Your Role as a Purchasing Agent

Your Role as a Purchasing Agent
Domestic Purchasing Agent
Domestic Purchasing Agent c. 1947 Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

Have you ever thought about your role as a Purchasing Agent? Or are you like most people who just buy stuff?

You might find it interesting to know that you need formal qualifications to buy things for a living. In Australia, the Diploma of Purchasing “qualifies you to apply integrated technical and theoretical concepts in a broad range of contexts” in your role as a Purchasing Manager.

And that the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply is an international professional association “dedicated to promoting best practice.”

I hope this gives you the idea that business takes purchasing very seriously; hiring appropriately trained and experienced professionals as purchasing agents to negotiate purchases on their behalf.

The Domestic Purchasing Agent

A good purchasing agent (business or domestic) can save a lot of money by thinking carefully about the shopping. And these days it’s important to know how to get the best value from your shopping – maybe as important as knowing how to save.

The Philately Precedent

Before we get into purchasing, let’s look at the example of a stamp collector. You start out knowing nothing, but over time you learn a lot. Like how to pick a good quality stamp from a pile of lesser stamps. And know how to store them to preserve their value. Plus you get an idea of what they should cost, where to get competitive prices. and develop relationships with those dealers. And so on.

This is the sort of knowledge you need to start developing and tailoring your Spending Plan.

Purchasing Agent Responsibilities

Your role as a purchasing agent has three main responsibilities.

1. Maximise value while minimising waste

Buying stuff you don’t use is a waste. There are the costs of production, transport, storage, and disposal; all part of the purchase price. Which is why my mother always used up the leftovers in Friday night curries!

And it’s not just the money, there’s also the toll on the environment – all those plastic bags floating in the ocean, and the nonrecyclable takeout coffee cups heading to landfill. What about those third world manufactured goods; how are the working conditions?

2. Consider additional costs

It’s easy and therefore common to just pop online, buy a single item, pay for express delivery (it’s only an extra $1), charge it to your credit card (not pay it off), have it turn up shortly after to find out it’s not suitable for one reason or another. And is too expensive or too much effort to return for a refund.

It takes up space in your cupboard, eventually becomes a last-minute gift, and shortly after finds its way to landfill. This can harm your relationships as well – we all prefer a gift that chosen for us based on our likes and dislikes.

3. Evaluate the time and effort required to maintain your purchases

At which point we come to food processors… Many of us own but don’t use them because it’s too much time and effort to clean them when we’ve finished with them. I only use mine a couple of times a year when I’m making a big crock of sauerkraut and prefer not to chop half a dozen cabbages by hand. Even though it takes almost as long to clean up after it.

Developing a Purchasing Plan

I touched a little on this concerning your responsibilities as a clothing shopper; having a budget, knowing what you need, and a firm intention to buy only the clothes that are in your plan.

And when I looked at good purchasing decisions, I talked about taking your vision, virtues and goals into account.

The purpose of your purchasing plan is to help you buy the right goods, at the right price, at the right time. Not so early you’re trying to find storage, but not so late that the need has passed.

Naturally, price is an important factor, but that’s not to say that cheapest is always best. Sometimes other aspects are more important. For example, having your purposefully chosen and gift-wrapped birthday gift sent directly to its recipient – saving on delivery costs and reducing the risk of running out of time.

And for this reason, you base your plan around what your calendar looks like. Plotting out the best time to buy new school supplies, when asparagus will be cheap and abundant (come on Spring!), and the last date to buy that gift so it will reach its new owner in time.

The Payoff

The main benefit of taking your role as a purchasing agent seriously is that you have a plan. You know what you’re going to buy and when you’re going to buy it. You can get that new water heater installed before the old one dies, avoiding the prospect of cold showers for a fortnight while you wait for installation of the new one.

And perhaps, you can avoid last-minute online purchases of goods you don’t need and probably won’t use. And the resulting agony of trying to find somewhere to put it, buyer’s remorse, and the inevitable torment of working up to disposing of it.

Do you have a plan for purchasing?

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