Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sweating the Small Stuff

Recently Papa needed some parts to fix a model railroad locomotive.  He found what he needed and asked me to order it for him; however, I did two minutes of sleuthing and found the same item for $3.89 less, with a slightly longer shipping time.

I'll admit that I had to convince him that it is worth it to save $3.89; our mindset hasn't been like this for a couple of years. I told him I didn't think he'd have time to work on the trains this weekend anyway, since it is a competitive race weekend. He agree and I placed the order.

$3.89 can seem like small stuff. Why delay yourself the instant gratification over the price of a latte? Well, for one, I don't drink lattes - they're too expensive. But seriously, I believe that every penny adds up. I have often heard the old adage: watch your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves, and I believe it to be true.

How many times in a month do we have the opportunity to save $50 or $100 in one fell swoop? Not too many, if even one. But we do find ourselves with the chance to save 35¢, or $3, or even $3.89, many times in a week! Together, that could add up to $50 or $100 per month.

I can save $14 a month by not using the gas dryer to dry approximately 10 loads of laundry per week. But that savings is based on 40 decisions to hang a load of laundry rather than use the dryer. I can save $3.09 per loaf of bread (based on my current costs of $2.50 per loaf vs. buying Dave's Killer Bread at $5.59 per loaf), which saves almost $65 a month, but it happens one loaf at a time (in winter it will happen two or three loaves at a time).

The bread is actually a great example. It is easy to see how saving $3.09 per loaf of bread makes sense when you are buying 22 loaves of bread per month (what can I say, I have teen boys). It might seem like savings $3.89 on one order of parts in a month isn't that big a deal, but really it is one more opportunity to save, just as each loaf of bread baked is one opportunity to save.

(I'm going to leave the Dave's Killer Bread here as an example. Someone might say that I could have been purchasing 22 loaves of bread from a bakery thrift store and that my savings aren't as great as this, but the reality is that I was buying Dave's Killer Bread, five loaves a week, at $5.59 a loaf. The bread that I am now making at home is most like that bread, made from organic 100% whole grains and with ingredients that I can pronounce and source myself.)

Being frugal is a mindset; it is a choice to live a certain way. If we can't find ways to save small we won't really think about saving big. Oh, we might think we did; Americans in particular love a great deal and most are innumerate enough to think the deals they get are better than they really are. But the reality is that it takes knowledge and skill and time and patience to save money. It is a skill that works best when it is practiced frequently.

Does $3.89 further our financial goals significantly? Of course not. But making the effort on every purchase absolutely does.

Maybe it doesn't make sense to sweat the small stuff when it comes to stressful situations, but I think it definitely does makes sense when we are talking about saving money.

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