It’s day 2 of my 31 Days Without Walmart and the first time that my commitment to the project was tested.
I had a list of errands to run today; here’s what I needed to do:
- Go to the credit union to deposit darling husband’s paycheck
- Purchase a gift for a family member for Saturday’s family Christmas party Secret Santa
- Purchase tablecloths for the lodge tables for the party
- Get ingredients for a dish to pass for the party
- Get Christmas cellophane bags for something darling husband needs for Saturday’s party
- Get milk.
- Find a Kodak kiosk to print out photos for a game for the party.
Normally, this is a perfect Walmart errand list. I could get groceries, a gift, use the Kodak photo kiosk and do it all in one stop. Plus, the credit union is right up the road from Walmart.
But ah, this is 31 Days Without Walmart, remember?
After stopping at Schallers to get David’s paycheck, I went to the credit union. I’ll talk more later this month about banking, but if you’re looking for a financial institution that supports the local community, the credit union is the place to go.
Next stop: Purchase a gift.
This is a Secret Santa gift for … well, I can’t tell you or that person will know I picked their name. The limit for the gift is about $25, which can go a long way at Walmart. If I went there, I’d probably have purchased gloves and a scarf, maybe some small piece of costume jewelry, at least given the person a few little packages to open. Small pretty packages of stuff they probably don’t need.
But with my commitment to buy local, I went to Mostly Clay on Schoen Place in Pittsford, NY.
My friend Margie LaTourette owns Mostly Clay, which is a pottery and gift store, and it’s the perfect place to find a gift that fits all three of my project goals. The store is locally owned, I purchased a lovely piece of functional pottery that was locally made, and I thought about the item I purchased. That’s because Margie has lots of pottery from lots of local and regional artists to choose from, each with their own artistic style and their own product line. Literally, there’s something for everyone. It’s where I should go every time I need to buy a present.
I’ll tell you later what I purchased; don’t want to give it away! But it’s a lovely gift that is not only useful but special, because it’s handmade locally by an artist.
Margie also carries other non-local gift items, from jewelry to Christmas decorations, mostly unusual stuff you don’t normally find other places. She’s also big into the Webkinz, and had some on sale. So the little kids in the family are getting stuffed animals for Christmas. Shhh, don’t tell them.
Next stop: Get milk.
Sure, I can get milk at the grocery store, and it would satisfy my goals. Wegmans is a local business, the milk is from an regional coop. But if you want the best milk in the area, you go to Pittsford Dairy in Pittsford, NY.
Their milk comes from a small coop of farmers who provide milk with no growth hormones, antibiotics, artificial anything. It’s as close to organic as you get without being certified organic. Not all farmers want to or can afford to jump through the government’s requirments for organic. (Which, and we’ll talk about this later this month too, aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be.)
Pittsford Dairy doesn’t own the cows; they just process the milk using a special pasturization process. It’s the only place around where you can still get milk in glass bottles. And their chocolate milk is to die for.
Is the milk more expensive? A bit. But it’s worth it to get milk that’s free of … well, crap. The only problem is that they require a $10 minimum purchase for a debit or credit card, and I don’t always have cash on me. I can usually spend $10 if I want to – they carry baked goods from local bakery, dairy products from local farms, and other great stuff – but sometimes I don’t have the extra money in the grocery budget. So if I just need milk, I have to make sure I have $4 in cash in my wallet. Otherwise, I get milk at Wegmans.
Next stop on the errand list: Dish to pass, tablecloths, cellophane bags.
The logical place to go was Wegmans. If I can’t shop at Walmart, Wegmans is close enough.
Wegmans is a locally-based grocery chain that’s one of the greatest things about Rochester. The downside is that some of the stores are incredibly huge, overwhelming monstrosities. I like my little Wegmans on Fairport Road; big enough to have everything, small enough not to make me crazy.
My contribution to the party will be green bean casserole and maybe sweet potatoes. Easy items to check off the list. I also grab a couple of cans of Campbells’ tomato soup and loaf of freshly baked ciabatta bread. (Lunch; I still feel like crap from what we now know isn’t strep but a viral infection.) Then to the paper goods aisle, where I find plastic tableclothes for $1.99 each.
Here’s the dilemma: I can probably get them for $1 at the Dollar Tree, or at least less than $1.99 at Big Lots. But does that violate my project mission? I’m not thrilled about spending $20+ on plastic tablecloths that are going to be thrown away. After some debate, I decide to go to Big Lots. This is a disposable item that I need to spend as little on as possible. Big Lots isn’t Walmart. Right?
And here’s where we learn how easy it is to fall off the No StuffMart wagon.
I find the plastic tablecloths for $1.29 each. At a savings of 70 cents each, I’ve spent $7 less than I would have at Wegmans. Yay for me. I also find a bag of what basically amount to sandwich bags with snowmen on them for $1.20; those are for my husband’s party secret.
And now I’m completely sucked in by the Christmas crap.
Santa mugs, twinkling little doodads that I know would look lovely in my Christmas village (if I was going to actually set up the Christmas village this year), cheap costume jewelry (who doesn’t need a rhinestone reindeer pin?), and lots of little thingamabobs that might make neat gifty favors for the party.
But the cherry on the sundae? A cat toy shaped like a wedge of cheese, with bells and balls inside. For just $7! Made in China, but still. This is so good, I actually put it in my shopping basket.
Then I remind myself that if I can’t go to Walmart to buy crap, I can’t buy crap at Big Lots, so I reluctantly put the cat toy cheese wedge back. Murphy will have to live with the toys he already has. But my brain is still fixated on the possibility of little party favors. Maybe glass jars filled with candy? Santa mugs with packets of hot cocoa?
By now I have convinced myself that I should go to The Dollar Tree and see what goodies they have there that I can use for party game prizes, since I’m in charge of the games for the adults. Never mind that I only have one game planned and don’t feel well enough to come up with more. My brain GPS is set for The Dollar Tree.
And as I make the turn away from home towards the Mecca of all things Made in China, it hits me. This is why I’m not shopping at Walmart.
I don’t need – nor if I”m being honest, can I afford – to spend another $10 or $20 or $30 on stuff that no one needs just to make me feel more Christmasy.
I still have to print out pictures. My printer at home is almost out of toner which is why I wanted to hit a Kodak kiosk, but the temptation to be out and about with money in my pocket and visions of twinkly Christmas stuff dancing in my head is too much. I turn around and head home.
If there’s not enough toner in my printer, I’ll go to Staples tomorrow, buy toner, and print the pics out at home. I need toner anyway, so it’s the smarter financial decision. Besides, going into a Target will be way too dangerous, especially since their $1 discount bins are just feet away from the photo counter.
When I get home I check out my receipts.
Mostly Clay: The pottery was $28 but Margie gave me a discount (thank you Margie!) so it cost $25.20. The Webkinz were $5 each; I got 6. Why? Because they were cute and we have four small kids I could give them to. Yes, I rationalized that one. That’s $30. The total: $59.62
Wegmans: I pull out a Wegmans receipt from my purse. Nope, that’s not from today. Not that one either. Wait a minute, how many receipts do I have in here from Wegmans? I do go there a lot; maybe my next project should be to avoid the grocery store? I mean, there are just as many temptations there, right?
Clearly right, as I read over my purchases:
- Cat litter
- Potato chips
- Nestles chocolate chips
- Nestles white chocolate chips
- A box of penne pasta
- A jar of Bertolli pasta sauce
- Hellmans mayonnaise
- A package of Knorr’s vegetable dip
- A cello package of spinach
- A can of french fried onions
- Campbell’s tomato soup
- Sweet potatoes
- Ciabatta baguette
Remember, I went there for ingredients for a dish to pass, tableclothes and plastic Christmas cello bags. And I spent a total of $42.80. Not that it’s not stuff I won’t use, but I have chocolate chips in the cupboard, for example. They just happened to be on sale right now. Should I have bought them? I don’t know.
Big Lots: I leave the store with 10 plastic tablecloths for the party and the snowman sandwich bags, a $3 package of paper plates (made in the USA) in case we need extra at the party, and two little miniature potted Christmas trees for myself. Total purchase: $26.14, $8 of which are the little trees. Huh, they cost that much?
And as I sit here, I realize that it’s almost impossible not to get sucked in. That avoiding Walmart is only part of the problem; it also means avoiding temptations. And I went out with a list of things I needed, too!
The thing is, that if I hadn’t decided to do this project, I wouldn’t be paying as much attention to what I’m spending. I’d be sitting here watching Murphy play with a stupid cheese wedge cat toy while I wrapped trinkets with ribbon for favors no one will even want.
I probably drove a little more than I would have if I’d just gone to Walmart; fortunately, all of the places I visited today were very near each other. And even better, I got to see my friend Margie and also have a lovely chat with the folks at the dairy.
Did I spend more money than I would have at Walmart? Debatable. I spend a lot of money at Walmart on stuff I don’t need. It was probably a wash.
I should have added a fourth rule for this project: pay cash, and when I’m out of money, I’m done shopping. I wouldn’t have purchased Webkinz or mini trees or extra chocolate chips for the pantry. Oh well. Tomorrow is another day.