Written by Trent Hamm, The Simple Dollar is a popular personal finance blog that chronicle's one man's road back from overwhelming debt to financial security. Hamm declared the contents of the blog to be in the Public Domain in 2008 and available for sharing when attributed properly. We will share a couple of posts a week.
The other day, I stopped at a gas station with my children in tow.
Ordinarily, this would be a simple visit – I’d gas up, pay at the pump, jump back in, and we’d be on the road again.
That day, though, my youngest one announced very loudly that he had to go to the potty now.
He’s three. Potty training is complete, but he can still have an occasional accident if he’s put in a position where he has to hold it for very long.
So, when he made that big announcement, it became clear that we had to go inside. I’m not going to leave my other children in the car alone, so we all went inside.
Once the bathroom business was taken care of, we walked back through the convenience store. Naturally, the bathrooms are on the far end of it, so we walked back by the beverage coolers.
Immediately, my children were thirsty. They were incredibly thirsty. Based on their comments, they had just spent several days in the Sahara desert.
They wouldn’t have said a thing if we were on the road. The sight of the beverages convince them that they were thirsty.
Of course, some delicious-looking snacks convince them that they were hungry, too, but I managed to push that desire off by mentioning that there was food already in the car.
Still, I wound up buying a small beverage for each of them and a large cup of water for myself (as that was the cheapest way to get water, via a large fountain drink).
The bill was still $5.50.
Now, I don’t mind the high price of a convenience store. The place has to make money, after all.
What I do mind is that I had to go into the store at all.
If I had never walked into that gas station, I never would have spent that $5.50. I should have just gassed up and headed to a rest stop that was about five miles further down the interstate which had clean bathrooms and a vending machine that I wouldn’t have had the cash to use.
Every time I needlessly spend money, it’s because I went into a store in the first place.
I can’t spend money needlessly on books if I don’t go into a book store.
I can’t spend money needlessly on electronics if I don’t go into an electronics store.
I can’t spend money needlessly on coffee if I don’t go into a coffee shop.
If I want less incidental spending in my life, the best way to do it is to avoid places where I’m going to be spending money incidentally.
The only stores that I should be ducking my head into are the ones where I have a specific need to go there, with a list already in hand that I can stick to.
Aside from that, I just don’t go in.
It’s a simple rule. The kind I like best.