shirt I’m wearing. They all seem to work fine, and that’s what matters.

Before our trip to London and Dublin, I bought a pair of hiking boots. I didn’t pay much attention to the brand; I just went into the local sporting goods store and bought the pair that felt right. As it turns out, I love these boots. They’re amazing. They’re functional and comfortable. If Kris would let me, I would wear them for every occasion. (“You are not wearing those tonight,” she once told me as we were leaving for a nice dinner with friends. I’d been wearing them for days on end, and she decided to put her foot down.)

The store that sold me these boots is going out of business. It occurred to me last weekend that maybe I should see if they still had these boots in stock. Maybe I could buy a pair for cheap. The store didn’t have these boots, but Amazon does. Now I face a dilemma. Should I order a pair or two to keep on hand for when these wear out?

iPod Shuffle
On a less utilitarian note, I was a little alarmed to learn that Apple has discontinued (well, “re-configured”) one of my favorite products. I’m a huge fan of the little clip-on iPod Shuffle. I use mine constantly.

Last week I had a chance to look at the new iPod Shuffle. I don’t like it. I don’t want to own one. My Shuffle is showing no signs of failure, but I began to wonder: What would I do when it does die? (Or, as is more likely the case, when I lose it?) I’m not willing to purchase a new model. I want the old one.

Then I thought: What if I stocked up? What if I found a source for the old iPod Shuffles and bought two or three or four just to keep on hand? Assuming I could afford this, is it a smart thing to do?

Does stocking up make sense?
My previous bad habits have made me wary. Whenever I want to spend, I question myself. That’s true in this case, as well. I cannot decide: Are these impulses foolish? They don’t feel foolish, but sometimes I’m not as smart as I should be about these decisions. Would buying these extra iPods or boots just be a sort of hoarding? Would I be bringing more clutter into the house? I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t feel guilty for considering these options — so long as I can afford them.

We already stock up on paper products like kleenex and toilet paper by buying in bulk. Kris has boxes of empty canning jars in the garage, donated by friends, for when she needs them. But we’re not devoted to a particular kind of jar or picky about a style of tissue. Is it different when I’m merely anticipating that something I like will be unattainable later? Am I merely postponing the inevitable? I don’t know the answers to these questions.

What about you? Have you ever stocked up on a product you like? Do you think that you might do so in the future? Why or why not?

This article is about Choices, Planning, Shopping