The Frugal Game: Errand Bundling

Mister Money Mustache has talked in several of his blog posts about the incessant one-stop errand running many of his neighbors seem to do. An early morning run for milk. A midday trip to the post office. Maybe even a late night drive to drop off an overdue rental DVD. I think that is nuts. Two or three errand runs a day is to me absolutely nuts. Even 2 or 3 errand runs a week seem to me a wasteful and unnecessary expenditure of my gas money and my time.

I am a fervent advocate of errand bundling. In my case, I group my errands up so that I can do them all in just one car trip a week. (Because I am retired, I also have the luxury of doing that trip on a midweek day, when store traffic is at its lowest.)

With my list of errands and things to do in hand, I do one loop trip, doing convenient target stops on the leg out to my most distant destination, and then knocking off any necessary side trips on the leg back. Keeping my errands limited to that one weekly trip saves me money on gasoline and vehicle wear and tear. And, just as importantly, saves me time and avoids the chopping up of too many of my days.

But what if I run out of something I need right at the time, you might ask. Well, my answer is that I don’t run out. My “secret weapon” there is to always have backup supplies. A second printer ink cartridge… an unopened pack of paper towels… a backup box of cat litter. You get the idea.

What about perishables? The answer there is that I stock suitable substitutes. Cans of evaporated milk to back up the fresh milk. Cans of V8 juice to back up the fresh grapefruit juice. Cans of vegetables to back up the fresh ones. And so on. This way, I never run out of anything. “Emergency” errands are nonexistent for me.

The big deal, the real benefit of my errand bundling is more my savings of time rather than money (though there’s that, too). I don’t have my days interrupted by silly one-stop trips to get this or that. I can stay focused on my plan for the day. And my free time does not get broken up or nickeled-and-dimed away by needless errand running.

I save some money, too. Every drive into town I don’t take saves me $6 in car gas and wear-and-tear. So, if my errand bundling is eliminating just 2 car trips a week, it’s saving me $12 a week. That’s $600 for the year. That may not sound like much. Yet it’s more than enough to pay for 5 or 6 of my two-day Civil War hiking trips… or 15 dinners out with my wife… or 1 or 2 (or even 3!) nice new little tools or gadgets I decide I can’t live without.

Errand bundling helps me stay in control of my precious time and lets me live just a little itty bit better. And to me, that’s one more retirement win.

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  1. This is seriously wise advice, both the errand bundling part and the having-backups part.

    Another useful response to “what if you run out?” is “So what?” I rarely *need* milk for my tea, or a particular spice for a recipe. I drink my tea black for a day, or make something slightly different for supper.

    1. I hear you.

      Just yesterday, I ran out of bread (what, me run out??!!). So I made do with crackers. No way am I doing a 10-mile round trip just for a loaf of bread.

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