Just finished an overnight road trip with a friend of mine. Saw something that I'm still not sure what to make of it. Somewhere along I-75 just south of the Florida/Georgia border is a truck stop with an amazing store attached to it. I doubt that it's unique. I just don't get on the interstate for long drives that often. Unfortunately I don't even remember the name or what exit (I was just waking up from a 2am snooze when my partner pulled in).

The truck stops I remember were glorified convenience stores. But this was like a small shopping center rolled into one store. Along with the regular items, they had everything from 'Betty Boop' pieces to a case with a variety of hunting and ornamental knives. Oh, and the case with blown glass items. And then there were all the native American Indian rugs. Not to mention the junk metal artwork. Truly a unique store.

I'm used to looking at things through the eyes of a consumer. But, even 6 hours (and a lot of black coffee) later, I still don't know what the store represents. I really would have liked to see it in the middle of the day when the roads were jammed with tourists. Now that I think about it, it probably looks a lot like any shopping center or mall in the country. Some folks buying necessities (food, clothing). Some buying things that they forgot to buy earlier (a present for Aunt Mary, a pair of sunglasses). Others are buying because something caught their eye (stained glass cowboy anyone?). And, still others aren't buying at all, just looking out of curiosity.

One thing is certain. We sure do have a variety of stuff available to us. No matter where we might be. Truly amazing. And, while that's good in a lot of different ways, it's also dangerous. Let's face it. When we're buying something at a truck stop we're buying it because we need it right now.

Convenience is more important than selection, quality or price. (just for the record, the shop we found appeared to be stocked with quality items at a reasonable price, but I bet that's not true in every similar store) We all know that buying in a hurry is a good way to set ourselves up for regret later.

Keep on stretching those dollars!

Gary Foreman is the editor of The Dollar Stretcher.com website < www.stretcher.com> and newsletters. Not only does the site host thousands of articles on various ways to save money, but you'll also find a vibrant forum where people share their dollar stretching ideas. Visit today!

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The Refrigerator Test

I was invited to a friend's surprise birthday party this weekend. Had a great time. Good friends and good food. Can't ask for much more than that! But I noticed something during the afternoon/evening. This friend often hosts an 'open house'. They'll throw on a big batch of food, people will bring more and everyone has a great time. It's the kind of place where you just know it's ok to head for the refrigerator if you need something. No need to ask first.

It occurred to me that demonstrated a lot of financial freedom. To paraphrase past wisdom - "you can measure how rich a person is by how little he needs" - i.e. the richest person isn't the person who HAS everything - it's the person who NEEDS nothing.

Refrigerators are an interesting thing. If you come over to my house you can be pretty sure that I'll ask if you'd like something to drink. But I'll be the one to get it for you. Refrigerators are kind of a private thing. You don't need to know that I've got some cheese curds tucked away in a corner that I'm reluctant to share with anyone. And, that's the problem. At that point I don't really own the cheese curds, they own me. (ouch!)

Guess I still have some growing to do. But that's ok. At least I know what direction I'm headed and have some idea on how to get there!

Keep on stretchin' those dollars!