How Inconvenience Helped Me Save Money

Photo: USDAgov

I live in a rural area where a family grocery store, two pizza shops, a Chinese restaurant, a Dollar Store, and one gas station/convenience store are our only retail establishments. We have lived in this area for many years, and it definitely took some time to get used to not having anything we could possibly need in consumer goods right at our fingertips.

If we ran out of milk, there was nothing we could do about it after 9 p.m. Things got much worse about a year ago when the only grocery store we had within a 25 mile radius shut down with almost no warning. Long story short, the family-owned grocery store had been operating for months with rarely stocked shelves and often-expired merchandise. We as a community dealt with it because it was all we had, and when the doors finally closed, we felt it. (See also: 13 Convenience Foods I Think Are Worth the Money)

Convenience Creates More Spending

In the eight or nine months since the grocery store closed for good, my family has changed a lot. We couldn’t just run out and grab what we needed unless the Dollar Store carried it. If you wanted a loaf of bread, you had to get there when it opened or you’d be out of luck for another day. Either that or you’d have to drive 25 miles to Walmart for what you needed. In the interest of saving gas, we learned to live without.

The inconvenience of not having a grocery store made it necessary to do many things we may not have otherwise tried. Here is a brief overview of what we learned living without a grocery store and how it ultimately saved us a lot of money.

We Planned Ahead

A trip to the grocery store was no longer for one or two things. We had to have a month’s worth of groceries figured out so we didn’t have to run out for anything besides milk and bread. If we forgot anything, it would be another few weeks until we went shopping again, so even our 10 year old learned to think ahead.

We Learned to Do Without

We had to change our way of thinking about groceries. If we didn’t have it, we learned to live without it. We actually became pretty good at figuring out ways to use what we had. In the past, we just went out and bought what we needed. Again, our 10 year old jumped on the bandwagon and thought more about how to make do with what was already in the cabinets.

We Ventured Outside the Box

We live in a rural area and have access to many farm stands throughout the summer and a butcher shop right down the street. However, we never patronized these stands until we could no longer get vegetables and fruits from the grocery store. Since then, we've sought out the local farmers market and visited every Friday night. We've learned to cook different meals based on seasonal produce. We’ve improved our cooking skills and actually prefer eating dinner at home rather than blowing our budget on one family meal. We save restaurant nights for special events like birthdays.

We Shopped Smarter

While I have always been a fan of the food store Aldi, it wasn’t until we had to shop for a month’s worth of groceries at one time that I really started to see the benefits of the shop. I could get a month’s worth of stuff for roughly half of what I would pay at Walmart and even less than what I would have to pay at other grocery stores in the area. I did have to drive a bit of a distance to get the lower grocery bills, but by doing it just once a month, we saved money.

We Stuck With the Changes

A few weeks ago, a larger chain grocery store opened its doors in our area. Luckily, the chain that took over is providing the community with very competitive prices, fully stocked shelves, and gas-savings rewards we didn’t have before. It was almost laughable at how excited the locals were about the reopening of a grocery store during the ribbon cutting ceremony and the grand opening festivities.

Now that we are back to living two blocks away from convenience, our family continues to live as we have been for the last year. While it is nice to know we have the option to head over to the store when we are without, we have also come to realize how much better it is having more money in the bank. Our change of habit was forced upon us when the first store closed, but it was ultimately a financial blessing in disguise.

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Guest's picture

I live in a small rural area too and can really relate to this article. In addition to limited places to shop locally, I do not drive due to a disability. It's amazing how your shopping habits change under those circumstances...for me it's been a good thing too.

Guest's picture
Mary Kaplan

Great post! The fact that the inconvenience got you shopping local produce and meats at the farmer's market and local butcher is such a huge plus not only for you but for the community. We all need to try to support our local producers. Kudos to you for sticking with your new and improved life habits. Saving money isn't too shabby either!

Guest's picture

This article was very insightful. As I was reading the article, I began to think of how I go to Wal-Mart quite often in just one month. I need to stock up on items more often so that I don’t have to waste unnecessary gas.

Tisha Tolar's picture

Thanks for your comments! I am really curious to see how many people just learn to do without when they aren't in a larger area and how many will head to Walmart come hell or high water when they are in need of something.

Guest's picture

Convenience definitely leads to more spending! When I lived in Barcelona for a semester there was a 24 hour convenience store right down stairs from us and my roommates and I would go there almost every single night. Better off having things out of reach and saving money!