Saving Money When Your Choices are Limited

I used to have more choices for where I shopped, more easily accessed than I do now. I used to live in a town where I was no more than 1.5 miles from Wal-Mart, Publix, Dollar Tree, Home Depot, Lowe's, Winn-Dixie, and Dollar General. I also had a wonderful cheap produce store just across the street from the library that was less than a mile away.

Here in Gainesville, I have the Winn Dixie right across the street and the Dollar General and a new CVS about a mile away, but Wal-Mart, Lowe's and the Dollar Tree are a bus ride away. I have to make that bus ride count, so I consolidate all my errands into one day, since an all-day pass is only $3, less than a gallon of gas.

I usually make Wednesday my errand day, first going to Wal-Mart, Dollar Tree, and Lowe's if needed, since they are in one place together. Target is two blocks down the road, and there are other stores in the area as well. This is a regular Wal-Mart. If I want to go to the Super Wal-Mart, that involves yet another bus. I haven't been there yet, but will be going this week, plus making a trek to Ward's Supermarket, where I hear I can buy all my bulk herbs and other things in bulk as well.  Because of the heat, I have to get this done very early. I'm usually on the bus by 7:30-8:00 and back by noon.

I work until about 4:00 p.m., then hop back on the bus for evening shopping, maybe to the Farmer's Market downtown. I like to buy what I can't find elsewhere there; heirloom veggies, fresh breads, organics, etc. Where I go depends on what I didn't get done in the morning, or sometimes I just get on different buses and ride to see where they go. This had lead me to some really cool places. Sometimes I see something I want to explore, and I just get off the bus and walk around awhile, and hop back on later.

Since I do most of my grocery shopping now at the Winn Dixie across the street, I have to be really careful to get the best buys. I don't really like buying my produce there, because it's so expensive compared to my old produce store. I'm looking forward to the Co-Op that is opening this month about a mile from my house, because I'm thinking I will be able to save some money there. I hope so, anyway.

Having to spend more for food is where my cheap ways and stockpiling tendencies come into play. I take advantage of BOGO's (buy 1, get 1 for those new to this stuff) and sale items that are non-perishable. I almost always buy whatever produce is on sale. The bad thing is that the Winn Dixie here doesn't send out the sale paper every week. I used to get that in my Wednesday flyers back home. Sometimes, they don't even have one at the store, so I have to go online and look to see what's on sale every week, and make my plans.

So it takes a lot more effort to save money now, but it's worth it in the long run. I figure I make up more than the $12 a month I spend on the bus rides in savings, plus I learn the city and find places I need to go in the future. It's a little restrictive, as I can't carry much in a trip, since I have to walk a block to and from the bus, but I have my trusty rolling backpack that holds several bags of things, plus a shoulder swag bag that I can take as well. I'm looking at buying a bigger rolling bag, maybe an old suitcase from a thrift store, so I can carry more. I realize I'll look like a bag lady, but I have no pride, thank heaven.

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