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Save Money By Being Prepared!

February 9, 2011 · 92 comments

in Personal Finance

I was at the hospital the other day with my son.  He ended up with some awful stomach flu, and he needed some hydration to get him going again.  We actually had a very pleasant day at the hospital, as the rooms now have just about anything you could want.  However, there was one thing I really needed, and it was some food.

We had been at the hospital since about 10:45 am and I had eaten a little throughout the day.  Then suddenly, around 5:30 pm, I was starving.  I was hungry to the point that I thought I was going to be sick.  I asked the nurse if I could have some crackers or something, and she took me in a little room that contained a refrigerator with a ton of food.  I had no idea this food was available, I could have eaten all day long!  I got a turkey sandwich, some chips, a pear and some juice.  I felt like the luckiest person ever.  Keep in mind, the sandwich didn’t even look appetizing, but I didn’t care.  I would have paid twenty bucks for that little sandwich on a plate.  (Who knows, maybe I did through my hospital bill…)

The whole event made me think about how easy it is to spend money when you are desperate.  I thought about how I literally would have paid all I had in my purse for some food that day.  It reinforced the point that all purchases should be planned for as far in advance as possible.  The more you are in a hurry to make a purchase, the more you are at a disadvantage.  Buying in a rush means less time for research, less time for waiting for the best deal, and possibly less chance that you are getting the optimal product for your situation due to availability.

Planning for purchases doesn’t apply just to big ticket items.  Think about how much money you can waste during the typical week just from not being prepared.  Would getting up 10 minutes sooner to make coffee at home stop you from spending money at Starbucks at work?  Or, could you take those same 10 minutes and make coffee and a lunch to take to work?  Or, do you wait until your gas tank is almost completely empty before filling up, forcing you to buy gas at the closest station to where you are at that moment?  I am not saying you should go out of your way and waste gas shopping around for the absolute cheapest gas.  However, if you know what stations are generally cheapest along your typical route, you can fill up when you are near the cheaper stations instead of waiting until that needed is hovering around ‘E’.

So, the point of my post today is, try not to be forced into making your purchases.  Instead, try to be proactive so you can have the best information and the right amount of money saved to make that purchase.  For the little things, try to plan out your day so that you aren’t forced into making small purchases because of lack of time or lack of preparation.

What is your money drain?  Could you change your routine to save yourself some money?

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{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

First Gen American February 9, 2011 at 5:41 am

I had a similar experience over the holidays with my back. I was in such agony that I would have paid any amount of money to feel better. I went to see a massage therapist twice while I was waiting for my physical therapist to get back from vacation. Hundreds of dollars later, I’m starting to feel like myself again. If I had only been exercising, I wouldn’t have reinjured my back. Lack of planning certainly cost me in a big way. Good article.

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Kris February 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm

First Gen, I am glad your back is feeling better- back pain is miserable.

Don’t beat yourself up over the exercise, you can injure your back from exercising too!

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Nicole February 9, 2011 at 8:08 am

Poor guy! I hope everyone is feeling better now!

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Kris February 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Nicole, he is so much better, you wouldn’t believe it. Thanks for the well wishes.

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The Biz of Life February 9, 2011 at 8:33 am

I waste money by not feeling up to making my own lunch everyday. That’s about 30 bucks a week leaking out of my wallet that shouldn’t be. Then the kids are always hitting the wife up for questionable stuff. You need to enjoy life, but you can go overboard with both the spending and being miserly.

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Kris February 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Sometimes, there is just nothing in the house that sounds good for lunch, unless there are some great leftovers from the night before.

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Moneycone February 9, 2011 at 8:42 am

Similarly, don’t shop while hungry! You simply won’t think straight! I’m always amazed at the junk I purchase when I shop starving!

Hospital visits always make me hungry! I hope your kid is doing ok.

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Kris February 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm

You are so right Moneycone, shopping when hungry can cause bankruptcy. Everything look so good when hungry.

My son is doing splendid. Thank you!

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DoNotWait February 9, 2011 at 9:21 am

I have this bad tendency to not prepare enough for meals. So when the time comes, I sometimes end up saying: delivery food tonight! Bad, bad, bad…

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Kris February 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm

It’s funny because growing up, we had dinner at home every single night. My parents were always prepared. Why aren’t I? I have the same issue as you sometimes!

Maybe it is because I am driving around a lot during the dinner hour. That is what I am going with…

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Deidre February 9, 2011 at 11:24 am

Nice post Kris! Hope your little guy is feeling better 🙂
I try and pack my cooler with good food that is healthy to boot. On the days I forget to pack it or don’t pack enough, I end up stopping on the way home and eating somewhat healthy – usually at Chipolte. Definately a money drain there! Also, like a previous commenter said…don’t go to the grocery store hungry 🙂

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Kris February 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm

No need to pack a cooler here – my car is a moving cooler!

Seriously though I do try to pack a cooler a lot myself. However, sometimes I can’t get home in time to do it.

I know you are probably very healthy, you have done a great job!

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Deidre February 9, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Thanks for your kind words. Not sure if I am very healthy … but getting there 🙂

Its a small cooler and easy to put lunch and good snacks in so that I don’t end up in a fast food place between appointments. There are so many variables when you work outside that just don’t occur when I’m at the office and the fridge is in the ajoining room 😉

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Money Reasons February 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm

McDonald’s lattes are my Achilles’ Heel 🙂

I have a McDonalds on route to my drive to work, and while it’s cheaper that Starbucks, it’s still expensive enough ($2.90). I’m cutting them out or back since I started my diet though…

Hope you guys all get better soon!

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Kris February 9, 2011 at 2:34 pm

MR – I know you love those lattes. Your house is paid off though, so you are allowed.

We are all on the mend. The weather is going to hit 39 this weekend, so I am just happy as a clam!

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Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog February 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm

I think you’re right about this – it’s so easy to make purchases when you box yourself into them and you’ve got no other options. The nice part about this is it’s a very convenient excuse to spend money when you know full well that you could be saving money by being prepared.
It’s usually the little things that you can batch process and save yourself quite a bit of money (and time).
Hope your son is feeling better.

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Kris February 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Jeff, I find I go in streaks where I am the most prepared person on earth. Then a week hits and I am suddenly at the store everyday picking up odds and ends!

Sometimes it is hard to know if the effort is worth the time spent, but I think most of the time, it is.

Thanks for the well wishes!

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krantcents February 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Planning is 99% of the solution! Along time ago, I started to take my lunch to work one day a week. In a a relatively short amount of time, I was taking it five days a week. Changing habits or planning better saves a lot of money and is better for you in the long run.

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Kris February 9, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Krantcents, that is fantastic that you take your lunch everyday! Have you inspired others to do the same?

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Invest It Wisely February 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm

In the end it’s all about the time and money tradeoff, but sometimes we don’t even have to trade that much time! That nurse seems like she was very nice; last time I was at the hospital, there was only a vending machine that had cruddy old expired sandwiches, and not a restaurant or anything else around…

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Kris February 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Kevin, maybe if you were in the Peds ward you would have gotten better treatment. (Nap time was from 2-4 and we had to quiet down. I didn’t get a nap in though.) I have a feeling if we had been stuck down in the ER, I would have been begging for graham crackers.

Those rotating sandwiches are indeed scary. Who makes those sandwiches? How old are they? It’s all bad.

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Suba @ Wealth Informatics February 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Hope your little guys is feeling better now. I had the flu last week, didn’t do anything much. I agree with being prepared, the weeks I don’t end up planning ahead we always eat out. I will-come-back-and-make-it never works. Seconded the don’t go grocery shopping hungry tip as well. I always end up buying more (and more delicious looking junk too) if I am hungry while grocery shopping.

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Kris February 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Suba, it is just so darn easy to eat out nowdays, isn’t it? So many delicious restaurants all around.

Hope you are feeling better too!

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Crystal @ BFS February 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I’m glad your little dude is feeling better! I need to keep snacks in my car…that would save me a little bit from fast food…

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Finanzas Personales February 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Great post!
As you mention, not planning can have a negative impact on how much we spend on things… however, in your example, you didn’t have an option.
I think the coffee example is great and it applies for so many other things!!! But I think the problem isn’t doing something about it, but identifying there is a problem. Many people don’t even stop to consider they are spending X money on coffee per month, or eating out, just to mention a few examples. Once they notice it, it might be easier to do something about it.

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Joe Plemon February 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm

We recently had a similar hospital experience…the nurse brought us a plate of sandwiches, chips and cookies. We, like you, were starving, so this unexpected treat was greatly appreciated.

My wife is great at saving on food when we travel. She almost always plans ahead and packs sandwiches, fruit, nuts, and bottled water. And, of course, something sweet.

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retirebyforty February 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm

This is why I never go grocery shopping when hungry. 🙂
When you’re hungry, you buy a bunch of stuff that aren’t needed.
I don’t think I have a money drain at the moment. Things are going pretty smoothly right now.

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Barb Friedberg February 9, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Kris, You really distinguish yourself through your writing. I enjoyed the story and the lesson was wise. Great job.

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Lola February 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm

I’d say you get a pass on not packing food for an ER visit – and who would have thought they would have food available for you? Like you said, though, you paid for it one way or another.

You raise an excellent point again that it’s the unexpected and captive (i.e, costs at an ER, at an amusement park, ball park, movie concession stand, etc) expenses that cost the most. You just have to build a few of those into your budget, though, and decide to be happy you can spend the money when you have to.

Glad to hear your son is feeling better. For all we complain about the costs, modern medicine is an amazing development and usually worth every penny.

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc February 9, 2011 at 10:20 pm

I’m with RB40. I try not to go shopping when I’m hungry. I have relatively good willpower when it comes to food but know not to temp myself once I get hungry.

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101 Centavos February 10, 2011 at 7:11 am

Kris, clad to hear your son is doing OK. During our recent visit to the ER, I did have some snacks in the truck, but Mrs. 101 craved something salty. At the snack vending station, I found that I only had large bills in my wallet. The stupid vending machine, obviously designed by evil stupid people, also took debit cards. I managed to swipe it for several debits before it coughed up a little bag of almonds, which did nothing to satisfy Mrs. 101’s appetite. Only then did I think of asking about a hospital cafeteria (duh!).

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Squirrelers February 11, 2011 at 1:04 am

Glad your son has gotten better.

When my youngest was born, I was pleasantly surprised by the stocked refrigerator! Not the highest quality food, but at least they had something. I recall all of these little containers of orange juice, like the kind we may have gotten as kids in school. Maybe 5 ounces? Anyway, a little bit goes a long way in those types of circumstances.

I still have areas to improve on when it comes to spending. Eating out has been one where I can do great for a while, then spend too much. It’s that money/convenience tradeoff. The key thing is not to trade off health. But anyway, I’d say eating out is my weekly money drain.

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