This morning I met a new and frazzled father. He was frazzled less because of the new baby and more because he’d just spent a bit over an hour driving around, trying to get his wife breakfast from Starbucks.

Apparently, he lived near one but saw that the line was out the door. So he drove off to another and again saw a long line. Finally, he ended up at a third, about 20 minutes away from the hospital and got in its line.

All in all, he ended up being two hours late and his wife was having a major blood sugar drop. She got angry of course (since she’d been up for 5 hours with no blood sugar, it didn’t surprise me) and he gave the whole story while I was working with the baby.

While she mostly spoke from lack of food (why doesn’t the hospital feed people? seriously, I see people getting breakfast @ 10:30am) and frustration that the baby is still learning how to nurse, she made an excellent point about false savings.

It might have taken him a long long time at that first Starbucks, but it might not have taken as long as it ended up being. Or if he’d just given in at the second one and realized that driving farther would cost him time, just like standing in line would.

This applies less to purchases (since shopping around for good deals is almost always a good idea—unless you’ll be losing money by not having it now) and more to things like maintenance.

Sometimes it seems like a good idea to put off getting the oil changed, repairing the little leak, we think that if we just push it farther we’ll save money. And while sometimes we can put off fixing the roof until our annual bonus comes, not taking care of that little leak may cost us a lot more in roof repairs.

Our poor frazzled father was probably just thinking “I have to find a place with a short line so I can get her the food quickly.” Good for him wanting to feed her. But that means he didn’t take a minute to reflect that even if the far-off Starbucks had a shorter line, it’d still take him forever to drive there and back. And that it might have a line too.

So next time you see something that needs fixing, ask yourself what’ll happen if you let it go. Will it cost more? The same? Is it liveable? Will it get worse?

On that topic, here are a couple of today’s posts from my blogroll about maintenance and false savings:

The Five Stages of a Product’s Life — Saving You Money on Replacing Expensive Household Items
Is This Meal at Wendy’s Really Frugal?

{ 4 trackbacks }

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Festival of Frugality #125 – Save Some Money If You Are Rich Edition
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Vered - MomGrind May 7, 2008 at 4:19 pm

So true.

It’s also important to know when it’s time to cut our losses and give up on something that is going to cost us a lot more (money, time, effort) than we had anticipated.

But in the dad’s case, perhaps giving up was not an option. 🙂

Four Pillars May 7, 2008 at 5:49 pm

That sounds like me – drive 20 minutes to avoid a 5 minute wait.

I need patience!!


Funny about Money May 7, 2008 at 8:02 pm

Aww. Poor guy. He was probably pretty flustered and figured he could get back sooner if he ran to another place. “Minute-wise and hour-foolish”?

How about this: will you spent a little more to buy something at a place where you know you won’t have to wait as long? Or where the service is better?

One friend buys gas at a rock-bottom-cheap dealer that doesn’t take credit cards. You have to pull up to the pump, walk in, stand in line, pay about what you think the car will take, pump your gas, go back inside, stand in line again, and collect your change. Or else you only buy a couple bucks’ worth, knowing it won’t fill the tank, so you don’t have to do the second stand in line. Any day I’d rather pay a few cents more than dork with that.

The local Albertson’s has replaced all but two of its cashiers with self-service check-outs. Most people refuse to use them, so the lines are interminable. I’ll go to the Safeway, even if the prices are higher, to avoid the endless stand in line and the cashiers who are grumpy with overwork.

heartbeat May 7, 2008 at 8:56 pm

buying locally is not always the smartest option here in ne mississip…..i usually end up 35mi. away but make many stops on the way there and back..saves in the long run. usually if i have to buy locally, i dont find what i want or need and end up wasting about 20 mi. travel when i could take care of everything by going a little farther. long checkout lines dont’ bother me anymore…guess i am getting old..and it is good reading time in line (that mag. article that sounds too good to be true. by the time you get to checkout for real you can return the mag. to the stand.

Susan May 7, 2008 at 9:17 pm

Excellent point! And for some reason I picture drivers circling parking lots like vultures in search of that coveted parking spot near the front of the store. Gives the car exercise, but not the person! 🙂

sara l May 7, 2008 at 10:59 pm

That sounds like something my other half would do.

July Bucks May 8, 2008 at 6:22 am

In case of frazzled father, he had to give up and realize that being frugal sometimes can just stress not save money or time.
But it’s not always that easy to recognize the moment when it’s time to cut our losses 🙂

averagejoe May 8, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Am I missing something here or are people just plain stupid? This new mother HAD TO HAVE STARBUCKS??? If she was so hungry, couldn’t the father get her something to eat at the hospital cafeteria???? What is she, a princess or something? All you had to do was ask the nurse for something to eat and the problem would have been solved.
Two hours to get the bitch breakfast? Are they morons or something?
Really, Mrs. Mich you waste your own valuable time writing about infantile dribbling. And I just wasted a few minutes reading this nonsense.
100,000 people in Burma have been wiped off the face of the earth and this guy is searching for a short line at a Starbucks???


Funny about Money May 8, 2008 at 1:18 pm

Calm down, Joe–you’ll give yourself a stroke throwing sh**-fits over something that doesn’t matter. There’s no connection between a natural disaster and a new father’s desire to make his wife happy.

Let’s get mad over something we can change. Like…oh, I dunno…Iraq? the national debt? the West’s dependence on oil owned by oppressive regimes? the rascals down at City Hall?

Sistah Ant May 8, 2008 at 8:11 pm

This is something like being penny-wise and pound-foolish. A lesson I’m still trying to learn…

frugal zeitgeist May 9, 2008 at 1:02 am

Jeez. Why did it have to be Starbucks? Someone’s priorities (can’t tell whose) sound a little messed up.

Azulao May 13, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Wow. A woman who has just given birth is a “bitch”? I’m glad I am not the wife of the person who wrote that. I’m also glad I’m not the wife of someone who thinks priorities are screwed up because a certain treat is desired.

As push-presents go (and I hate that concept, don’t get me wrong), something from Starbucks seems pretty tame. Let’s not forget the point of the post, which is that sometimes paying more is okay because it saves in the long run. Critical thinking is the point, and I don’t blame a new dad for being a little dumb right at that moment!

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