Far from the drool encrusted books of my graduate studies and the lectures that seem to drone on for lifetimes, I’m traveling between three different time zones in two days. Traipsing through well-worn airports, convenient foods glisten with a preservative-laced sheen that scream, “buy me!” Somehow, it feels like vacations and travel are excuses to break free from the bounds of reality. This is where frugaling can crumble.
Oftentimes, the frugaling rules I set are adapted and designed for a home environment. The breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that I make save hundreds of dollars per year. When I venture beyond the refrigerator and packed lunches, frugaling unravels and I lose the rules that are righting my course back to zero debt.
When I was growing up, my family would go on exceptionally affordable vacations and generally stay with people we knew. Even then, we would buy soda, juices, and bottled water on the go. When we got hungry, we’d often eat out. Generally, we attributed this to a new place: different restaurants to try, wanting to make the most of our time, and/or not sure that we could find food to make and pack.
In reality, we could’ve done more. In my recent years, I haven’t done more. But now, my spending habits are changing. As I took a brief pit stop at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, on my way to Los Angeles, my stomach began to churn. I was hungry and ready to eat anything: burgers, fries, donuts – you name it. I walked around the gigantic airport and found any number of places that would satiate my fancies. I approached two restaurants, stared into their food displays, and fumbled for my credit card. But each time, I slowly walked away. The $2.30 banana nut muffin wouldn’t break my bank, but it wasn’t frugal or necessary. Embarrassingly, I would approach the glass displays with lust for everything.
Instead, I slowly boarded my connecting flight and pulled out a tattered granola bar. The unsatisfying flavor made me question my decision to keep my credit card tucked away. But as the energy bar began to digest, the pains and urges to buy food abated. I had satisfied the hunger and craving.
It spoke to my competing biological and psychological desires: one for food and one for money. Frequently, fast, convenient options prey off the former, at the expense of the latter. By accepting the discomfort, we can save and still satisfy. Now that’s frugaling.