Treasure maps are fun things to follow because they lead you to treasure. But consider the person who wrote the treasure map—they already have treasure, or they already know where it is. That’s an even better position to be in. In modern times, the practice of planning ahead for purchases is rather like writing a treasure map.
Planning ahead for purchases of all kinds acts as a treasure map, because you can avoid paying higher prices out of desparation—often referred to as “the convenience fee.” Gas stations sell a one liter bottle of sugar water for $2, while Grocery Place offers twice as much at half the price. Why would anyone buy at the gas station? Convenience. It would cost you (the buyer) time and energy to travel to Grocery Place, and you want that drink right away, so you are willing to pay a higher monetary cost.
By planning ahead, you can use your time, energy, and money efficiently—stopping at Grocery Place when you are already in the area.
A friend told me she and her husband eat on three dollars a day, combined. She explained they plan their meals, buy in bulk, don’t eat out, and are essentially vegetarian. Sure, they might have a busy day where a tire gets blown and they grab a burger, but they get right back to the plan the next day. They can weather a convenience storm because they are prepared. (Uncle Scar was right.)
You can plan ahead by learning the regular price of products. Heck, start with beer: Prices vary by store and location, so you might find Sierra Nevada is cheaper at a CVS than at the liquor store, while the opposite is true for a 30-pack of ditchwater lager.
Assignment of the week—pick one product you buy regularly (e.g. a gallon of milk) and then track the price of that item at a few different locations. You’ll get a good picture of the average price, and can then recognize a deal when you spot one. To reward yourself, buy that item at the cheapest place.
Planning ahead doesn’t end with food. Plan on where you want to live. Rent is all about location—the further you’re willing to travel to get to class, the cheaper it’ll likely be. Maybe find a place in Chapmantown and get a used bike. Or enjoy the free student shuttle service, even if that means getting to campus an hour before class starts.
Signing a year lease is a big deal, and looking for a month to month might be a better idea. If you need to sign a year, try and use that to negotiate a bit—even rent lowered by $25 per month will save you $300 over that year. All the landlord can say is “no,” and then they’ll still offer it to you at the originally offered price. You’ve lost nothing, and might gain something—a glint of treasure on the horizon.