Frugal on the Fly: Part Deux
During this recent trip south to house shop, my husband and I have been reminded anew that while access to more populated areas can bring some great savings opportunities, it can also bring its fair share of stress and challenges on the budget front. The purpose of this piece? To break down some of the categories we've found to be a bit tough, and provide suggestions and tips for handling each of them. So without further ado . .
FOOD AND FUN
Groceries, meal prep, lunch on the run and affordable stress reducing entertainment options (Matinée, anyone?) are what I'm talking about in this category. Prices shift regionally, bulk buying doesn't work so well when you change locations constantly in the middle of a community search, and some of the more time consuming frugal efforts just aren't as feasible in the middle of city chaos and life transition. A few simple things we're doing?
Frozen skillet and oven meals.
I know I'm usually the queen of promoting the “cooking from scratch” thing, but for city dwellers and commuters, a single delayed train or traffic jam can send even the simplest homemade dinner plans completely off the rails. And, as much as I love crock pots, being 4-6 hours late and not arriving at home until ten o'clock can screw up even the simplest start-it-up-in-the-morning soup. Buy some quick to prepare convenience items on sale and have a generous emergency supply of them in the freezer.
Netflix and matinees.
We are currently basing out of the office and guest room of a friend's town house while we scour the Tampa – St. Pete area for just the right investment property to live in. Since we never know how each day is going to unfold, and we also don't want to take over her television schedule, we are having our Netflix subscription movies (previously placed on hold during the drive south) temporarily delivered to her house. When entertainment preferences differ, we can hang out on the couch in the office upstairs and watch our movie of choice on one of the laptops. As for matinees, they are a great way to kill some time affordably in between appointments or when you just need a quite bit of time away from the retail and traffic chaos present in intense urban environments.
Swimming pools, beaches and parks.
A walk on the beach, a stroll in the park and a relaxing dip in the pool. All things that promote good health without the cost of a spa treatment or the time and fuel necessary to drive to one.
Keeping a few nonperishables on hand.
I recommend this for at work and in the car, as well in your purse or day pack. If you don't have a car, or work somewhere like Manhattan or Venice where lugging things on a commute presents a huge hassle, carrying in large amounts of pantry lunches can prove difficult. Especially when you're already lugging in loads of other items (files, water bottle, rolling office case, change of clothing, etc.) to the office. Consider using Amazon. They allow shipping to alternative destinations, so why not have a few grocery sized cases of ramen, trail mix, power bars, dried fruit, soup, crackers, coffee, tea or other easily stored lunch items delivered to the work place? If the super saver shipping snafu of never knowing quite when it will arrive is more than you can roll with, we've found the Amazon Prime membership to be worth it when we lived far out of town. In the case of juggling a more hectic urban lifestyle, we are finding it equally helpful. In fact, we have ordered several items we needed and had them delivered to our friend's house to avoid unnecessary driving trips to malls and hard to get to stores.
Consider pushing for a no stress zone at the office.
All you need is some place where you and other coworkers can go to write, read, watch a movie or generally chill out during your lunch hour. Not having to go out in the hustle and bustle is a great way to take a mental health break during a natural opportunity most people have everyday when they stop to eat.
Personally, we often prefer having people over or being hosted for an overnight. Not only is it way more affordable than constantly going out for food and fun, it's also (in our humble opinion) way more fun. Tired of waiting for the waitress to remember you when you are ready for your next cocktail? No problem. Is your group getting a bit rowdy for the scene of the particular restaurant you are in? Staying at home guarantees you can let the evening flow as it should and not have to curtail the natural evolution of fun to suit a particular location. And don't get me started on the parking thing and climbing over folks to get to the WC. Highly annoying.
2>SHOPPING AND ERRANDS
While this obviously includes several of the grocery items mentioned above, shopping and errands encompass a much wider range and are a huge part of making our lives run efficiently. Doctor appointments, school supplies, hockey practice for the kids and picking up prescriptions are just a few examples of the types of driving errands we all need to run on a regular basis. A few basic sanity saving tips?
Make every trip count.
If you already live somewhere like D.C, New York or Los Angeles, you are already aware of the stress running even a single out of schedule errand can cause. But even the Tampa scene can be challenging when it comes to driving around to find certain things. If you are heading out to take care of something, make it a point to take care of another errand or shopping stop while you're at it. Personally, we like the rule of three. If we have three things to do, we make the trip. If not, it waits. Obviously, a day of house shopping and neighborhood perusing doesn't get combined with anything more technical than a light grocery stop or a quick lotion pick up at the nearest pharmacy. But you get the idea.
Develop a power shopping circuit.
Not only can the power shopping concept apply to finding the best deals, it directly applies to the route you take to find those deals, and the order in which you run your errands. I admit this takes a while, and you have to really know your city first in order for things to go smoothly. But once you have a circuit or two that enable you to get things done with minimal left hand turns, and the most errands possible on the trip, you'll start forgetting how stressful it once was to get settled.
Know the traffic schedule.
Obviously, you have way more flexibility with this if you work from home. But even those on a regular drive to work schedule can utilize this concept on weekends or for off-site meetings. Working around the congested times can save loads of time, fuel and stress.
Free shipping rocks.
When we were remote, we splurged on the Amazon Prime membership mentioned above to get free two-day shipping on many of the items we ordered regularly. This has definitely been one of those strategies that works for both urban and rural lifestyles. Staples also has free shipping on orders over fifty bucks. So as a rule we wait until we need a few things in the office supply department and then stock up.
These items, in addition to the issues covered in the city transportation article and the first frugal on the fly piece, are about all we've been able to get a grip on thus far in our transition process. As more comes up, I'll be sure to share. As always, I'm open to any tips you all have.