Reducing the Damage

This past week I decided on the way home that I wanted to go out to eat. Further, I decided I didn’t want to just walk across the street for fast food. This was a decision that could potentially be damaging financially and physically. There were however a few things I was able to do to reduce the damage.

First, I checked how much money I actually had before going out. Second, instead of driving to the restaurant we walked. According to Google Maps we walked a total of 2.2 miles going to and returning from the restaurant. Financially that saved the cost of 2.2 miles worth of gas (less than a dollar that day, but over time this adds up) as well as 2.2 miles worth of wear and tear on the car. Third, walking provided a psychological incentive not to order more food than we actually needed since we would have to carry any leftovers home. In terms of health, my sister’s selection probably was a touch higher in fat than usual, but for once I managed to exercise a little portion control (if you ignore all the tortilla chips I ate waiting for the food to arrive).

In some ways this is an expansion of a habit we have made the last few years to avoid short trips by car. We walk to a nearby grocery store about 3/4 of a mile away, walked to the post office before it moved, and when we break down and get fast food we walk to the burger or sub shop.

Each trip is short and each only saves a tiny amount of gas. I have noticed however that since we have started doing this I am able to go a few more days between gas purchases. Avoiding short trips has probably also helped me to be able to keep driving my old car. I keep reading that short trips under a mile are much harder on your car since the engine doesn’t get a chance to fully warm up. At one time I used to do this to the car nearly every day. My poor car is over ten years old now, but the occasional visit to the mechanic is currently costing me much less than a car payment would — personally I would like to keep it at least a few more years and to be able to pay for the next car as much up front as possible.

I think one of the things that held me back in improving my financial situation the last few years has been the feeling that I needed to do something big. If I wasn’t putting at least $100 in an extra payment on a card, what was the point? Of course that meant I made few extra payments. If I was only making two trips to the vending machine at work what did that matter, that was only $1.50 (what happened to 50 cent candy bars?). Of course $1.50 per work day was $7.50 a week, and a few hundred dollars over the course of a year. Just from a daily snack or two. I didn’t stop to think how a little change like simply walking out to eat, cutting snacks, or at least buying snacks elsewhere at much better prices could add up significantly over time.

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