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No-shop days boost frugality

Despite an extravagance (bought some dishes at Pier One), it looks like I’m going to end this month’s budget cycle in the black, for the first time since the memory of Person runneth not to the contrary. All I have to do is make it to Sunday without spending any more money.

This accomplishment came about simply by staying out of stores. Every day you can stay away from a store (or a gas station) is a dollar saved. With the week-to-week budget, I’ve found that if I can avoid laying out cash in, say, week 2, there’s enough in week 3 to cover the deferred spending. Or if I overspend in week 2, I can catch up by pinching pennies in week 3.

A day or two, or even three, is not an unreasonable length of time to hold off buying most necessities. I’m completely out of onions, for example, but so far the deprivation hasn’t killed me. I’ve evaded emptying the gas tank by telecommuting a day this week; I’d planned to telecommute again today, but in fact there’s enough gas in the tank to get me to campus and back, and so I’ll probably go out there this morning. If the gauge were closer to empty, though, I could make the round trip on two gallons. Six dollars would not push me into the red this week; though in past weeks it would have.

Before the run-up in gas prices, I had to make a conscious effort to stay out of the stores where I routinely buy supplies: I’d work “no-shop days” into my schedule. But thanks to the exuberant increase in the price of gasoline, no-shop days have become habitual. Not only that, but because I now shop exclusively in stores along my commute, I no longer shop at Home Depot.

And that, my friends, generates a surprising savings.

Last weekend I needed a few things I didn’t think I could find at the Ace Hardware, plus some potting soil, which is overpriced at Ace and at the nursery. So I made a special trip up to the Depot, several miles from my house.

One bag of potting soil, three timer gadgets for the garden hoses, three $1.37 bags of plastic plugs to cut off the irrigation lines, two cheesy plastic cord reels (last time I was in there, they hadn’t had the kind of reels I needed for months—grab it while you can get it), a bag of palm tree fertilizer, and a six-pack of tiny bedding plants came to $107.

I couldn’t believe it!

The largest single expense was the hose timers: about $20 apiece. Coincidentally, the style I wanted (a thing that resembles a kitchen timer) was the cheapest available. So that accounts for $60 + 8.3% tax: $65. With any luck, that cost eventually that will pay for itself in water savings—if the plastic junk doesn’t fall apart before the timers have recovered that much from the water bill. But forty-two bucksfor a bag of dirt, a bag of nitrogen, a few pieces of plastic, and some seedlings?

Apparently I’m not the only one who’s concluded that Home Depot cuts too much out of the budget. At 1:00 on Sunday afternoon, the parking lot was half empty. Without using my disabled sticker, I got a space right in front of the door. I’ve neverbeen able to park in front of the store; not ever. On weekends especially, the place was jammed.

No more.

The weird thing is, I’m not missing Home Depot. Its bazaar-like layout leads you to spend more than you have to on things you don’t really need. The flimsy cord reels, for example: I needed them last Christmas. Somehow I’ve struggled through nine months without them. Clearly I could have lived the rest of my life unburdened by cord reels. And had I been in Ace Hardware, I would have gone directly to the shelves that stocked what I needed and, not wandering through the electric department in search of irrigation plumbing, I probably wouldn’t have been reminded that I “needed” cord reels. Nor would I have purchased the plants, since Ace doesn’t carry them: that impulse buy would have been deferred until I could make a special trip to the nursery, at which time I’d have a list of the specific plants I needed and so would not have picked up just anything that struck my fancy.

After the $107 hit at Home Depot, I made a run on Costco for food and gas ($111), stopping by Fabric Depot along the way to pick up some yardage to make the coveted placemats ($32). This left $125 in the week’s budget—the final week in the August-September budget cycle. I did spend nine bucks on a miserable little lunch on the campus one day this week, only because I was so hungry I couldn’t go without some food, and another twenty on a few groceries. After subtracting last week’s $77 overrun, I’m still $17.51 in the black. And for the whole month: $151.99!


3 thoughts on “No-shop days boost frugality”

  1. I had the same basic experience this past week. Managed to hold the line at Home Depot but spent excess money at Target. I have decided that what we “frugal strugglers” need is a sponsor. Like at AA. Someone to call when you’re wandering through the store, about to buy something you don’t need!

    I like your conclusion that the more expensive store might actually save you some money. Good point!

  2. It seems that way, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s only that because you perceive it as more expensive you restrain yourself more. Whatever the cause, I’m buying LOTS less “home depot stuff” as a result of taking my business to Ace and to plant nurseries. And so spending a lot less.

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