Monday, January 11, 2010

Smells only slightly better than the odor that you're trying to mask

Since launching my freelance writing career and working from home, I've focused more of my attention on cutting the cost of our living expenses.  Some things came very easy, such as virtually eliminating my clothing expense (I can work in whatever ratty old clothes that I already own) or cutting my auto expense by 80% or more (a zero mile commute to work saves a lot of money!) This newly found frugality is most obvious in my grocery shopping, a chore that I took over from my wife when I made the career shift.  I've become virtually immune to allure of advertisers and focus on value when I shop but I also try to keep a balance by consistently buying fresh produce.  I carefully compare brands and prices and try to make wise choices, although I've long preached the gospel of " lowest price does not necessarily equal best value."

A few weeks back I had an unusually long shopping list and decided go to the local Dollar Tree store to see how many items on the list could be bought there before going to my regular grocery store.  I bought as many of the items on my list as I could and then compared similar items in the grocery store with the $1 items I'd bought at Dollar Tree.  While all of them proved to be less expensive, some of them were a better value than others.  I learned that certain brands of household cleaners are worth the price differential but sometimes the price of the higher quality product just can't be justified.  As an example, I'm sold on a particular brand of dish washing liquid and have never found another that works as well.  I'm willing to pay more for this product because it's worth the price. The worst value I found at Dollar Tree was a bathroom air freshener product.  It claimed to be a nice citrus scent (my favorite) and was, of course, only $1.  Compared to the price of the major brands found at grocery stores, this was a bargain and worth a try, right?  WRONG!  To label this product citrus scented was misleading, to say the least.  It's should have been described as "Only slightly better than the smell that you're trying to mask" (BTW that's the sanitized version of what I really called it).

In my quest to live more responsibly, I've learned that I really can cut some of my costs without making unwise compromises.  I still decline to shop at Wally World (that's a story for another time) and give preference to locally owned businesses. I will continue to refine my shopping skills while not allowing it to become my highest priority.  Will Dollar Tree become a part of my shopping routine  . . . who knows? My goal is to free up more funds to be invested in more meaningful things than just buying the top branded products while continuing to support my neighbors and local merchants.

How important do you think it is to live frugally if you have be blessed with generous resources?

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