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On Being Mileage Wise

We are smiling all the way to the gas station, which we don’t have to visit very often.

Buying a house is one of the most important financial decisions you will ever make, the real estate agents and attorneys tell us, so be sure you are getting what you want. However, that decision is not a simple one when you have lived in several different areas of the country and cannot decide where to buy, let alone what to buy.

That was our dilemma in 2000. My spouse retired in 1998 from being a full-time pastor in El Paso. We loved our time in that beautiful border city, but we knew we did not want to stay there in retirement.

I was born and raised in North Carolina, and my husband was born in California, so it was natural for us to try to find an area that combined the best of the South and West. Having lived in Austin for almost 10 years in the 1970s and raised our five children there, we both agreed on the idea of landing in Texas for retirement. We had always loved the Hill Country. After several months of searching, we found a little house in the Canyon Lake area—perfect for retirement. And best of all, we could afford it!

It was on a cul-de-sac with vacant lots all around. We bought lots on both sides of the house to ensure privacy and moved in. Since the initial purchase, we have not lived in Canyon Lake on a full-time basis because my spouse continues to serve interim pastorates around the country. When we are there, however, between times, we have made some interesting life changes.

Most of our married life, we have lived in big cities—Atlanta, Austin, Jacksonville, Detroit and El Paso. Driving was never a problem. Interstates made quick routes to wherever we needed to go. Gas was cheap, and we never hesitated to jump behind the wheel of whatever type of gas-guzzler we had at the time and drive, drive, drive.

Today in Canyon Lake, things have changed a bit. Gas is no longer inexpensive. Our children and grandchildren who live in Texas are in Austin—more than 50 miles away. The church we attend is about 25 miles away in New Braunfels. Gasoline bills can quickly eat away at a retirement income. So our lifestyle has begun to shift to accommodate those realities. Here are some strategies that have worked for us:

We have better organized our lives. For instance, we plan our shopping so that we buy groceries only once or twice a month at one of the larger grocery stores in New Braunfels. We usually shop on Sundays after church. If we happen to be in Austin or San Antonio visiting our children and grandchildren, we will shop there before returning to our home. In between trips, we purchase items such as bread and milk at a smaller store near our house.

As for shopping for nonessentials, we don’t! We are retired. We have a lifetime of accumulated “stuff” that we actually need to purge instead of adding more to the inventory. We have begun giving away items that might be of special value to our family and friends. My husband gave away most of his library (38 boxes of books) to a young seminary graduate just starting out in ministry.

When possible, we support local businesses. It allows us to meet our neighbors and get to know the community. In nearby Sattler, there is a well-stocked library, an office-supply store, a post office, a hardware store, a gym and a recreation program.

We order over the Internet. We often find that if we cannot locate items in nearby stores, it saves time and money to order online. This eliminates a lot of driving, and prices are more than competitive.

We subscribe to a mail-order pharmacy service. This eliminates trips to the pharmacy.

We use the phone book. We have discovered that we can save lots of travel time looking for services and merchandise by using the phone book to obtain good information before starting out.

We no longer run to the store for some forgotten item. Now, we just do without until it is part of a regular trip.

Another thing—probably the most important—we have purchased a hybrid car. It gives us an average of 50 miles to the gallon as we cruise the Hill Country on one of our “planned” shopping sprees. And we have noticed something: Some of the larger cars and trucks are not very friendly. They don’t seem to like us. But we don’t care! We are smiling all the way to the gas station, which we don’t have to visit very often.

Jane C. Perdue and her husband, The Rev. Roland Powell Perdue III, have most recently lived in New York City, where he is interim senior pastor at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. They still plan one day to live full time in Canyon Lake.