Making Costs Real: What if We had to Pay in Quarters?

It’s easy to let the cost of things slip by unnoticed. This is especially true when it comes to things that we do regularly.

While saving money on the little things (and the big things) are two oft-repeated and not mutually exclusive mantras here in pf blogging land, that’s not really what I mean.

I mean paying attention to the costs of things that we don’t normally pay attention to. Not necessarily eliminating them — just paying attention to see how we feel about each individual purchase of the item or service.

As an example, I drove to Chick-Fil-A the other day. My car happened to be empty, so I stopped to get gas first and set the trip meter to zero. Now there isn’t a Chick-Fil-A terribly close to us any longer (boo!) so this was quite a hike. It ended up being 28 miles round trip, which happens to equal the MPG of my car. So I spent a gallon’s worth of gas (or about $2.50) just to get there and back.

For some reason I had this vision of plugging $2.50 into a meter in order to make my car go those 28 miles. I wondered if I would have made the trip out there if I’d had to actually put in the money a quarter at a time before my car would go.

Sure, I know I spend about $30 in gas each month. (I don’t drive very far normally.) But I don’t give much thought to the costs of the individual trips that make up that $30. I wonder how many of my behaviors would change if I paid attention to them individually. It’s likely I would spend less.


  • This is a good topic! If I had to actually put the quarters in a slot to move my car I would be sitting on the couch even more than I do now. I already spend about $100 on gas and that is just going to and from work. Luckily everything in my world is on route (grocery, shopping, family etc). I have however eliminated the tolls out of the equation by taking the surface streets.

  • Ms. Freeman, sounds like you’re taking steps to minimize driving & gas expenses even without the quarters. I know whenever my car is in the shop I sure think twice before walking to my normal destinations. (And most of them ARE within walking distance.)

  • What a great thing for someone to try out that was just beginning trying to fix their finances.

    Have them figuratively (probably not literally) pay for things in quarters for a month.

    It would certainly put things in perspective in a hurry.

    A very unique post.

  • David, I think even just figuratively paying in quarters for a single purchase might be enough to gain some perspective. But I mostly meant that as a suggestion to really pay attention to spending and/or actions that end up costing us money.