Monday, January 24, 2011

How Not Owning a Car Changed Our Shopping Habits

A few years back when we still had four kids at home, we shopped at large discount box stores.  We've had memberships to either a Sam's Club or Costco, depending on where we lived.  The theory was that food and household items were priced better and worth the extra 20 minute car ride.  In the meantime, we scrapped our cars and have experimented with ways to get the large volume items home. 

Craig has made the Sam's trip with the bike trailer  and I've blogged about breaking down the multitude of toilet paper packaging but this is not really ideal, especially in the winter when the sidewalks are covered in layers of ice and snow banks take over the bike lanes.

We had assumed that when we got rid of our cars that we would either regularly reserve a Zipcar or take a bus to the larger stores, especially in the winter.  But that hasn't happened.  Instead, we are utilizing the smaller local stores in our neighborhood for milk and fresh fruits and veggies and pushing off the larger toilet paper and shampoo trips when we have access to a car, for other reasons.

We rented a car when our oldest came home for Thanksgiving, and let me tell you, that rental didn't spend much time parked in the driveway, we were out and about, having made our lists in anticipation.  When we need a Zipcar for an infrequent outing, we combine it with a shopping trip.  Groceries is not the trigger to reserve a Zipcar on a regular basis like we thought it would be.

And in between these sporadic trips, we walk or bike to the local establishments and I'm finding a greater and renewed sense of community.  I now use the optometrist, hair stylist, grocery store, and diner that is about a mile from our house, instead of hopping in a car and driving someplace further away for a better price.  But in the grand scheme of things, we are still not spending anywhere near the amount of money for local conveniences than we did owning a car and driving for a better deal.  I now appreciate my local stores so much more and wish them well.

The other interesting outgrowth of not owning a car is an opportunity to meet up with friends when they do their large box store runs.  How often do you call up a friend and say "hey, I'm going to Costco, want to come?", probably not too often, but now friends call and it's a social outing as well as a toilet paper run.  It has that feeling of camaraderie, like women doing laundry down by the river together.  The feeling of "if we have to do chores, might as well do the chores with friends" concept. 

And a final observation, we used to eat out once in a great while, and again, we would hop in the car with a fistful of coupons to snag a bargain meal.  Now, we walk to a local diner.  The kids and I did this for New Year's Day breakfast - what a blast! We bundled up, had a nice walk and arrived at the diner ready for coffee and hot chocolate.  The  next outing is planned for Super Bowl Sunday  - chili cheese fries anyone?

Here's to learning new things.


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