Don't Waste Money Hoarding These 20 Items During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Most of the time, essentials aren't really in short supply.

A view of empty shelves at a department store during the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Orlowski Designs LLC / Shutterstock

As the severity of the coronavirus pandemic becomes more and more obvious, people all over the United States are rushing to supermarkets and scooping just about everything off the shelves.

Panic buying is understandable, says David Savage, associate professor of behavioral economics at the University of Newcastle in Australia. “It is rational to prepare for something bad,” Savage told the BBC. However, “it is not rational to buy 500 cans of baked beans.”

Most of the time, essential items aren't in short supply; producers just can't ship them to stores fast enough. Take a breath and channel your efforts elsewhere. There are plenty of genuinely useful things you can do to protect yourself during this frightening time.

Here are 20 things you might think you need to hoard but don't:

20. You don’t need that much toilet paper

People are stocking up toilet paper for home quarantine from croronavirus. Woman holds many rolls of toilet paper
Lazy_Bear / Shutterstock

Few things make you feel more vulnerable than running out of toilet paper. Maybe that's why TP, of all things, has been rolling off the shelves for weeks on end.

The problem is feeding off itself. Steven Taylor, a professor and clinical psychologist at the University of British Columbia and the author of The Psychology of Pandemics, told CNN that people resort to extremes during a panic. Without clear direction from officials, people simply copy what others are doing — which is buying lots of toilet paper.

How much do you really need, though? The website HowMuchToiletPaper.com provides a simple calculator. A paltry 12-pack will last a family of four the entire length of a two-week quarantine. Buy two if you're worried, not 10.

19. Surgical and N95 masks aren't for you

Corona virus prevetion face mask protection N95 masks and medical surgical masks at home .
Maridav / Shutterstock

You'll see plenty of people wearing homemade masks out on the street, and that's fine. But surgical masks and especially N95s are in short supply.

They must be reserved for front-line medical professionals who work in high-risk environments or in close contact with those hospitalized for COVID-19. Using them up on routine trips to the grocery store is a terrible waste.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended the use of homemade cloth masks, which everyone can wear outside. They may help slow the spread of the virus by keeping people from coughing or sneezing on others.

If you do have some N95s at home, consider donating them to your local hospital.