This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head here. Today's 7 topic is spending.
I'm not much for retail therapy. While there are a few items that tempt me on an impulse-buy level (woven scarves, gluten-free tea, nice stationery, the occasional locally-made or fair-trade bracelet or pair of dangly earrings), those are not things that I seek out in times of stress and I try to avoid places that have those things (and to only seek them out when I have time - the longer I dither, the more likely I am to talk myself out of a purchase). I did learn last week that I can be lured into thoughtless grocery purchases, but since I know that now I'll be vigilant about it.
I am, however, a goer and a doer. I like to be able to go and do free things - walk at the park, enjoy our gifted zoo membership (thanks to my inlaws), find out what days you can get in free to normally paid museums and exhibits - and I don't mind running useful errands. But I've increasingly begun to realize that even the free adventures are costing me something.
This didn't really come to light until I began implementing a system of staying home every other day a few months ago. Brooklyn and I both get bored pretty quickly at home - she's not really to an age where we can do things yet (although her enjoyment of being read to is increasing daily) and in an apartment with no yard and carpet whose continued unstainedness is necessitated by the threat of not getting our security deposit back, there isn't a whole lot to do, anyway - so we generally created some sort of errand that would get us out and about for an hour to two each day. Mailing a letter, going for a walk on the nice days, picking up a few groceries, treating myself to lunch, that sort of thing. But I thought it might be good for us to try to stay home more - and it might also prepare both of us for the not-being-allowed-to-drive thing that happens after having a baby. (Why?!)
When we started that, the first thing I noticed was how much less gas I used. Almost half as much - "almost" because most of the erranding we did was stuff that could be consolidated into shorter, less frequent trips, but not all of it. Still, to a large extent, not going somewhere every day meant less gas. (I realize that should probably be obvious, but I was kind of surprised.)
But in preparing for this project, I noticed something else. Within a 6 mile radius, we have a Kroger, a Walmart, a Whole Foods, a post office, at least one location of our bank, at least one Sonic, a Chick-Fil-A (the only drive-through restaurant with a gluten-free meal option), a Starbucks (for when our internet isn't working), at least one park, two wonderful trails --- and that's just what I know about. Those cover the bulk of our normal needs and wants. But I rarely go to the closest location. We have a dear little post office - but when I need to send a package, I usually go to the larger one in North Little Rock proper because they have a better selection of packing materials. While the nearest Kroger (which is where a lot of our groceries come from) is pretty good, there's a nicer one on either opposite end of the city from where we are, so we'll go there instead. Over the course of a week, all of that going adds up to quite a bit of gas expended.
Some part of me knew this, because whenever I was saving up to get yarn for a new design or a book that I wanted or something like that, I would stay home more, or at least make my errand-running more concise. But I hadn't actually sat down and thought about it in depth. And now that I have, there's no forgetting what I've learned (drat!)
This week I'll be paying careful to attention to what and how my spending happens - both in budgeted categories and in the black hole of cash allowance that I get twice a month.
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