Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Vacation Brain Drain:We Wasted $92 Before Fixing the Shopping Cart

Going to visit my parents can be a challenge. Mom & Dad are wonderful—love you guys!--but the Super Target near their home is a problem. The store is great: It has candy, food, yoga blocks, children’s shoes, skirts, makeup and a little silk purse that looks like a takeout container of Chinese food. So cute! I love the magazines and the dollar store section. So cheap!

And that’s a problem because when we visited my folks in late August, we went to Target and spent $92 and I don’t know you what we bought.

We had a bad case of vacation brain drain. We bought a lot of candy from the serve-yourself dispensers. I think we purchased about $30 worth of candy. Here’s the math: 15 pounds @ $2 per pound = $30.

We also bought flip flops and makeup. I had forgotten the grooming products that I needed for my parents 50th wedding anniversary party. But honestly, I don’t remember what else we purchased for $92.

Even in the parking lot, we looked through the bags and scratched our heads. Where did our money go? Even with the receipt and quick mental math, we were lost in parking lot purgatory.

Here’s what we did wrong:

1) Overspent on candy bags. Bad for the diet & budget.

2) Shopped without a list or a plan. That’s always a danger during vacations. Our normal discipline went on an extended holiday.

3) Did not pack or plan properly. Not only did we spend $92 at Target on that outing, we later shopped more to replace the dress-up clothes that we had forgotten for my older son.

But we learned from that mistake. For Thanksgiving, we went back to Central Florida and Super Target. We spent far less this time. (Under $30.)

Here’s how we fixed our vacation shopping cart problem.

1) Before the trip, we decided how much we were going to spend on different items and activities. More importantly, we actually followed the travel budget.

2) We downsized the candy bags—by a lot—and if any of the kids went over budget, they had to pay the difference. With their own money, they’re more frugal.

3) We shopped with a list.

4) We packed better. My daughter helped us pack by mapping out a list for the trip. We forgot fewer items and did not have to shop for urgent replacements.

5) I sat in the car. When others went shopping on Black Friday and on Sunday, I stayed away from temptation. During one Target run—on the way home—I even sat in the parking lot. I finally broke down and purchased a $3 tall latte from Starbucks.* But it was a very cheap shopping date for me.

*Also I no longer feel guilty about an occasional Starbucks treat because I found out that the company pays its employees great benefits, including health insurance for only 20 hours of work each week. I wrote about my Starbucks health care fantasy in this post. My latte, I believe, helps pay for someone’s health care. Okay, that’s just an excuse, but it sounds good.

Here are a few excellent posts from other bloggers about controlling the shopping impulse:

From Single Ma: A Quick Fix to Control Holiday Spending
From Not Made of Money: 2007 Black Friday - Some Thoughts and Strategies

From Million Dollar Journey: How I (try to) Save Money During Christmas



The Frugal Duchess Booktique
The Frugal Duchess of Beauty Store

Book Shop of Fear
The Poetry & Drama Queen
Frugal Jazz & Blues
Frugal Comic Book Connection

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