The USA provides many free benefits when you enter a restaurant or store, but is a bad value in hotels.
I always have thought it was cheaper to live outside the USA, but I am starting to think I am wrong. I have lived outside the USA for 14 years, and after traveling around in the USA for the last 1.5 months I have learned a lot about my own country.
Examples of Free Services in Restaurants and Stores
1. Free Toilets - Note: The Europeans get annoyed when I say "Restrooms."
2. Free Internet
3. Free Air Conditioning
4. Free Condiments
5. Stay as long as you want.
6. Free Parking
7. Free Newspapers to read
What you get for your 1.25 in the USA
I can walk into the Panera Restaurant, buy a cinnamon bread thing for around 1.25 and enjoy all the benefits above, PLUS --- Get something to eat.
The hotels are radically overpriced for the list of benefits you get and the service is about the same as any third world nation. I think only by staying in a 5 star chain hotel can you get exceptional service. Providing the people in the Hotel were born in the USA and understand the culture.
The Mom and Pop Hotels are overpriced.
Small Hotels and Bed and Breakfast do not have the systems in place to guaranteed the staff give high priced services. The depend on memory the same as third world countries, and fail. Great service is best provided by a chain mentality.
The Economy of USA is Drive by Temptations to Buy
"99 Percent of what the American purchase is a want and not a need."
- Andy Lee Graham
The profit of Paneras or McDonald's is all earned by tempting the person to buy more than they need. Places like Starbucks are the epitome of bad deals for the money, there is just no way in Starbucks to optimize the value, truly this coffee place represents what is bad about the USA.
I estimate that only 1 in 55 American realizes a good deal in the USA, and the rest just spend their whole paycheck. Yes, the poor shop better, but when they have more money, they spend it all.
But for me, the list of benefits above are purchased for 1.25 USD, and is a windfall. My self-esteem is bolstered by watching the people around me spend money foolishly, I know why I can travel the world, it is easy to understand.
Traveling on the road with two or more people, it is a lot cheaper to eat in supermarket deli's,you can buy a whole cooked chicken or pizza for $5 bagged salads and fruits and produce. Motels you can bargain with the Patels, but it is hit or miss with the quality.
The way to deal with starbucks.. get one or two free refills with their regular cheap coffee...but not the expensive latte's.... so I buy a medium size, then dump a few ounces of their free chocolate powder, sugar, milk or cream in it. Then I get a free cup of ice. and I can make iced latte coffee all day for $2.00 and use their rest room, air conditioning, easy chairs and wifi. Once in a while I buy a banana to keep them encouraged. I've also packed sandwiches in.. If you are fast you can also take a dip shower in their rest room. Or you can do your hair on one trip in the sink, then the dip shower on a second trip. Not bad in a pinch.
Starbucks is also in many grocery stores, with a section you can sit in, and eat food you bought in the grocery store... the iced coffee approach works there too. It doesn't work if you buy the coffee already iced... its mostly ice, and no refills.
Your insights on buying what we don't need are 9000 true for me unfortunately. I'm trying to change the habit now that I'm more or less retired and the end approaches. I have to basically give away piles of costly tools and misc junk that I am paying through the nose to store. $400 a month. almost enough to live frugally from a van.
I have a large class A big bus type motor home now, an older one, I notice that I appreciate the bath and kitchen, and the bed, the rest is mostly a waste and a space to store things that I should have not bought in the first place. I had a smaller rig earlier with a porta potty, emptying it once a week became a chore though. I can get by without kitchen however.
Your insights on the USA road trip will be interesting. May the force be with you.
You can also enjoy some of these free perks at the library, hospital and mall. Some hospitals even have sleeping rooms for guests, medical libraries, chapel/services, you can watch tv in the lobby, read magazines, eat in the cafeteria and no one will question you. The library will discourage you from eating/drinking inside and if someone is sleeping for a long period of time I've noticed they will call the police. However, it is one of my favorite places, quiet, free use of computers, internet, etc...(This particular library also has guests come in and speak of their travels, promote books, play the piano,etc.) The malls have also become a place for people to walk before stores open so you could possibly have access to mall space as early as 7 a.m. which also means use of the restrooms, food court (coffee places).
The indoor malls are perfect places to walk very early morning and a really nice quiet place to clean up, brush your teeth, change your clothes and you can bring your own coffee in with you if you desire.
On a touchy subject "urgent toilet needs" when in your van.
(Public toilets are not always readily available).
Here is a solution.
I carry a 5 gallon bucket and tall plastic trash bags.
I line the bucket, do my business and wipe.(Baby wipes work best)
The bag ties up secure and I toss in the trash.
Err Nuck, you could drop it off at another location and call it yer quarterly deposit.
My brother has millionaire friends in the bagged dry cement mix business.. called the shit in a sack business in those circles... valuable stuff. Yours would be the real deal though... it has to be worth even more.
Andy, I wrote You before that its easy to live in the US for five hundred a month, but it can be difficult getting the dough without so much bending and a stooping for your betters at the minimum wage to get it, that its no wonder that so many here choose to not work, but rather get government aid and or steal, sell drugs etc.
One of the GREAT, I a mean fabulous things about the USA is the ability to walk in malls. Seven months of the year it is cold. I am 56 years old, and I do not want to have a hunched back from looking at my feet when I walk. Therefore, the best place to walk fast is in a mall, the floors are perfect, the walking area is wide, you never need to worry about falling down. Which for older people can is extremely important. Plus walking in the Malls is social, while walking or running alone is more of a hermit thing.
Yes, it is difficult to earn the 500 per month, I am grateful I earn money with advertising on my web site. Yes, two people is cheaper, and it would be nice to have a happy girl sharing the van.
Walking in the mall is also safe. You can still walk/run outside as weather permits but you must always be aware of your environment and/or try to walk/run with someone else.