A Drive (& More Ways) to Save Money


Oh, the things we do to save money. We both cling to our hard-earned cash and might even be considered thrifty or tightwads. Often, we will do some offbeat things to cut costs.

Barbara refuses to pay for valet parking and would rather park miles away than pay a big sum. Rather than buy a book unless she knows it’s one she wants to reread, she will often check them out from her library. When she eats out, she’ll rarely order one of the more expensive entrees and prefers two appetizers.

Margaret, who reads eBooks on her iPad, can now access them cost-free from her library. She would rather walk miles to get to an appointment than shell out money to take a cab or Uber. She’ll unplug appliances when not using them, always turns off all the lights when she’s not in the room and times her showers so she doesn’t waste too much hot water.

And both women—who love to get competitive about who’s cheaper--always ask before plopping down money for any purchase: “Is there a senior discount?” whether buying tickets, furniture, coffee or a cookie. We figure this is a perk of older age so why not use it. Both use coupons and points or apps to get a freebee or money off. And we love sharing about how much we trimmed from a bill. “I saved $1 on a ginger cookie today. Well, I saved 50 cents on generic probiotics.”  Both of us have saved hundreds at CVS using their coupon system. We like a deal and LOVE a really good one.

However, we can be generous to others, taking them to lunch, donating to charities, buying expensive Papyrus-style cards and indulging our closest pals and relatives with gifts (mostly Barbara), sometimes when there’s not even a birthday or anniversary. We do it because we want them to feel our love.

And then recently, Barbara won the prize for being frugal. Has it been worth the price? Only time will tell.

One morning she emailed Margaret to let her know that she was annoyed by a device she had attached to the rear-view mirror in her car for it to monitor her driving for several months, so she’ll get a discount on her car insurance.

That day she was struggling. “It’s like having a driving teacher at my side,” she wrote. After passing a defensive driving test online, which took six hours to complete and gave her 10 percent off, her insurance firm suggested she participate in another, new program in her state, which many other states already had adopted. It would check how safe her driving really was on the road over six months. Depending on her final score, she could save an additional 30 percent off her insurance if she hit the 100-percent mark.

What a production! After also downloading an app on her phone, she was ready to have the device monitor her acceleration, braking, hard cornering, speeding and phone distraction. The deal was that each time she gets behind the wheel, she is graded. How hard could that be?   

She had a stellar start with 100 percent on the app’s odometer. For a few rides after that, she maintained her perfect score. However, she touched her phone once and it lowered her score to 92 percent. She hit the brakes too fast and turned a corner poorly, it lowered her score to 82 percent. She felt like she was in school and failing the class. 

The lower scores meant she’d have to be more careful. She found she was driving like a little old lady inching along and afraid she’d be downgraded for driving too slowly. She picked up the pace but not too much.

She became obsessive. After each ride, she’d check the odometer to see if her score inched up. Two more drives and the odometer climbed to 83 percent, then 84. But to her, a type A personality, that represented the equivalent of a low B, which was unacceptable.

Driving, which is something Barbara usually enjoys, had become unpleasant, a chore, a test. It was back to school and all those nightmares about flunking a test.  

Feeling like Big Brother was sitting next to her in the passenger seat, she started having imaginary conversations with the device.  “How are you today? Are you going to be a bit gentler in grading me?”

Barbara was not deterred as dollar signs flashed before her eyes. To improve her score, she began taking more driving trips one day just to prove she could do it. No improvement and it almost ruined her day.

For amusement and better company than the device, Barbara  listened to an audio book or favorite radio channel. It was better than the silent treatment from Big Brother. And then she caught herself realizing that she might be too distracted by the noise and chatter to focus on her driving and be penalized. It was back to silence and stress.

It's now April and Barbara perseveres. She explained that each time she heads out in her car, she wonders how’ll she’ll do and if she can keep up being so attentive. For now, she’s determined to try to get her score back to 100 percent and reap the full discount. After that she’s not sure. Even frugal gals have their limits.  

1 comment

  • Marlene and Robert

    Robert wants to see this on Saturday night live. Good luck with you driving discount. We saw a bit at Second City about what a real life driving test. Would consist of. This piece reminded us of that funny bit. Be well. Mar

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