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LuckyGuy's avatar

Do you always have spares or do you get them when you need them?

Asked by LuckyGuy (40624points) January 23rd, 2022

Do you spend the money, time, or effort to have something ready just in case you need it? Or do you wait until it is broken and then take care of the issue?
Here’s an example:
I was using my snowblower a couple of days ago and must have hit something large buried in the mountain of ice and snow at the end of my driveway. My snowblower has 6 augers in front, each attached with a ¼” shear pin that acts like fuses so it breaks instead of the driveshaft. One pin broke so one out of 5 augers stopped working rendering the machine inoperable. I had 2 spare shear pins on the shelf that I bought when I got the snowblower 8 years ago. I figured it would be a good idea to have them handy in case I broke one. It took about a minute to replace it and I was on my way again.
Knowing I only had one spare left I ordered 8 more. I also have a replacement belt just in case.
Thinking about it I realized I have spares for everything: cars, faucets, hoses, etc. I have spare oil filters and spark plugs for cars I don’t own anymore.
I do the same thing with heating my home. I have oil heat, and wood burners, and small electric heaters, just in case. I have 2 generators in case I lose power and one doesn’t work. I have 2 refrigerators and food in the pantry.
All this these spares cost money and take up space but they are invaluable if and when you need them.
At the other extreme there are people who have nothing in stock but have very neat, empty shelves.
I think there is a philosophy or personality type hidden in these actions.
So, do you have spares?

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51 Answers

janbb's avatar

I have spare batteries and light bulbs but no shear pins for a snowblower. I have space heaters and a propane heater but no generators.

JLeslie's avatar

Depende on the thing.

We do keep screws and odds and ends just in case, but they are not necessarily things we bought just-in-case, but maybe from something old that broke down or we don’t have anymore, but we save some of the parts. Also, some chemicals like to remove adhesives and cleaning products, and an extra AC filter, are some things I can think of.

I buy back-up for things I really don’t want to be without.

I do have a couple of space heaters if the heat breaks down. I have extra sheets and blankets too.

I usually keep a minimum of an extra 6-pack of toilet paper, 2-pack of paper towels, and an extra dish soap, shampoo, body soap, hand soap, canned beans, rice, pasta, and always have on hand flour, sugar, vanilla, oil, eggs, frozen peas, corn, spinach, ketchup, pizza, notebooks, copy paper, face lotion, and suntan lotion.

Some things are simply staples that I always have on hand. Not in excessive amounts, but never wanting to run out, so I replace before I do run out. I often look for sales and buy during the sale once I’m already running low on something, but supermarket items I don’t hoard huge quantities.

kritiper's avatar

Your snow blower came new from the factory without extra shear pins?? That sounds odd. But your local hardware store should have some…
I try to keep spares of everything because Murphy’s Law is always in effect.

jca2's avatar

I have a lot of spare stuff like toilet paper (at least 100 rolls which I’d bought during the pandemic), paper towels ( one large one always on hand), liquid hand soap, shampoo and conditioner which I can’t resist if the price is right, certain foods like pasta, sauce, flour. I have hardware too and light bulbs and lots of craft stuff.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

Depends on what it is. I have two spare lawn mowers. I don’t need two but I have my regular go-to, got one for free and the other dirt cheap. If it is something I use frequently and I catch a good deal I won’t think twice about having a spare.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Just this morning I was noticing how many “spares” I have of things. It is snowing right now and we have about 4 inches of new on the ground, so I did a little shoveling.
Snow shovels: 3, one in the barn, 2 in the garage
Tools: 4–5 full sets, in barn, basement, garage, hall closet, workbench
Toilet paper: uncountable. I change the roll before it is empty and then put the nearly empty roll on top of the new roll so it gets used up.
Wood: uncountable a pile in the house near the stove, a pile outside near the house, piles near the barn.
Oil; one full, 275 gallon oil tank, one tank at ¾.
Cars: 2 Subaru Foresters
Bird seed: over 100 pounds, black oil, cracked corn, cardinal mix, nyger seed.
Masks: at least 50

It is endless… Am I crazy?

Zaku's avatar

As others have written, it depends on the type of spare: what the situation will be if I run out, how hard/lengthy a process will be needed to replace it, what storage and expense is needed to keep spares, whether the spares will degrade over time, etc.

I keep 1 spare tire per car, or sometimes more if they are left-over from the previous set of tires, and I have room for them.

I have only ever owned one snow shovel. I’ve usually had zero.

I have notably less than you of most of the things you listed, but I have a silly amount of a few things, usually things that I got for one reason but kept for another reason, like newspaper or other things I haven’t thrown out because they might be useful at some point.

janbb's avatar

@LuckyGuy It does seem a little excessive to me.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Yes. Basic medical supplies, auto items and food.

filmfann's avatar

If I had spare shear pins, I wouldn’t be able to find them when I needed them.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Boating always had TWO shear pins. No fun using canoe paddles on a 18 foot runabout, 2 miles out of port in Long Island Sound.

raum's avatar

Kind of like @Zaku.

How difficult is it to replace? What’s the window of time I can do without it? How much space does it take up? Will I be able to readily find it when needed? Will it degrade over time?

My mistake is often assuming price of item (on sale) plus likelihood that I will use it (high) is more than space needed to store.

Friends actually come to me when they are unable to find something at the store. Good for my friends. Not so good for me. Trying not to end up on an episode of Hoarders here.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@raum If someone starts to ask me “Do you have…” I cut them off right there and say “Yes. I have two!”
And I am almost always correct.

I am getting to the point where I should be thinning out but I still “need” spares.
So many cans of paint – all good. Pens, pencils, paper – all good. Hunting supplies, gloves, boots – all good. The snow can be any depth and I will have the right boots to go out in it. Plus I have spares for friends.

I am never at a point where I am “out.” Fortunately I have the space.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Not really beyond logical stuff. Batteries and stuff.

JLeslie's avatar

I have three automobiles: a sports car, a truck, and a sedan. For a while we had 5. It’s not to have a spare, but it is convenient having an extra car when one is in the shop, or gas stations are out of gas or not functioning. I kind of wish we still had some gas containers to keep 5 gallons, but we haven’t for a while.

When I lived in cold weather we had two shovels, I think I still have both. I also try to not run out of weed killer.

I always make sure I have sponges to clean with. When I get down to one in the cabinet I buy another 4 pack. Dishwasher soap I also buy when I start to get low, I watch for sales, but I’ll pay full price.

Oh, and COFFEE. Lol. I don’t drink it, but my husband does. We have very little now so I wanted to buy some, but my husband was with me shopping and wouldn’t let me because it wasn’t on sale, but the price was pretty good. He’s crazy. I usually buy it on sale, but push comes to shove I think we should have bought it.

raum's avatar

@LuckyGuy If someone starts to ask me “Do you have…” I cut them off right there and say “Yes. I have two!”
And I am almost always correct.

That made me legit laugh out loud.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Along the same lines…
Before taking my nightly shower I noticed my shampoo was getting a little low. I went to the cupboard and counted 3 bottles of unused shampoo ready for action.
There are also 6 full size tubes of toothpaste purchased at Sam’s along with 2 spare cans of shaving cream.
It seems crazy and wasteful but it isn’t. Every item was purchased at a lower cost and will be used. There is never a need for panic buying.

JLeslie's avatar

I have extra brand new toothbrushes and a tube of toothpaste. I also have a toothbrush and toothpaste in use in two bathrooms in my house. Only one store in the area has the toothpaste I prefer, so I buy two at a time. Once in a while I get lucky and it’s on sale. Toothbrushes are not only for me, but if a guest forgets one.

Mostly though, I don’t like having lots and lots of extra things clogging my cabinets. I like to see some empty space. How much of a back up you need depends on how fast you use something, and how easy it is to buy. I need one shampoo back up, because it takes me a couple of months to get through a bottle so I have time to find it again as I get low. I need at least six rolls of TP, because I burn through a roll in a few days. 12 is actually better. Actually, when it was harder to find TP I kept more on hand, but not 6 months worth. I already had more before most people started to panic, and so I didn’t have to panic. This is how store buyers look at inventory also if they are good. They look at the rate of “turn” and the availability and shipping times.

Tangent: When I became a buyer the rule was “three months on hand.” A terrible rule to use across the board. Items that usually only sold 6 items a month you would maintain 18 in stock, but usually there is less at any given time, because if you have 10 on hand you order 8, and by the time the 8 arrive you already sold some of the 10. Items that sold 50 you were supposed to maintain 150. If the 6 item picked up in sales you could actually easily run out, and not know how many you could have sold. If the 50 item had a great month it might be sales of 80, but you never came close to running out. The mindless system favored big sellers, never giving small sellers a chance to sell more. My staff would tell me they missed selling something because we ran out. I took money from the 50 item, cut that stock level, and gave it to the 6 item. My “turn” rate and sales were fantastic.

Now, forecasting systems automatically do what I did as a buyer, but there are flaws in the system, and a human being needs to manually correct the system by sku/item if stock is running out, but that doesn’t always happen. Or, another example is a human being needs to manually increase an item if an unexpected flurry of sales will happen, like if Thanksgiving is a week earlier than last year on the fiscal calendar, or if Chanukah shifts three weeks earlier compared to last year you might need to order more potatoes, cream cheese, and lox.

I saw on a show that eventually robots and microphones in stores will be listening to us in stores catching when we are saying we can’t find a product on the shelf.

jca2's avatar

I have so many toothbrushes in my cabinets because I used to get them for free at work. I reason it because they’ll never go bad and they’re individually wrapped so they’ll keep forever.

Wrapping paper is another thing I have so much of but it takes up space so I’m going to offer some to friends. I’m looking for some things to minimize.

Shampoo and conditioner I have a lot on hand. I just bought a 32 Oz container of Pantene at Costco for less than $4 (which is why I love Costco).

LuckyGuy's avatar

My question is more of a philosophy Q rather than an actual question about spare parts.
I am noticing this tendency in many other areas of my life. For example: I feel better when my cars are full. It bothers me to be running on empty.

@jca2 It absolutely makes sense to buy that way. That saves so much money in the long run. But, our cabinets and shelves are full and overcrowded.

JLeslie's avatar

@LuckyGuy This is again where people who make very little money and live check to check lose. It’s hard for them to buy when they see a sale or to buy large quantities for a lower unit price.

raum's avatar

@JLeslie But I think this tendency runs more among middle to upper middle class. The really rich people I know don’t seem to do this. I think this partly has to do with a fear of being without? Rich people seem less likely to buy just because it’s a good deal.

janbb's avatar

I’m actually trying to pare down my full house. For most things, I find an “heir and a spare” are enough but I always have D batteries when I need an AA and such like. I’m trying to get motivated to weed out books and clothes at the moment.

JLeslie's avatar

@raum I agree. The middle class have been shown to psychologically live in a more precarious state where they worry a lot about losing their socio-economic level. The poor have very little to lose and the rich have room to lose. The middle class feel economic changes more significantly and it impacts their behavior and stress level a lot.

I think how we are raised also greatly impacts whether we keep extras in the house, or whether we try to save money. Sometimes it’s a rejection of what our parents did, or it’s mimicking them. Sometimes it’s living through extreme circumstances.

Edit: although I would ask how you define rich. If you mean someone with a million dollars in the bank, almost everyone I know with a million dollars shops for good deals. They are in their 50’s or older, so have been accumulating their savings over time. They are upper middle-class, but many people would call them rich.

If you mean someone with $50million that’s something else.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@JLeslie Also, a million dollars or more tied up in retirement accounts does little for the day to day finances of someone still paying off a mortgage, car, school loans, kids tuition etc… Part of the reason people have been able to slowly accumulate wealth is by constantly worrying and grabbing good deals on staples like TP and saving as much as they can when they can. Like mentioned that’s exclusively a middle class behavior.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I don’t buy stuff because it is on sale. I buy stuff on sale because I will need it.
Or,I’ll buy extra if the grief involved in not having the spare is worse than the little effort required to get two rather than one.

Another example from today… It’s winter here with very cold, dry air. My hands and legs are dry so I have been using some Lubriderm. This morning the bottle stopped dispensing when there was about an inch left on the bottom. The tube is too short. I went downstairs, found some tubing that fit over the existing tube and lengthened it about ½ inch. It took 2 minutes max. Now the pump works. I already have a replacement bottle in stock but rather than throw the old one out i tried to really empty it.
It is a different mindset.

Thankfully I have the space.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@LuckyGuy Funny you say that. I just took my second bottle of moisturizer that I used for a few weeks and emptied the contents of the last one that the pump could not get to into it now that there is space. That stuff is expensive.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes, buy stuff on sale because I will need it. I don’t buy just to buy. Buying just to buy is leaning into compulsive shopping or hoarding and also a waste of money.

@Blackwater_Park Actually, I think plenty of people with a lot of money hate to waste money. They might buy a $20,000 Hermes bag, but also try to buy their coffee on sale. Look at Warren Buffet. Very modest about many things.

janbb's avatar

@LuckyGuy I sense that you get a lot of pleasure in the way you provision yourself. If it’s not making you or your family members crazy, then go for it.

Luckily for me, I have only myself to suit (or aggravate) myself, in the way I buy and store things.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@JLeslie I think that behavior sort of determines how wealthy you will become. If you worked hard, saved and accumulated wealth you’re not likely to be frivolous with it and are likely to continue to build more of it. If it was handed to you the opposite often happens. I’m certainly not wealthy but I try to save when I can without being too cheap. When I really need something I try to buy quality things that will last rather than buy the cheapest junk that you’ll only get a few uses out of but saved me a small amount. I think it’s the long-game mentality vs the short-game habits that make all the difference. There is also the understanding that that $200 handbag will last and may retain or even increase in value over a lifetime of use vs the one that cost $20 and it in the trash a month later.

raum's avatar

@JLeslie Depends on where you live. I’m in the Bay Area, a million dollars in the bank is middle to upper middle class. :)

I mean that people who live in legit mansions don’t stockpile stuff when it’s on sale.

(A family that earns $117,400 qualifies for low-income housing here.)

raum's avatar

A household earning $84,336.75 to $224,898(!) is considered middle class in the Bay Area. It’s wild.

JLeslie's avatar

@Blackwater_Park $20,000 handbag. On the website it looks like the most expensive is $9,900, but they have more expensive in the stores. https://www.hermes.com/us/en/category/women/bags-and-small-leather-goods/bags-and-clutches/#|pricedsc

@raum How do you know what is in their pantries and garages? $250,000 has been the top end of middle class in my view for years. Upper-middle class, but ti me Not what I would call rich or wealthy. People with that household income usually watch what they spend and behave similar to $150k people in my experience, but they are saving a lot more and maybe make some extravagant purchases for cash at times. That goes back to the recent Q about interest, once people have a kitty of money they aren’t paying interest on purchases.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@raum That’s nuts. It’s roughly $35k-110K here in Tennessee so I’m told. I will say “middle class” is not what it used to be then. $35k is poverty here. $110k is about what it takes to raise a family in relative comfort.
@JLeslie I chopped a couple zeros off for my example since it was for “normal” people. A 20k handbag very likely would be worth more than that later. Part of having a lot of money lends itself to getting much more.

raum's avatar

@JLeslie I’ve had some friends who are rich rich. Like mansions and multiple sports cars rich. They have extras on hand, but sales don’t dictate what they buy.

Also, I think those numbers are based on 2017 census. So it’s probably even higher now. :/

raum's avatar

@Blackwater_Park Agree on both. Depends on where you are and salaries aren’t what they used to be.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I keep having to remind Rick to buy family sized non perishables. All he sees, and reacts to, is the price at the moment.

RocketGuy's avatar

@LuckyGuy – you’re an Engineer, you like having redundancy. For me, redundancy means I keep an old product if I upgraded to a newer product. My spare routers are my prior routers. The spare to my 52” TV is my 42” TV. For consumables, I keep an eye on levels and try to keep only 1 container of each important item e.g. shampoo, detergent, etc. We even have an extra car (our old VW), in case one of our regular cars needs to be in the shop. When our girls are home on college break, they use the VW to go visit their friends.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@RocketGuy Redundancy! Absolutely! I have 4 sump pumps in my basement, just in case. I pop in a new one and repair the old later. That is my spare. As are the other two that work with the battery backup system.

I realize redundancy costs money and space but we’re not building rockets here. I have the space in my basement. I figure any redundant parts are thermal mass and stabilize the temperature in my house.

Critical systems need redundancy! I think it is very poor design that we are forced to rely upon one part for both reproduction and liquid waste removal. Ridiculous!
I can assure you, if I were the designer, things would be different! Guys would have two outlets, each optimized for its specific function.
And one would be made of Tungsten.

Dutchess_III's avatar

There’s another word for that guys…

YARNLADY's avatar

I have a habit of always buying by the unit price. It sometimes backfires. I bought a giant bottle of dish soap because it was cheaper per ounce. About halfway through the bottle, a couple of years later, the plastic became brittle and shattered.

RocketGuy's avatar

That’s when having a spare empty bottle lying around would be helpful. But there is a fine line between keeping spares and hoarding.

JLeslie's avatar

@Blackwater_Park I doubt $200 handbags gain value. Rarely anyway. I tend to buy inexpensive bags ($50—$75 on rare occasions $150). It’s true money gets money though, I understand your point. It really depends on the thing, how rare, how desirable.

My example was someone wealthy still looking for sales on some items like coffee. My husband buys his $120,000 Porsche with a check, but tries to buy many things on sale, and wants to darn his socks. That last part is crazy, but it’s still true.

I consider us to be upper middle-class not rich. I would never buy a $20,000 bag. Not even $2,000. I’m not even sure if I would spend $200.

jca2's avatar

I’m at Costco now, waiting for my tires to get rotated (free for the life of the tires and free balancing, when purchased from Costco) and I’m buying a second bottle of Pantene on clearance for 3.97. If you know your prices, you know that in a regular store, it goes for about 12 ounces for about 6 dollars. I couldn’t resist this second one. This is how I accumulated a whole cabinet full of stuff like this, like hand soap.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@JLeslie I’m the opposite. I will pay $30 or more for a pair of quality socks knowing they’ll not only be comfortable but will also last years. My last car I did pay for with a check but it was only $4500. To be fair it was our third vehicle that we use as a practical grocery getter/spare. Now any issues with our other vehicles is not such an emergency.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca2 I would buy it too. My husband likes Pantene.

@Blackwater_Park Not a bad plan. Especially, if you are handy with cars.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I needed some gasoline for my snowblower and noticed I have 3 full 5 gallon cans in the barn just in case.
That is in addition to the gasoline I have for my generators, chainsaws, garden tractors, wood splitters, and weed eaters. Note those are all plurals.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Use them before they go bad.

YARNLADY's avatar

We have bought a few cars over the years using our credit card., and transferring the balance to an interest free card, while placing the payments into interest bearing savings. When the interest free account comes due, if we can’t find another one, we already have the balance due in savings. Sometimes we can keep a balance going for several years.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Believe me I never let gas go bad. :-)
I rotate. Every now and then I fill up my car from cans and refill them – usually the same day.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

It’s surprising how long has can last if you just put some stabilizer in it.

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