Friday, August 12, 2011

Do I Drive Enough?

I struggle to budget well. It's not that we ever spend money we don't have. We have a detailed financial budget and stick to it faithfully. My problem is everything else.

Decisions, decisions.

Should I drive Peter to the mall? Yes, it's only 3.2 miles away and offers him a chance to exercise and socialize with other children at the playground. No, it's an unnecessary trip, wasting money while polluting the air. Peter's young enough that he doesn't need to socialize yet.

Should I buy organic baby clothes? Yes, they're probably better for Peter and definitely better for the planet. By buying these, I support good businesses. No, they are expensive. I can get clothes for a fraction of the cost at thrift stores, which is recycling at its best.

Should I drive Peter to daily Mass? Yes, the spiritual benefits are priceless and it's only 2 to 8 miles away, depending on the church. No, it's another unnecessary trip and will interfere with Peter's sleep schedule.

Should I buy books to help me learn German? Yes, I am much more diligent when books are lying around, they will be a long-term investment, and I can easily share them with Peter. No, many books are available from the library, I'm trying to reduce the amount of stuff in our house, and there are many excellent online resources.

Should I drive to the natural food store? Yes, it's only 2 miles away, their avocados are cheap, and I would be supporting organic food production. No, another unnecessary trip, so the gas I waste might offset the money saved on avocados and the positive environmental impact.

My answers are once or twice a week, no, at least once a week, no, and no. But I'm not confident that any of those are correct. We are on a bus line, but taking the bus takes more time (again affecting the sleep schedule) and money. Advice?


  1. Walking or a Bicycle? We try to walk to Target & the grocery store when the weather and time permits - it's a 1.8 mile walk that we usually make in about 30-35 minutes. Now that my son is 1, I'm going to get my iBert for my bicycle so we can just cruise up there. I have a rather fuel inefficient car, so I try not to take it out when I can avoid it.

  2. If you don't have a car, you stop having that conundrum! Seriously, if I had a car, I'd make it a point to get out at least a couple of times a week. I think it's great for baby to get out, see new things, and learn .... and it's great for us not to feel tied to the house. Being stuck at home is a recipe for depression and resentment to set in.

    A bus trip from time to time is fun, though. I used to take the baby on the bus to work sometimes, and it was great fun. No carseat for him, and plenty of people-watching.

    The challenge for me, now, is to keep him from being bored at home. We walk to the park often just to get out of the house, but what will we do in wintertime? A toddler thrives on new experiences -- every one is a wealth of knowledge. Imagine how little you would know if you had never left the house.

    As he gets older, store trips will surely be even more educational. He can learn about different kinds of food, about money, about numbers, all kinds of things. Even now, you have no idea what he's soaking up.

    So, I vote yes to the natural food store. It's only two miles -- costing you only a fraction of a $4 (or whatever) gallon of gas. All in all, the trip might cost you a dollar or two.

    As far as Mass goes, I'd tell you to go, but I know how things work in a real routine. I'm in walking distance of our church, but I still only make it out there once a week for adoration. It is tough to make something a part of your schedule, when babies are so routine-oriented.

  3. Well, here's what happened for us.

    When my first child was born my Partner and I each had our own cars. I thought I'd be running around to all kinds of activities and playgroups and shopping BUT my daughter absolutely would NOT sit in a carseat. She would cry and vomit after only 2 minutes.

    So after a year or so I sold my car and I have been without a car for the past 6 years because my Partner takes his car to work every day. I like being a stay-at-home mom who stays at home. Think about the Little House on the Prairie girls: they grew up virtually isolated from other children but they still learned and developed socially and were able to interact approriately whenever they went to school.

    I don't actually think it's that important to constantly bring little kids to be with other kids. I trust my children to tell me and show me when they need exposure to other people and situations. We love being at home.

    Maybe my ideas are really old-fashioned? This is a really great topic that you've raised.

    And BTW, my offer for you to visit is genuine.

  4. I like to limit trips out of the house. Picking one day a week to be errand day. Since I live out in the middle of the country, everything is a drive. So once I get somewhere I will combine errands. I find I do better if I am not running around every day, and we all do better with one day off from running.

  5. You drive me up a wall! Har har har.

    We walk too, but most "conveniences" are not within walking distance. I have walked to the Dollar Store/Garden Farm Market (not as good as it sounds) a couple of times and that is rough! However, I try to remember how much walking our ancestors did and if they could do it, we can do it. Bam.

  6. @panda: We don't live in a pedestrian-friendly area (at the intersection of two main roads, speed limit 45), but biking is a possibility. I had never heard of an iBert, but now I want one. :-) I do have a regular kid's seat, so I should try that with him.

    @Sheila: Yeah, we're still trying to sell one of the cars, which will reduce this problem a little bit. Want a Cobalt? ;-) Thanks for the thoughtful feedback. I'm trying to set up a routine that includes Mass and some other errand so at least I'm combining trips. It is the same direction as the natural food store, so maybe we'll try that.

    @Patti: Good point about other points in history (and other cultures today). I just want to do everything "right" with him, you know? Sigh. He does see adults and some kids at church on Sunday, so we're not hermits. Thanks for the feedback. Old-fashioned or not, it's good advice.

    @Lisa: Picking a "day out" seems like a great way to balance experiencing the wider world with maintaining a routine and not wasting trips. Thanks!

    @Amanda: Gee thanks. :-) Yeah, I feel like a slacker sometimes. "Oh, I can't walk, that will take hours to walk, do it, and come back!" As if I have something I particularly need to be back for. :-) Perhaps I just need to be more committed to budgeting time well.

  7. Is the natural food store on Jeremy's way home from work? I know that he works from home most days, but perhaps on the days that he goes in to work, if it's on his way home, he could stop at the natural food store for you. We don't have much of an option other than driving around here. (The only grocery that is walking distance recently had an armed robbery, so we don't go there anymore!!) But Ryan works for a tutoring center during the summer, so if we need something from Costco, which is on his way home, we try to wait until a day he works so he can pick it up with out wasting too much extra gas.
    (oh, and we do have buses, 1. it's a bit of a hike to the nearest bus stop and 2. i get motion sick really easy and i've seen the way those drivers drive - i would be too sick to actually do whatever it was on traveled on the bus to do!)

  8. @Donna: It's certainly on one way home, if not his usual path. Thanks for the suggestion!