Frugal Travel Tip #5: The Value of “Function” Over “Form”

When you live full time out of an RV you pick up on many everyday financial principles. One frugal travel tip that is most practical for us is to consider the age-old question: Does “function” or “form” matter most?

I stood at Wal Mart for ten minutes longer than I needed. It was one of our rare, yet high-valued shopping days. I savored it. Though I knew that each product I placed in the cart would have to have a very specific purpose. We only have room for so much.

This is true for our budget as well. Items selected for purchase must justify the expense. We’re very low-frills when it comes to groceries and former “luxuries” of home. We try to buy only what we need.

Why not a few extra frills?

We’re trying to stay on the road for a long time. Ideally, we’d like to be on the road indefinitely. So with a goal like that you have to look at every possible expense and justify it by consideration for the future.

Of course, we probably all should think like that most days of our lives. For most of us, our resources are almost always limited. So in making one decision, we potentially offset the occurrence of future desirable items of experiences.

For example, $12 will buy a pretty decent bottle of wine. Or it will buy a new 20 lb bottle of propane that will last 2 weeks. $25 will buy us a fancy dinner at Chilis or it will give us a night at a really awesome state park, or a day’s supplies of food.

Now we’re not always living on the bear necessities. We’ve had a delicious meal here or there and have sipped adult beverages while relaxing.

But we have placed considerable value in one of the ultimate consumer decisions: Does “function” or “form” matter most?

Frugal Travel Tip: Generic Aleve is identical to Name Brand Aleve

Frugal Travel Tip: Reevaluate The Value of “Function” and “Form”

We have learned that function matters more than form. This means we buy generics (or “store brand”) at almost every chance. It’s become a lifestyle for us. We buy what we need at the most reasonable price possible. If this means we spend some time waiting for a sale, clip coupons or stand in Wal Mart for an extra ten minutes, we do that.

Wait, what?

I stood at Wal Mart for ten minutes longer than I needed. I couldn’t decide between the name brand bottle of Aleve and the generic bottle. It shouldn’t have taken that long. But I found myself struggling to overcome past tendencies.

I have lower back pain. I know, we all do. But with one ruptured and one herniated disc, there is very little I can do. I stretch. I avoid situations that could worsen the pain. And I take Aleve, like every person in every Aleve commercial that seeks pain relief for “up to 12 hours.”

Avoiding the Clever Marketing

That’s the part that caught me. Will this generic bottle of Aleve do exactly the same thing as the original? Chances are, it will. There are many everyday store brand items for which people mistake value.

I checked the ingredients. All the same.

I read the descriptions. All the same.

I looked for other bottles – bigger, more colorful, different design – and checked the ingredients and read the descriptions. All the same.

Ten minutes later I tossed the generic bottle in the cart and made my way to the checkout line. It was about one third of the cost, or about $8 difference.

That’s three gallons of diesel, or approximately thirty-five miles of extra driving. That’s the distance between one end of Yosemite, Yellowstone or Glacier National Park to the other. Driving those extra miles meant more to me than the label on the container.

I just wish it didn’t take me an extra ten minutes to remember this.

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