Zoo Wisdom

by Lindy on March 29, 2011

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Good morning, my name is Lindy, and I’m not frugal.

I try to be, really I do.  But when it comes down to it, I always seem to find a way to undermine my own frugal efforts.

Take last weekend, for example.  The spring weather had arrived and we had a rare day off from commitments, so we decided to take a family trip to the zoo.

Now, if I were a good personal finance blogger, I would be writing my tips about how to save money on a family outing such as this.

Instead I’m giving you,

How to spend as much money as possible on one trip to the zoo.

1. Forget all about the half-off admission coupon you had, and instead pay full price.

2. Think about packing a lunch, and then stop thinking about it and instead pay zoo lunch prices for all four people.

3. Allow your husband and your 6-year-old to go solo to the snack shack so that they come back with two $6 bags of cinnamon almonds instead of one to share.

4. Go later in the day and get so worn out and thirsty that you just have to stop at Starbucks on your way home.

In reality, we did have a lot of fun.  And even though 2-year-old Baby Rock’s favorite part of the zoo was playing in the sand at the playground, he did get to pet a goat and see some monkeys swinging on trees, so it was a success in my book.

But I couldn’t help feeling guilty about all of the money passing through our fingertips that day (money guilt, why must you surface so often?).  Because it was money we could have avoided if we’d planned ahead a little better.

Good morning, my name is Lindy, and I am not a planner.

A-Rob and I are more the types to just hop in the car and go.  Because of this, we often end up spending more money on things like food and supplies for our lack of planning.

As we were driving to the zoo that day, I was thinking about this very trait of ours. My first inclination was to feel guilty about it.  Followed quickly by my second inclination to say “screw guilt, life’s too short, I refuse to feel guilty over a few extra dollars.”

This has been a common pattern in my financial life:

Step 1. Feel guilty.

Step 2. Brazenly embrace my flaws and throw guilt out the door.

But while I was sitting in the car that day, I realized there could be a third step.

Step 3. Try to change for next time.

What if my inability to plan is, like Molly on Money writes, one of those myths I allow myself to live by?  I could have thrown a few PB&J’s together that day if I’d wanted to, I could have breathed for a few minutes and remembered that coupon.  But instead, I subconsciously dismissed the notions, operating under the belief that I am not a frugal zoo goer who plans ahead. Heck, or even just the belief that I am not frugal.

Yes, I should still push all that guilt aside, it does me no good.  But it would be nice if it didn’t have to surface in the first place.  It would be nice if I could allow myself to make the extra efforts to avoid it altogether.  Especially since it’s really not that hard.

Good morning, my name is Lindy, and I’m going to be a frugal zoo goer next time.

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  • http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/ Nicole

    That’s a great idea and a great lesson! Go step 3!

    You don’t want to know how much we spent on water bottles this last weekend at $3/tiny bottle at the event we went to. Accuweather lied. It was not anywhere near 76 degrees with a real feel high of 82. We thought we would need 2 water bottles (which we brought with us) but ended up buying many times that on top of what we brought. But hey, that’s $6 saved with the two we did bring! Then we had to go out for ice cream afterward, which I don’t regret (and is a relatively cheap dinner out…). :)

  • http://www.newlywedsonabudget.com/ Newlyweds Budget

    one step forward, two steps back…oh wait, no, it’s two steps forward, one step back, yeah, that’s it!!

    it’s ok. we all have our splurge days…

  • http://www.sillysimpleliving.com SillySimple

    yeah, this whole frugal adventure is one of those “sometimes you win and sometimes you lose” kinds of things. It doesn’t make sense to forgo all adventure just to save money.

    One of the things that has helped my husband and I is sharing meals when we are out– it works really well with things like museums or the zoo.

  • http://tobedebtfreeby30.blogspot.com Niki

    Being spontaneous is a trait I sometimes crave. It’s not that I want to spend more money, it’s just that I would like to be more flexible when it come to getting up and going just because we feel like it.

  • http://eemusings.wordpress.com eemusings

    I’m the same. Scatterbrained as hell and the best laid plans never work for me.

  • http://frugalforties.wordpress.com kh

    I do think sometimes we talk ourselves into being a certain way. When you say “I am … X” then you give yourself an out – a reason to not do anything differently. I do it myself with so many things.

    I also think that we fool ourselves with the idea that if you plan things you’re taking the fun out of them … that you’re not allowing yourself to be spontaneous. But like you said, you can still be spontaneous and take a few short minutes to pack a few sandwiches and dig up the coupon. It’s not a complete either/or choice.

    So good luck for at least partial planning the next time! :)

    • Lindy


      And another point on that note – all those people at the zoo who brought their lunches looked like they were having the same amount of fun as we were. My kids were even envious of their treats from home. :0)

  • http://lifebeginsatretirement.blogspot.com Jane

    No no no just turn your negative statements into positive ones:
    Ahem…..Good morning, my name is Lindy and I know how to show my family a good time.
    …Good morning, my name is Lindy and I’m spontaneous and fun loving.
    Now, don’t you feel better?

    • Lindy

      Ahhh, that does feel better. Spontaneous and fun-loving is much better than “not a planner.” :)

  • http://www.littlelambsdollarsandsense.blogspot.com Little Lamb

    I always forget the coupons!

    No good to worry about it after its done, just pull up your socks and keep on going. :) Great way to turn it around.

    Glad to hear you had fun!

  • http://www.centstosave.com/ Lisa @ Cents To Save

    I have done and still do same thing! Let it go, and try harder next time….

  • http://singlemomrichmom.com Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom

    I think at some point your “habit brain” takes over and you get by that way. I know when I take him to the office, my 10 year old kid packs a lunch without my even asking him to. How weird is that?
    And I often plan the things we’re going to do by the coupons in the entertainment book. :-) Gives lots of ideas anyway.

    • Lindy

      I like the idea of habit brain!

  • http://retireby40.org retirebyforty

    Haha, at least you had a great time at the zoo. We usually plan pretty well, but sometime we also went a bit nuts – like the first farmer market of the year. :)

    • Lindy

      Yes, we did have a great time. If not for my guilt, of course. :)

  • http://www.youngandthrifty.ca youngandthrifty

    Lindy, you’re too hard on yourself!

    I think instead of looking at it as a ‘failure’ of not feeling prepared enoug for a zoo outing to save meoney, you could look at it as a break from being so good at saving money usually :)

    Everything in moderation. Variety (swinging from spendthrift to letting loose on occasion) is spice of life.

    I always forget my coupons too! But there’s always next time.

    • Lindy

      Thanks! In the end, the money spent wasn’t that big of deal. And I certainly don’t feel guilty for our outing. I think it’s just a personal realization that I don’t have to put myself in the box of “one who spends more money because I’m never prepared.” I can change that.

  • http://momvesting.com Christa

    Every once in a while, you have to have fun! A few weeks ago, my husband’s bro and fam came for a visit. I planned out all the meals and had frugal freezer meals ready to heat up — but then we went out for dinner — twice! Ah, well, bro-in-law loves to eat out, so the visit was a success :)

  • http://mollyonmoney.com Molly On Money

    Those posts on how to save money while you go to the zoo are boring anyways! This was much better. The zebra was a nice touch too!

    • Lindy

      Awww, thanks. I had to pull the zebra picture up from my archives because I didn’t get to take any pictures this time around. My camera’s batteries died after the first shot. Another example of poor planning?

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