Posted by: joha5 | August 4, 2010

Cutting Corners: Realizing That Every Penny Counts

It’s pretty amazing some of the things people do when they just simply don’t have the funds available to do whatever it is you want.  Some people who will read this will know exactly what I am talking about and other people who read this will think that I am certifiably insane.  Whichever camp you reside in does not particularly matter to me as long as your prescribe to the view of ‘you gotta do what you gotta do’.

My close friend’s know this about me but I absolutely hate paying for parking.  I would much rather drive around and hunt for a spot and walk an extra 10 minutes to wherever I am going than pay for something that is often free.  To be honest, I’m pretty good at it too and this is simply because I am relentless.  I do the whole ‘stalk-as-they-walk’ routine where I find somebody walking through the parking lot or the streets and I basically drive 6 feet behind them as quietly as possible until they find their car and get into it.  I always hope they don’t realize I am there but how somebody could not notice a tall and awkward 6 foot man in a 1991 Honda Accord driving just a few feet behind them is beyond me.  Obviously they know that I am there – and they probably hate me for it – but I just tell myself that I’m so stealth just so I feel better.

Additionally, I hate paying for withdrawing money.  I bank with the World Bank & IMF (don’t ask) so I actually can’t even physically enter the bank in the first place unless I go with an employee.  Crazy, right?!  Thus, almost everywhere I go requires me to pay to withdraw money except at other credit unions.  As a consequence, I have an internal mental map of every credit union in the Washington metropolitan and Greater London regions.  I’m being serious.  Fortunately, I happen to live directly across the street from the Arlington County Credit Union and I almost exclusively extract money from that bank.  Just think about how much money you actually save over the duration of a year of banking if you didn’t pay to take money out at all.  I have done the math and it is staggering.  I have actually driven as much as 20 minutes back to that bank in order to get money out.  I have even estimated that any more than 20 minutes would end up costing more than the bank fee in gas money.  Yup.  I’m that bad. 

What a farce!!

Speaking of gas, I watch the prices.  I don’t watch it religiously or anything but I am always cognizant of when the gas rises or falls a few cents.  You would think it doesn’t matter in the long run but, again, if I’m getting 15 gallons of gas every time I go the gas station and it is 5 cents cheaper than it ends up being close to $1 per visit on just a 5 cent difference alone.  Silly?  Yes.  Trite?  Absolutely?  Petty?  100%.  But effective?  You betcha! 

Another key is not to waste food.  This is an obvious one but I read a report a couple of weeks ago that indicated people actually throw out – on average – between 13-18% of what they purchase from the supermarket.  That is a simply unspeakable amount of money.  As far as function is concerned on a $100 food bill, it is the exact same as buying less food and then throwing $20 away in the trash.  I didn’t believe that I threw that much food away but then I look at how much I do actually toss in a span of a month and I fundamentally believe that if this report isn’t right on the money then it is very close. 

While we are on the topic of food, I think it is almost inexcusable to buy bottled water unless you are in dire straights.  Sometimes it is absolutely necessary but I don’t understand why people don’t just fill up a water bottle at home rather than wasting time, effort, and money on going to a store to get it.  We have a Brita Filter System at my house and I am constantly filling it up and filtering water and then putting it in the fridge and drinking ice-cold water that is comparable to bottled water in every way that I can taste. 

Something strange about me is the fact that I actually hate all hot drinks.  If it is hot then I don’t want it.  Tea, coffee, whatever.  I love the flavors but I can only drink them in cold form so what I am about to say next doesn’t affect me on a personal level.  However, I simply cannot understand why or how people can afford to stop off at coffee shops everyday to buy coffee once, twice, even three or more times a day.  The repercussions on these people’s bank accounts must be absolutely hideous.  I am all for creature comforts and if that is what it is to them and it is worth every penny then I would never begrudge that to them.  Yet it often just seems that people are doing this out of laziness rather than a sense of want or need.  What I mean by this is that it would be so easy for somebody to buy a coffee machine at home and a thermos and make their own coffee rather than spend $10-20 a day on the stuff.  It becomes a habit and a routine to get coffee rather than to make it on your own and therein lies the problem. 

Don't you dare be lured in by their bewitching drinks!

I don’t always like to cut corners.  Sometimes it is just worth it to me to splurge a little on myself, to treat myself how I want to be treated, and to not watch my financial tide ebb and flow through the banking system.  The difference is that when I do spend a little extra to do something nice, not only do I really feel like I appreciate it but I also feel extremely happy for doing it.  If I was to get some sort of iced coffee drink everyday then it wouldn’t be as special and it would cost me a small fortune annually.  Once a week?  No problem?  Twice a day?  No way.  Cutting corners doesn’t always have to be some sort of self-flagellation either.  I actually really enjoy going out for a night with a ton of friends and waking up the next morning only to realize that my bank account is still in tact. 

Maybe all of this is just me and maybe this is just because I have conditioned myself to doing this after working as an actor, a bartender, a marketer, and a teacher.  Methinks I should probably try to get involved in a profession that ends up paying more.  However, until I do this is the way it is going to be for me and I don’t mind it one bit.  Everytime I save some money it ends up being an extra drop in the bucket and the hope is that, after a while, all of those little drops will add up to a huge bucketful of money – even if I never see it all at once.  

My proverbial 'Bucket o' Money'!

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Responses

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