Okay, I’m still pretty new to this frugal thing. For years I always drove a new car, ate most of my meals in restaurants and bought things without much concern for the price. Due to economic conditions beyond my control, (and those within my control that I didn’t) things have changed.
I have come to realize that when faced with an expense, the most important thing to do is ask the right questions and those questions will guide you to the best alternative.
Here’s an example:
My old way – I was packing my lunch, and I needed plastic sandwich bags. So, on a trip to the store I bought the most convenient kind – the brand name with the fancy slider lock. I was still proud of myself, I was packing a lunch and saving money instead of going out for lunch. I gave no thought to the price of the bag, since I was saving so much by bagging my lunch.
My recent way – I would shop and see what brands were cheapest for the same style, comparing box counts, unit costs – Aha! I can save a bundle by going with the store brand! Yay me! I am so smart. (Keep in mind, I was and am much newer to this thrift and budget conscious shopping than most of you readers, so bear with me) The quality of the zippered sandwich bag was a little less, but I rationalized I was going to throw it away anyway after one use. Wait! Throw it away? … this goes against my “green” environmental values. …Keep thinking…
The New Way – What do I REALLY need? Am I looking for a product, or a task to be completed? All I needed was a way to keep my sandwich fresh. It didn’t have to be a plastic zippered bag!
Let’s see what alternatives I had. Cheaper plastic bags with no zipper? The kind with the foldover top and no “seal”or zipper? Should I buy them in bulk at a warehouse store? How about old fashioned waxed paper bag? (Sure, try finding them in a store these days.) Buy waxed paper, and fold it myself? Clear plastic wrap – okay, that has to be cheaper than a manufactured sandwich bag. Running some quick numbers, YES! That’s the cheapest way, or is it? Think a bit more.
Hey, doesn’t a sandwich fit in to a reusable plastic tub that I already have? What a knucklehead! I was trying to figure out how to spend the least on a disposable item, when I already have a reusable item that I can use and reuse nearly endlessly for nothing but the price of washing.
Eureka – an Epiphany! Now when faced with an expense of any kind, I take a few moments and think it through. What do I need – not what do I need to BUY, but what do I need to accomplish?
More on this in a later posting. Saving money to me now is largely a question of finding viable alternatives, rather than habitually buying the convenient solution.