Updated on 04.04.07

Five Minute Finances #20: Drive A Different Route

Trent Hamm

Five Minute FinancesFive Minute Finances is a series of tips on how you can save significant money or reorganize your financial life in just five minutes. These tips appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on The Simple Dollar.

If you’re like me, your route to and from work takes you by a lot of temptations. For me, there are two drive through coffee places and a wonderfully cozy diner open for breakfast on the way to work, and on the way home my route takes me by an enormous bookstore and a nice little ice cream parlor, too. These places all tempt me to spend money that I shouldn’t spend, and for the longest time I was in the habit of spending some money at one of these places every day.

I broke this habit by using a very simple technique: for a few months, I took a slightly longer route to and from work each day that avoided these places. It cost me an average of three minutes each way, but the incidental stops at these places were completely gone, so it often took me less time to commute than before with the stops included. Instead of driving through town, I bypassed most of the town by taking the interstate to the next exit and backtracking just a bit, driving through a suburban neighborhood and near a hospital instead of through the commercial loop.

What happened? The positive impact of this change was pretty immediate on my credit card bills, as I was spending a lot less on spur of the moment things that I didn’t need. I also found that it was actually a more efficient route, as I didn’t stop nearly as often for extra things, so I could get from work to home much quicker.

If you find that “quick stops” for little things in the morning and evening are eating you alive, try a different route to and from your place of business. It can be a big money saver – and even a time saver.

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  1. Mike says:

    This DEFINITELY works. I used to drive by a Krispy Kreme shop on my way to work on certain days (when I dropped the puppy off at daycare), and I’d stop for some holey goodness or a soda nine times out of ten.

    Now, I avoid that route entirely (at the cost of a mile or so), and I never stop for empty calories anymore!

  2. Sharon says:

    I changed my route home to avoid a toll and realized that my new route went by all the main grocery stores in this area so I can catch the loss leaders easier…

  3. Getzly says:

    I walk right past a Starbucks on my way home each day. It’s only four blocks or so away from my apartment. Dangerous, right? I’ve found that when I cross to the opposite side of the street a few blocks before I reach it, though, I’m much less likely to swing in and get a drink. (Since I am a bit of a latte addict, though, when I’m asked for gift ideas, I suggest Starbucks cards. This gives me enough to satisfy my occasional cravings without breaking the bank.)

  4. Sudipa says:

    This really helps, atleast for me. Previously, when I was taking the direct park street route, I just can’t control my impulses to take a ride to Bar-B-Q, but now when I take the entry to the right side of my office, initially though I feel like moving back, but I am able to get a real control over everything. Thank you.

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