The Importance of Planning

January 29, 2007

I do a bit of “mystery shopping” on the side where I shop at restaurants and other retail spaces, observe the service and provide feedback to companies in exchange for a reimbursement on my expenses.  I have found this to be a great way to eat out or take quick trips when otherwise we wouldn’t have the money in the budget. 

Last week I signed up for a hotel mystery shop in another city.  I figured it was a great way to visit a few cultural sites in this particular city known for its science and art museums without spending a lot of money.  Originally, I planned to pack lunch for the day and bring snacks in order to make healthy choices with regards to food and to limit the hit to our budget for our impromptu mini-break.  Best laid plans….. I forgot and then I let my husband talk me into just going with the flow.

$200 later…… our minibreak wasn’t so frugal.   No, this blog isn’t about being frugal, but I think simplicity, environmental responsibility and frugality often go hand in hand.  And, while we are trying to live natural, healthy, simple lives…. we also need to be wise with our money because we are not financially independant! 

Packing a few snacks and sandwiches would have prevented our mid-morning snack, our horrible lunch at the museum and our feasting on popcorn at the movie, all of which was horribly over priced.   It didn’t account for all of the $200 extra but it was a significant portion.    

On the other hand, besides spending more money than we should have…. we had a great time.  We spent one entire day at a natural history and science museum, enjoyed their hands-on exhibits, watched a live science demonstration, enjoyed the planetarium and caught a movie on the IMAX theater – all for the low price of $29.00 for three people!  By looking for a few coupons on-line, we were able to save over $30 on the price of admission for all of those events. 

By providing a report at the end of our stay, we enjoyed a hotel room, an evening of room service and movies and breakfast the next morning. 

While being smart with your money can sometimes take you off the simple path – mystery shopping isn’t necessarily simple -, it certainly is prudent.   However, it was a wonderful, simple experience by spending the day together playing with science exhibits. 

 And we can enjoy some success.  In the past, we would have jumped in the car and headed to this town for a quick weekend get-away without thought to money.   We would have eaten out every meal on our own dime and we would have purchased without impunity.  We can appreciate the baby steps. 

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