My wife and I have decided that this is the Year of the Budget. We are going to be very smart about our money this year and plan to save by eliminating unnecessary expenses and random impulse purchases. It’s an exciting new challenge, but paying more strict attention to our finances and day-to-day spending has brought some things to light that are a bit frustrating with regard to saving money and eliminating waste:

…The first thing I noticed was when I went to buy some clementines but saw that my local grocery stores (both of them) only sell clementines by the case. Now, I love me some clementines – they’re juicy, tasty, generally seedless, seem some healthy enough, and are most importantly, easy to peel – but that doesn’t mean I will eat 237 of them before they start turning different colors. I want 7 clementines. If I eat them, then maybe I will buy another 7.
But no – in my town it’s “case or nothing.” Apparently I have to gather a coalition of my friends and neighbors together to see if any of them want to go in on a case of clementines to avoid buying 3 times as many as I can realistically consume.

Plus, the case they come in is huge – it’s a big rigid wooden box that isn’t exactly convenient to throw away (also, my town doesn’t recycle wood and I don’t have a fireplace that burns wood). In a town that uses trash stickers it’s just an unnecessary expense.

Of course, I could have mentioned any of this to the managers of the grocery stores in question and I did not. Complaining is easier, apparently…

…The low beam headlight on my car recently blew out. As part of our cost saving measures, I decided to replace that sucker myself. I have, in the past, replaced headlights for my previous cars with almost no trouble, so I figured this wouldn’t be a problem.

It was a problem. I bought the replacement headlight easily enough, but when I looked in the owner’s manual about replacing the headlight the manual discussed removing the headlight assembly. Step one was to remove the bolts, using a ratchet. Well, I didn’t have a metric ratchet set, so I had to buy one.

That worked well enough to remove the bolts; except that when I removed all of the bolts shown in the owner’s manual the headlight assembly still wouldn’t separate from the car. I fiddled with it for about 15 minutes, and gave it a couple of sound shoves, but was afraid to break anything and cause damage. I said bad words to it for a while, but that didn’t loosen it at all. Then I did what I do in these situations – I gave up.

I brought the car, and the replacement bulb, to my mechanic and asked him to replace the headlight. He reached in, fiddled around for a minute, and replaced the bulb without removing the headlight assembly at all. I began to suspect that he had never, in fact, read the owner’s manual for my car. But, he replaced the light in about 2 minutes and charged me 10 bucks, which seemed reasonable enough – but add that to the cost of the ratchet set (never mind my time and frustration) and, well, my attempt to save money failed pretty miserably…
…Finally, since my son Bronco loves books, and he seemed bored with his currently library (roughly 1,357 books), we decided to get him some books at the library. It’s a free library, after all, with tons of books! What a great idea!

Before I tell you how this may end up costing me money, kindly allow me this aside:

When we first went to the library, little Bronco was in the early stages of potty training. We got to the kids’ room on the 2nd floor of the library (which was incredible, with great books and a Thomas and Friends train track set up!), and I played the role of the nervous parent, asking the librarian, “Just in case, where are the bathrooms?”
The librarian smiled and said, “They are in the basement. Oh, and you need a key.”

She saw the look on my face and agreed that it wasn’t the most convenient situation for potty training. That pretty much meant that Bronco and I wouldn’t be overstaying our welcome at the library that day.

Anyway, back to the story. I picked out about five books that I thought my son would like (final tally, he liked 3 of them), and went to check them out – the cool thing about the children’s section is that they allow you to check out as many books as you feel like being responsible for. As I was checking out the books, Bronco pointed to a little soft-cover Winnie the Pooh book that was near the desk and demanded that I check that one out, as well. I added it to the pile and carried Bronco and the pile of books out to the car.

When I checked the pile of books later that evening, there was no Winnie the Pooh book. It wasn’t in the house, and it wasn’t in the car. My hope was that I had dropped it in the library (as opposed to in the street), but the library was closed by that time, and then I forgot to call them. Then, the Saturday that the books were due, there was a huge snowstorm. So I called on the following Tuesday and the librarian graciously allowed me to renew the books for two more weeks. I mentioned the missing book to her, and she promised to look into it.
Two weeks later, on the Saturday the books were due, we had another big snow storm (like we did every weekend after that @%!#*$ groundhog predicted an early spring), but I braved the elements and returned those suckers.

I then called to ask whether they managed to find the book, and the woman who I spoke to was exceedingly nice about the whole thing. She thanked me for being conscientious, and said that since it was just a little soft cover book that I really shouldn’t worry about paying for it if they can’t find it.

But, I have guilt. I will most certainly pay for the book if they continue to be unable to track it down. The library is there for everyone’s use, so I can’t just lose a book without doing something about it. Guilt, it seems, is sometimes at odds with the goals of the Year of the Budget.