Today Kish and I visited Portage Country Club in Akron, Ohio for the first time in almost 20 years. It’s a grand old Tudor-style club that was the center of many activities for our family. We’ve had wedding receptions there, it’s where I learned to swim, and today it hosted a memorial service for Uncle Gilbert. He would have liked the fact that the occasion brought all the cousins together again at such a familiar location.
One of the most familiar places at Portage is the Board Room. For years, Grandpa Neal would hold an annual family luncheon around the time of his birthday. Everyone attended, and as spouses and babies joined the family the size of the gathering grew. After we’d had our lunch Grandpa would give a little speech about what had happened to everyone during the year, and the lunch would be capped off by Baked Alaska (Kish’s favorite).
It’s been many years since we had one of those dinners, but the Board Room still looks the same. Seeing the room and the pictures of the past country club presidents, I could almost hear Grandpa’s voice and see us all gathered around the table.
It’s been, literally, years since I have paid for a bottle of shampoo.
Why? Because I have to travel regularly for my job, and I always use hotel shampoo when I am on the road. I long ago realized that hotel shampoo does a perfectly satisfactory job of cleaning my hair. If it does a perfectly capable job on the road, why not use it at home? So, for years, I have taken a plastic bag with me when I travel, keep the used shampoo — because I never need more than a fifth of the little bottle — and bring it home. Now we’ve got a drawer in our bathroom that is full of little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and hand lotion. I’ll take this bottle with me when we leave the Fairlawn Hilton today and add it to the collection.
For me, shampoo is a generic, wholly fungible product. I don’t have any special shampoo needs. So if I can avoid buying shampoo, why not save the money I would spend on a product that I can otherwise get for free? Not buying one bottle of shampoo might not be a huge amount of savings, but over the years it adds up — and in any case I’d rather keep the money than needlessly give it to some large corporation.
Shampoo is a good example of ways in which people can exercise discipline over their personal finances. Are there products that you buy that you really don’t need (or don’t even use)? Would a generic product serve just as well? Do you really read the magazines or newspapers you subscribe to, or have to have a landline phone?
Personal economic freedom is the product of many such little decisions.