Change the norm, save a dollar

Tori Bowman Johnson
Tori Bowman Johnson
Tori, a freelance writer, has worked in production, talent management & branding since her agency role at Vivien’s Model Management in Melbourne in 2011. Tori has recently launched, The First Word; a conversational podcast for women, particularly those who juggle young children & paid work. Tori is also a very proud mum of two little boys.
Created on May 27, 2024 · 6 mins read

Am I the only one paying $7 for their child’s croissant, to find that only 30% of that croissant gets eaten - leaving the remaining 70% to either fill my own tummy or attract an army of ants into my home? 

Am I the only one walking my boys to the park, only to stop by ‘The Shops’ (a.k.a the closest thing a parent can claim a social outing), on the way to tick off a few errands? And then exiting ‘The Shops’ with a hefty dent in their bank account. 

It starts with a Depop delivery at the post office, followed by a stop at the chemist to pick up something we don’t need, and then to the grocery store to grab a few things we’re out of, usually milk and bananas. 

Am I the only one walking out of the grocery store with the milk and the bananas and the other 6 other items that instantaneously become essential? These include (but aren’t limited to): 

  1. A bunch of grapes because they’re a quick and healthy (albeit extortionately priced) family snack.
  2. 2 x packets of Corn Thins because even though we have a stack of unopened packets at home, they’re on sale and we all love a bargain.
  3. 2 x lollipops to coax (bribe) the boys out of the store.
  4. An item from the health food aisle because the packaging promises to give me more energy and glowing skin. 

So, am I the only one? I highly doubt it.

Unplanned yet continual visits to The Shops are where too much of our money is going. However, given that they’re usually part of the walking route we take with our children – we very easily seem to justify it, don’t we? 

‘Oh since we’re passing, we better pop in just in case?’

While there is such a benefit to walking outdoors with our children – the fresh air, a chance to move our bodies, the sound of birds, the big blue sky – there are also a few (avoidable) downsides. 

These (avoidable) downsides seem to exist when we follow a familiar walking route, as usually this route is determined by its proximity to the local shops and cafes.


The dangers of a ‘quick trip to the shops’

I used to live in a cute, leafy neighbourhood. When I walked out of my front door, I could choose about 5 or 6 walking routes, all of which were scenic, quaint, and easy for the pram and scooter wheels. Despite the options, 99% of the time I would take the route that went towards the shops. 

A classic mum-with-a-pram move.

Like a moth to a flame, I’d then use this route to feed distraction or activity into an afternoon on the days when time seemed to stand still. 

If the kids needed a new activity, “Righto kids let’s go out and grab some things to cook pancakes!” 

If I felt bored or isolated at home, “Righto kids, let’s pop out for some fresh air!” In other words, let’s pop out so mummy can poke around the shops and feel closer to adults having adult conversations and therefore more involved in the world. 

And of course, if we were off to the park for a swing & a scoot, “Ooo we better pop into the shops – just in case!’

I don’t doubt for a second that the shops are a contributing culprit, responsible for households saying goodbye to too many Subconscious Dollars (i.e. the dollars we would actually hang on to). 

When the $4 milk run turns into a sporadic $55 sending spree on a random array of non-essential (and sometimes even nonsensical items … I’m looking at you, 500g glass jar of Organic Maca Powder). 

To save these Subconscious Dollars from drizzling out of our accounts, here lies the challenge at hand; 

In the words of the long-distance runner Nedd Brockmann, we must ‘get comfortable being uncomfortable.’ 

Heading into new directions

In the context of this discussion, we need to walk the pram and/or our older children in new directions.

9 times out of 10, most of us don’t need anything mid-afternoon, mid-week. We think we need the distraction or we want an excuse to get out of the house, but we’re actually okay without it. 

It’s hardly a surprise that flippant spending has become more common. Everything is so overtly accessible and packaged that we fall at the mercy of an urgency-to-have created by advertisers.  

Healthy and efficiently packed snacks – sure! 

Edible snacks that claim to realign our gut health and plump our skin in a matter of 3bites – yes please!

Apple Cider Vinegar jubes for the whole family, that are packaged in an aesthetically alluring vesselI’ll take two! 

Even despite these crippling economic times, we seem to be buying, buying, buying to fill an urge or get a daily dopamine hit. Short-lived satisfaction comes at an eventual high price.  

Practical tips for avoiding penny pitfalls

So, let’s save a buck! Perhaps we (I too am guilty of looking  to The Shops for entertainment), can start by adopting this very basic kickstarter list; 

If you’re walking with a pram or a sleeping baby and the scenic visuals are not distracting or entertaining you enough, find a new Podcast or an Audio Book. Perhaps try something new – even a new genre.  

If you’re walking with a restless child, below are a few of the games I played with my little guy, instead of stopping for a ‘treat’ to calm him down.

  • Eye Spy – in all its glorious variations, like Eye Spy with Animal Sounds  (you do the sound, they guess the animal). 
  • Find the numbers – ask your child to find the numbers on each postbox. Sounds simple, however, it’s actually pretty fun and somewhat challenging for them. On top of this, it gives them a proud sense of achievement (which is nice). 
  • When they got a bit older, we matured the game slightly to focus on basic maths. For example, if we walked past house #17, we’d talk about what 1 plus 7 equals.  
  • So many of you will resonate with this one, but try and shift the concept of “The Floor Is Lava” to “The Lines are Lava”. I’ve found that it gives the child something to concentrate on with an added sense of adventure. 
  • If you can change your route, condense your shop ‘pop-ins’ to 1 or 2 days max per week. Build this into your routine so that all family members understand that Tuesdays and Fridays are the ‘top-up’ days. 
  • Think about your mortgage (or don’t) for a fearful diversion.

Final thoughts

During various periods of motherhood, I’ve formed the unhelpful habit of looking to the shops to fill a void or find a pocket of dopamine to fill my cup. What I’ve realised, however, is that filling my cup that way is actually creating a whole lot of emptiness around it. 

If you feel as though you have a void to fill, try your best to find a solution that doesn’t involve a financial transaction. Exercise, games, goals, hobbies, conversations. 

It can be hard but it’s far from impossible.  

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